Sabbath Mode Appliance Problems Run Hot and Cold: Let the Buyer Beware

Can you remember back to the good ol’ days when your erev Shabbos and Yom Tov ‘To Do’ list included turning on your oven that would stay on until Havdalah, so you could eat hot food? What about unscrewing the refrigerator light bulb or taping down the button on the refrigerator door frame to prevent the light from turning on when you opened the refrigerator door? The Sabbath observer has long been challenged with a plethora of major kitchen appliance problems, however, the installation of technologically advanced safety features by well-intentioned appliance makers have made our 20th century appliance challenges seem like child’s play!      

Our greatest appliance challenges started about ten years ago, when oven manufacturers started installing 12-hour automatic shut offs, digital displays, lights, and buzzers that posed problems for the observant Jew. Soon after, STAR-K Certification started working with appliance manufacturers to change the computer boards in these ovens to bypass and eliminate many of these enhanced features. Presently, STAR-K certifies sixteen brands of ovens, and remains the only kashrus organization that certifies these Sabbath Mode appliances, which now include refrigerator/freezers. (The term “Sabbath Mode” is actually a misnomer, since it does not allow a person to cook on Shabbos; the term “Yom Tov mode” would actually be more appropriate.)

STAR-K president, Avrom Pollak, warns the observant buyer who is in the market for major kitchen appliances to beware. “Although a company contends that it sells Sabbath Mode appliances, it is no guarantee that they are halachically compliant,” notes Dr. Pollak. “Just as a kosher consumer should not eat meat from a store that posts a sign that says ‘We Sell Kosher Meat’, without knowing who certifies it, he or she should not trust an appliance company that is uncertified, just because it advertises that it sells Sabbath Mode appliances. The term ‘Sabbath Mode’ is not a trademarked term; companies that say they are selling such appliances may be self-certifying. We know of a number of manufacturers whose “certifier” is their own engineer, and there are definite problems with these appliances.”

STAR-K also warns the observant public about purchasing freezers that now feature a safety alarm system. This is problematic for the Sabbath observant consumer since an alarm may ring on Shabbos or Yom Tov when the freezer door has been left ajar long enough for the temperature to drop; it will not turn off until the freezer door has been closed.

Prior to making a major kitchen appliance purchase, checking certification status is recommended. Call the STAR-K office, (410)484-4110, or visit the STAR-K website here.