West Hartford Doctor Challenges GE On “Sabbath Mode” Oven


ge-sabbath-mode-ovenKevin Hunt reports in the Hartford Courant: A two-year-old gas oven sits, like new, in the kitchen of a residence retired pediatrician and neonatologist Robert Harris of West Hartford uses only on Friday nights and Saturdays for the Jewish Sabbath.

It’s not the oven he thought he was getting, nor is it one he wants.

Harris, who paid close to $600 for the oven, felt betrayed by General Electric for telling him the oven’s Sabbath mode complied with the needs of Jews observing the weekly Sabbath. Harris, like other observant Jews, does not start or stop any electrical device, whether a computer, phone or oven, on the Sabbath.

“This stems from the biblical commandment of not lighting a fire,” says Harris, “and in modern times, electricity is equated with fire.”

Harris also cannot cook food on the Sabbath. He is allowed only to reheat previously cooked food without starting or stopping an electrical circuit. An oven with a Sabbath mode bypasses the automatic 12-hour shut-off circuitry built into modern ovens for safety. He also assumed the Sabbath-compliant oven he bought had a time-bake feature that could be set before the weekend Sabbath to turn on automatically to reheat the pre-cooked food.

“That assumption,” he says, “ultimately proved wrong.”

As Harris understood it, this was not a proper Sabbath mode. For the past year-and-a-half, Harris has tried to make his point to General Electric but says he could not find anyone knowledgeable about the Sabbath mode.

Why did the oven’s manual include instructions for the Sabbath mode? And how was the oven approved by Star-K, a kosher certification agency?

Finally, GE sent a technician to Harris’ home.

“The technician had less knowledge than I did about the Sabbath mode,” Harris wrote in a letter to GE in March, “thanked me for educating him and then asked me to pay him.”

The store wouldn’t take the stove back. GE wouldn’t either, though it offered Harris a $300 discount off the retail price of a new one.

When The Bottom Line first contacted General Electric, whose headquarters are in Fairfield, the company insisted the oven had the Sabbath mode, that all of its Sabbath-mode ranges work the same and even provided a copy of Sabbath mode instructions from the oven’s manual.

“We believe we comply with what the Sabbath mode should accomplish,” says GE spokeswoman Kim Freeman. “It may not meet his particular needs, but as long as we comply with what Star-K recommends we have done our job.”

But GE did more than that. It consulted with its own engineer and, finally, with Star-K. That’s when Harris discovered the variations of Sabbath mode.

A basic Sabbath-mode oven, certified by Star-K, bypasses the automatic 12-hour shut-off system to allow Jewish owners to use the stove continuously on holidays for two or three days. Harris’ oven did not have a time-bake feature that would turn on automatically and reheat his food on the weekend Sabbath.

“We do not guarantee that an appliance will have a time-bake feature,” says Rivka Lea Goldman, the appliance liaison for Star-K. “I was trying to explain that to the doctor. He felt he was misled. I tried to explain that the words ‘Sabbath mode’ are perhaps misleading. Our organization did not pick that terminology. Sabbath mode is really for Jewish holidays. But the manufacturers are obviously printing manuals for thousands of consumers, not just Jewish.”

Because Harris assumed he was getting an all-purpose Sabbath mode oven, he did not notice the qualifications on the Star-K website. (For a list of appliances certified by Star-K, visit cour.at/JEq665.)

“Who is the culprit here?” says Harris. “I think there is plenty of blame to go around. Star-K erroneously allowed GE to claim this range as having the full Sabbath mode, which is a misnomer. Star-K does admit this but told me I should have check with them or their website. I do have some limited culpability in not doing so. At the end of the day, I understand what went wrong.”

With this oven, Harris can either allow it to remain unused or override the automatic shutoff and keep it running – a potential safety risk – for the 24-hour Sabbath.

“This is not something I’m happy about,” he says, “and will probably just not use the oven to heat up food.”

{Hartford Courant/Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. So, are these ovens allowed to be used on shabbos/yomtov? I know that Rabbi Miller from Toronto has written a letter against them.

  2. Mistakes have been made by the parties involved.

    Dr. Harris you have had much aggravation from this issue.More than can be described in this paragraph.

    May the aggravation be a Kapawrah.

    Have an enjoyable rest of the year.

  3. To sechel: there are a few issues
    – can it be used: there is a machlokes on how Shabbos-mode ovens can be used. CYLOR.
    – if it is actually Shabbos mode. When we bought our oven the book the salesman had had a Star K listed next to this model.That didn’t necessarily mean it was fully Shabbos mode loaded. There were degreees.

  4. The moral of the story when complaining do always think you are right. Make sure there really is a problem then act.

  5. I don’t understand – I did not know you can put food into an oven on a timer – you can put food on a blech.

  6. Harav Shlomo Miller (and Harav Moshe Shturnbuch and Harav Elya Wachtfogel) argues with Harav Moshe Heineman (and Harav Shmuel halevi Wosner) only in regards to whether one may change the temperture on yom tov (blank screen, random delay grama). They have both written and argued shaila. EVERYONE agrees that the “kosher oven” must be put in the sab mode and not doing so will cause isurim, and that by doing so it ma,es the oven useable. Ask your rav.

  7. I believe there are 2 aspects to the shabbos mode. The first is what was mentioned here – that the oven stays on for more than 12 hrs. (which of course is really needed for yom tov)
    and the second is that by pushing certain up and down arrows in intervals you can actually
    adjust the temperature of the oven. When doing so there is no visible change being made ie. lights going on or other changes. Pushing this switch causes something to be activated later but not at the moment it is pressed. This is a grama switch; and I believe that this is the problem R’Shlomo Miller and rabbanim in Eretz Yisroel have with the oven. I don’t think anyone has a problem with the first feature of allowing the oven to stay on for more than 12 hours.

  8. To the best of my knowledge, one may not take any food that is cold, even if it was already cooked and place it in an oven on Shabbos to warm it up. The Shabbos mode is used so that no interaction with any buttons is needed when something is put in the oven before Shabbos and kept warm at a predesignated temperature. It also enables you to keep the oven on for any amount of time, such as the yom tov that just was conluded. We use our Shabbos mode oven to keep our foods warm that are to be eaten on Friday night. The oven can be kept on for the Shabbos day meal, such as for chulant. Please check with your local Rabbi whether your problem is justified.

  9. Even if it did have a “shabbos mode” which would allow Dr Harris to set the oven to go on at a certain time on Shabbos, it would still not be permitted to use on Shabbos. In other words Dr Harris would not be allowed to put cold food in the oven that would get heated up when the oven went on. Unless it was completely dry like a challah then maybe it would be allowed.

  10. Ask your LOR. Many features of the oven are excellent and halachically perfectly acceptable and helpful for Yom Tov use. As far as i know, Rav Miller and many others do not allow using the feature to raise or lower oven temperature on Yom Tov, although Rav Heineman paskens that it is permissible. But don’t trust me, ask a shaila from a Rav, who can explain all the pertinent halachic minutiae if you are interested. I own a GE oven with Sabbath mode. I am not an expert in Halacha, but i do cook and bake a lot (quite competently, if you ask my family & friends). I’m sorry Mr Harris is not enjoying his oven; i find the GE range to be a superb appliance. It performs well with or without Sabbath mode.

  11. Rabbi Miller’s concern is with changing the temperature on Yom Tov. Using the Shabbos mode bypasses the 12 hour cutoff and the “bells and whistles”. As for the doctor, caveat emptor. I made sure the oven I bought had all the features.

  12. It doesn’t sound like the Doctor was mislead by anyone but his halocho undertstanding. No Sabbath mode allows cooking or reheating on shabbos. An oven set to go on on shabbos morning for the purpose of reheating food even dry food is very problematic if at all permitted. The sabbath mode was really created for yom tov & for leaving ovens on straight without automatically shutting off after 12 hrs. Also for the older models with the dials (not available for many years already) you are able to turn the oven higher or lower on yt without causing an automatic electric reaction.

  13. yom tov-yes. Shbs only once-food in before shbbs; out one time. No using temp controls at all-they are electronically connected to heating elements-even if nothing changes on control panel indicators.

  14. What a nudnik! Everyone knows that “Sabbath Mode” is simply to bypass the oven shutting itself off. It promises nothing more.

    Does he expect the oven to make his cholent for him, and wake him up for Shacharis?

  15. In Pittsburgh, they have been collecting money for Dr. Harris. So far they have $30 and another $10 in pledges. He will make another appeal shortly.

  16. I believe what he wants is the ability to schedule periods of time when the oven will be on over a yomtov, a feature which would be handy & economical indeed.