At a rabbinate meeting, former Rishon Letzion and acting Sefardi Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim Rav Shlomo Amar publicly slammed the unwarranted use of grama devices on Shabbos in reaction to reports that a Yerushalayim hotel used a grama loudspeaker to conduct a public seder during the recent Yom Tov. He also slammed the Shabbos use by healthy elderly people of electric grama buggies designed by the Zomet Institute, a modern Orthodox non-profit research institute which has spent close to 30 years developing technologies to enable the Shabbos use of products such as metal detectors, elevators and coffee machines.
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim Rav Aryeh Stern, who was present at the meeting, said in response to Rav Amar’s complaint against electric buggies that Zomet developed them in accordance with the psak of his rebbi, Rav Shaul Yisraeli (1909 – 1995), who served as a dayan in the Chief Rabbinate’s Beis Din Hagadol in Yerushalayim and as rosh yeshiva of Merkaz Harav Yeshiva. To this, Rav Amar responded, “It is forbidden to sit in the presence of someone who tramples the piskei din of Rav Ovadiah Yosef,” who forbade use of the device and said that anyone who relies on such leniencies should not be given an aliyah.
“Through our many sins, all sorts of people are coming along and want to destroy the Shabbos more than Shabbos desecrators destroy it, within the so-called framework of halachah,” Rav Amar said.
The unwarranted use of Zomet devices was “a stumbling block for old people who observed Shabbos their whole lives, whom it leads to desecrate Shabbos,” he said.
Zomet director Rav Yisrael Rosen argued in response that the electric buggy heter was permitted by Rav Shmuel Zalman Auerbach and Rav Yehoshua Neuwirth.
Rav Rosen noted that Rav Amar wrote a pamphlet against Zomet’s grama microphone and electric buggy four years ago and failed to reply to the responses he sent him. Rav Rosen claimed that Rav Ovadiah Yosef himself allowed a former Shas MK to use an electric buggy for a relative and that Rav Moshe Sternbuch permitted their use to a Toldos Aharon chossid.
“Rav Ovadiah Yosef signed in his handwriting on my psak [forbidding such buggies] that all this was true and correct; clearly in his handwriting. And he [Rav Rosen] goes and publicizes that Rav Ovadiah permits it,” Rav Amar responded. “He says that Rav Sternbuch permits it. We asked his [Rav Sternbuch’s] son. He went to his home and he [Rav Sternbuch] yelled, ‘Chillul Shabbos, would I permit such a thing?’ He [Rav Rosen] wrote the same of other rabbonim, but they are no longer with us, they have passed away. He could say that the Maharsha and the Rambam permitted his electric buggies.”
Rav Amar concluded by paskening that if an old person cannot get to shul on Shabbos with a regular wheelchair, he should rather daven at home for the rest of his life.
Rav Amar is not alone in his conflict with the Zomet organization.
The chareidi Mishmeres Hashabbos organization founded by Rav Yitzchok Darzi at the instigation of his rebbi, Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, also disagrees with many of Zomet’s heteirim and opposes the undermining of Shabbos though the encouragement of spurious digital devices. Due to Mishmeres Hashabbos’ approach that the use of electricity on Shabbos can be an issur deoraisa and that reliance on grama is very limited, it has invested huge efforts in developing refrigerators, air conditioners and suchlike which can be completely detached from digital controls over Shabbos.
David Steger – Matzav.com Israel