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Kosher Kitchens: Shabbat Compliant Appliances

By 29th September 2016Advice

As we’ve said many times before, the modern age is easily the best time for kitchens, in terms of sheer convenience. Appliances are loaded with more functions then ever, but are dually the easiest to use that they’ve ever been. This means that cooking, food preparation, any possible thing you’d need to do in the kitchen takes far less time, and is much less of an undertaking as a result. There are ways that appliances innovate that may escape a number of people however, and today, we’d like to take a look at one of the most interesting developments the modern kitchen has brought us; that of the Shabbat Mode functionality; a must for all kosher kitchens.

First, a bit of context ; Shabbat (meaning “rest” or “cessation”) is the traditional day of rest in Judaism, and is recognised largely by followers of the Jewish faith, or certain Christian offshoots like the Seventh-day Adventists and Seventh Day Baptists. Observers of Shabbat recognise it specifically in reference to the Biblical creation of the world over the course of six days, and thus treat the Shabbat as a day of rest to rigorous degrees. The Shabbat is observed, according to Halakha (traditional Jewish law), a few minutes before Sunset on Friday until the appearance of three stars on Saturday evening. Likewise according to Halakha, most forms of labour or creative activity are prohibited on the Shabbat; interpretation and extent of this rule will vary on the practicer, but it can potentially apply to starting a fire, cooking food, even operating electric equipment. This is where Shabbat Mode functionality comes in.

At it’s most basic, Shabbat Mode on an appliance overrides the usual functions and operations to allow for it’s use on Shabbat, or holidays with similar rules and practises. What Shabbat Mode entails will depend on the appliance, and all those interested in keeping kosher kitchens need to ensure this meets their specific needs.

Firstly, there’s food preparation and oven operation. According to Halakha, raw food may not be cooked on Shabbat, but food that is already cooked may be kept warm until mealtime. Specifically, it’s the turning on or adjusting of the heat that is itself prohibited in many interpretations of the law. In the past, people got around this by turning on the heat before the Shabbat fell, and simply leaving it on throughout the course of the day without adjusting it or turning it off, allowing families to make use of the heat throughout the day. The invention and mass adoption of ovens that automatically shut the heat off after a number of hours as a fire safety measure brought an end to this practise pretty sharpish.

That’s where ovens with a Shabbat Mode come in. When set to Shabbat Mode, the automatic heat shutoff is overridden, and in some cases, all lights and displays may be temporarily disabled whilst the mode is active. A number of the more modern ovens with Shabbat Mode functionality may also allow for temperature changes independent of the user, although prevailing Orthodox opinion is that that function isn’t really viable for the Shabbat, although it may be relevant to other holidays where changing of the temperature is allowed.

A number of modern Refrigerator units also have some level of Shabbat compliance built into their programming. The main way in which this manifests is that once Shabbat Mode is turned on, electrical activity that occurs when the door is opened (such as the light turning on) are disabled outright. Many also include more complex functions, such as a time delay applied to the compressor, so that indirect changes to temperature caused by it turning on were nullified.

As it happens, some of the products we stock feature Shabbat Mode compliance as standard. For example, the Siemens studioLine ovens we sell all feature Shabbat Mode functionality in our kosher kitchens display in Hendon Central.