In a move that may literally take the breath away from many of the world’s Orthodox Jews, a group of Israel’s top rabbis recently ruled that riding in what for decades have been designated as “Shabbat (Sabbath) elevators,” is against Jewish law. This decision — already been opposed by other leading rabbis – could force many Jews who live in apartment buildings to sweat their way up staircases once a week.
The Jewish Sabbath, or Shabbat, is meant to be a day of rest. Observant Jews refrain from working, traveling in vehicles, spending money and from using electricity.
In modern times, it’s tough to imagine going 24 hours without using anything electric. So gadgets have been invented to allow the use of certain appliances without physically turning them on. Like timers for lights, called Shabbat clocks. Or special cookers for stove tops. Or elevators for Shabbat.
The Shabbat elevators, which are ubiquitous in Israel and fairly common in Jewish neighborhoods around the world, are designed to stop automatically at every floor, so passengers are guaranteed to (eventually) make it to their destination without having to activate anything electrical.
But in a surprise decision, a group of top rabbis ruled that riding these elevators was not kosher.