Kashrus Kurrents, Spring 2022
People look forward to Shabbos as a day to daven in shul and enjoy the company of other Shomer Shabbos members of the community. Unfortunately, there are people with mobility issues who are housebound on Shabbos and, for them, Shabbos is a lonely day. But thanks to newly developed technology by Movinglife, an Israeli firm, the housebound now are afforded a new opportunity to rejoin the tzibbur and to enhance their enjoyment of Shabbos. We are very excited to announce STAR-K certification of the Shabbatto folding scooter, a new personal mobility device with a Shabbat Mode option.
The road to certification began with Movinglife contacting STAR-K to discuss their project. After approaching STAR-K to seek certification, the Movinglife management team met with Rav Moshe Heinemann shlit”a, STAR-K’s posek and Rabbinic Administrator, at his home. This initial meeting lasted a good few hours, during which Rav Heinemann explained in detail what he would permit and what he would forbid for Shabbos use.
Movinglife subsequently programmed the scooter’s Shabbos mechanism such that it followed Rav Heinemann’s halachic guidelines. They showed the result to the Rav, who called for some further minor changes. Once those changes were incorporated, the final product was tested by STAR-K. We are now able to certify that the Shabbos mechanism for Shabbatto folding scooters fully meets all of Rav Heinemann’s requirements. Thus, the Shabbatto is the only scooter to currently meet STAR-K’s Shabbos standards, for use by cholim only.
Below are answers to frequently asked questions concerning this scooter.
Who can use this scooter on Shabbos?
The scooter may be used only by one who is designated to be a choleh, in that he or she is unable to engage in normal Shabbos activities due to mobility issues. An Orthodox Rabbi must be consulted to decide whether a particular person meets that criteria.
Can the scooter be used on Shabbos in a public domain that does not have an eruv?
No. It can be used on Shabbos only where there is a kosher eruv.
Can the scooter be used in any community?
No. Poskim of some communities may feel that it inappropriate for a choleh to use a scooter on Shabbos, or they may take issue with the halachic argument permitting its use. Therefore, the scooter may be driven on Shabbos only in communities in which the poskim condone its use, and driven to shul only if the rabbi permits.
Why is this scooter permissible on Shabbos?
Some melachos are forbidden mi’d’Oraysa (by the Torah) on Shabbos, while others are forbidden mi’drabanan (by Talmudic decree). One is not allowed to perform an action which will immediately result in the occurrence of either a melacha d’Oraysa or a melacha d’rabanan. Moreover, barring extenuating circumstances, one is not allowed to perform any action which will result in a melacha d’Oraysa taking place even at some later time.
However, to meet the specific needs of cholim on Shabbos, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l allowed for the custom building of devices that result in a melacha d’rabanan occurring after a brief delay. The Shabbatto’s Shabbat Mode mechanism relies on this principle of grama. When the scooter is in Shabbat Mode, it will not start moving immediately upon engaging the throttle; any movement is preceded by a few-second delay.
Why is it permissible to use the scooter’s brakes on Shabbos?
The scooter will stop immediately upon the application of the hand brakes, and there will not be any time delay. When in Shabbat Mode, the brakes work mechanically, similar to the brakes on a bicycle. Since the brakes are mechanical and not electric, this is permitted on Shabbos.
Is it appropriate to use the scooter in public on Shabbos?
On Shabbos, a person driving the scooter must place a sign on the back of the scooter stating that the user is a choleh due to impaired mobility, to mitigate the impression that he is disrespecting Shabbos. A STAR-K approved sign is provided along with the Shabbos mechanism.
When in Shabbat Mode, are there any scooter controls which may not be used?
When in Shabbat Mode, all of the scooter’s electric controls activate only after a time delay of a few seconds. Any controls that activate immediately are disabled. The one exception is the emergency horn, which does activate immediately. Therefore, as its name suggests, it should only be used in an emergency.
Does the company that manufactures the scooter also manufacture the Shabbos mechanism, or are they two different companies?
They are one and the same. Because Movinglife manufactures the scooter, they are able to seamlessly integrate the Shabbos mechanism.
How can I purchase this scooter?
In the USA, purchase information about the STAR-K approved Shabbatto folding scooter is available online at foldingscooterstore.com or by calling 1-888-492-2370.