Rabbi Veffer and the 'Shabbat Lamp'
Photo: Atta Awisat
The "kosher lamp" is the kind of invention that is genius in its simplicity that makes you say "why didn't they think of that sooner?" The lamp which has sold hundreds of thousands of units in the Jewish world, mostly in North America, but 20,000 units sold in Israel alone, has recently flourished and is considered an ideal gift in observant homes as it allows control over the strength of light.
Halacha and Technology
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"A woman needs to breastfeed in the middle of the night, doesn't know when the baby will wake up and doesn't want to wake others – turns the lamp's apparatus, which doesn't light the room when in it isn't needed, and adjusts the strength of the light to the desirable strength", explains Moshe Eringer, the marketing manager of the Feldheim chain, the lamps' Israeli distributer.
The special products were born out of necessity and the partnership between a Toronto rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Veffer a Waterloo University graduate in computers and mathematics who has since moved to Yavniel and Moshe Orzech a lighting specialist from the Toronto congregation.
The lamp's inception brought on the creation of 'Kosher Innovations' which specializes in inventions that improve the quality of life in observant and religious homes.
Among its inventions are the Shabbat tooth brush, alarm clock, message board and additional gimmicks and inventions designed for upgrading the quality of life, finding solutions within the framework of the Halacha. Nearly all the patents have kosher certification of course.
Without waking the household
The most interesting story belongs to the Shabbat lamp. Rabbanit Chana Veffer, who enjoys reading, met with a usual Shabbat problem - how to read without bothering her sleeping husband. Turning lights on and off is not permitted on the Sabbath.
Shabbat clocks that turn the lights on and off at pre-arranged times are available in almost every religious home in the world, but what happens, said Rabbi Veffer, when one person wants to sleep and one person wishes to read until the small hours of the night? Or, alternatively, when a mother wishes to breastfeed and doesn't wish to wake the household.
The improvised solutions are well known: Leave a light on and cover it with a towel – a dangerous solution, or leaving a light on in the bathroom or a closet. Chana Veffer wanted a better solution. A lamp like the one she had seen at the Shaarei Tzedek medical center's maternity ward over 20 years ago, where instead of turning lights on and off, a metal screen opens and closes allowing in light as needed.
For years Rabbi Veffer had the idea in his head, until six years ago when he decided to make the dream a reality. The idea was to construct two cylinders, one inside the other, where one has a lamp installed and the other cylinder has a window which can be turned as needed. Seems simple, but not so easy to execute - the two couldn't manage to seal out the light when turning the cylinder.
In addition, leaving the light on for hours made the receptacle overheat and seemed unsafe. After a few days Rabbi Veffer discussed his idea and its problems with Moshe Orzech. Ozrech who had seen the prototype was impressed with the idea's simplicity. These days the lamp sells in over 42 countries.
Rabbi Veffer sold his stake in Kosher Innovations a year ago when he ended his term in Canada and returned to Israel. Veffer is signed on a major share of the company's inventions.
"These days we have a development team in the office" notes Orzech in a conversation from Toronto, "and we get ideas from around the world".
Among the ideas developed by the company you can find a silicone bristles toothbrush and even specialized toothpaste, though that invention is not as popular as it is in North America due to ingrained Israeli tradition and Health ministry importation restrictions.
Not every product suits Israel
A Shabbat alarm clock that rings at a prearranged time and turns itself off after a certain amount of time has made its Aliyah and is extremely popular here, though the clock's newest version, one that allows prearranged settings for three days in a row is not available in Israel.
Another invention which has yet to make its way to Israel is the message board which includes 166 magnets of words and sentences in English that represent various situations in an observant family's lexicon.
"Not every product can be sold in Israel in its American version", explains Orzech we examine the market potential of each product to see if it justifies additional investment in order to adapt it to the Israeli market."
Rabbi Veffer, aren't your innovations an attempt to outwit the Shabbat labor prohibitions?
"Anyone who thinks that way must think that the essence of the prohibitions is to make Jews suffer. Rest and relaxation on Shabbat is not about the limitations, it's about bringing man to a higher level of recognition that God is the creator. When we cease all work once a week, we are reminded that God is the creator.
"When I use the special lamp on Shabbat I provide myself with a reminder that this isn't just any day. And it isn't just me – there are over two million observant people in the world."
The quality of life of observant Jews is on the rise, agree Rabbi Veffer and Israeli haredi advertisers Avraham Brisk of Bolton Advertising and Shifra Krimolovski and they are willing to pay to improve it.
It is enough to wander in bookstores, souvenir stores and home appliance stores in order to find the latest gimmicks. A store in Bnei Brak offers a new and popular innovation – a challah cutting board with a twist, one that turns the board into a bread basket which prevents spreading crumbs and all for NIS 200 ($54).
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