Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Does your oven have a Sabbath mode?

This undated press release from GE describes an option which became available on April 1, 2001:
GE Introduces New Sabbath Mode Feature on Cooking Products to Meet the Needs of Observant Jewish Consumers

..."Although the Sabbath and holiday laws, especially as they relate to the cooking and heating of foods, are rather complex, the engineers at GE are to be congratulated on their ability to have appreciated and comprehended the intricacies of Halacha (Jewish law) as they developed a Sabbath mode that will enhance the Sabbath and holidays of observant Jewish families," noted Dr. Avrom Pollak, president of the Star-K Kosher Certification. "This new feature is truly kosher consumer friendly and we at the Star-K are confident that the observant Jewish community is going to show significant interest in GE cooking appliances," he continued.

Most modern ranges are equipped with an integrated twelve-hour shut-off safety device. This feature shuts down the oven's power after the oven has been operating consecutively for twelve hours. The GE cooking products with Sabbath Mode will override the twelve-hour shut-off. The oven will not shut off automatically making it possible to keep cooked foods warm on the Sabbath or use the range over religious holidays for cooking and warming food.

In addition to overriding the shut off, the Sabbath Mode feature will meet the observant Jewish consumer's restrictions for observing the Sabbath and other holidays by:

Eliminating tones or timer beeps.

Not displaying icons.

Permitting temperature adjustments on holidays without displays or beeps.
A more truthful name would be "stealth mode," wouldn't it?

Okay, now explain this to me: How is changing cooking temperatures but avoiding the appearance of changing cooking temperatures keeping the Sabbath holy?

Anybody? ...Nobody can explain this to me?

What you're doing is lying about whether you are cooking on the Sabbath or not. Why is lying okay on the Sabbath but cooking is not?

Anybody? Help me out. I'm at a loss here.

Okay, so I'll resort to Wikipedia:

In Jewish philosophy it is recognized that many of the 613 mitzvot cannot be explained rationally. They are categorized as chukim, comprising such laws as the Red Heifer (Numbers 19). There are three basic points of view regarding these laws:

One view holds that these laws do have a reason, but it is not understood because the ultimate explanation for mitzvot is beyond the human intellect.

A second view holds that most of the laws have some historical and/or dietary significance (such as preventing the consumption of unhealthy food, or differentiating oneself from non-Jews through dietary restrictions); and

A third view holds that these laws have no meaning other than to instill obedience.
Probably the second sentence of the next section of the Wikipedia article is the key: "Indeed, the Hebrew word for 'holiness' is etymologically related to the Hebrew word for 'distinction' or 'separation.'" Wait a minute. Holiness is equated with separation? As it turns out, all of the irrationality of the mitzvot is acceptable because it creates a separate-and-thus-better status for those who follow it. An irrational basis for superior social status? Is that a good idea? I mean, in 2006?

In a sense, I can understand the hatred of the Arabs for the Jews. I don't understand the degree of the hatred, but I can understand its origin--a nation which shares ethnic origins with the Palestinians and Syrians (genetic links have been found on the Y chromosome) assuming an inherent superiority for thousands of years without any factual basis, more or less playing the part of Mrs. Oleson in Little House on the Prairie. That would get a little old after a couple of centuries. Of course I could balance this argument with a discussion of the equal irrationality of Islamic law, but that would probably result in the torching of Google headquarters, the parent company of Blogger, which hosts this blog.

Why should I care? What business is it of mine if six million Jewish Americans may want to own an oven with a Sabbath mode?

9/11 comes to mind. The continuing insurgency in Iraq comes to mind. Whenever an insurgent shoots at an American soldier, he's actually trying to shoot at Israel. My neice's husband safely returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. Why should it matter to me that my neice's three kids, at least for the time being, won't have to grow up without a dad?

"My oven is the cause of 9/11 and the war in Iraq?? You're a shvents, shmendrik, shmegege, schmuck!!," Linda Richman might sputter on Saturday Night Live. No, of course the oven isn't to blame. The clinging to the irrational belief system is to blame. The refusal to let go of the elevated status the irrational belief system provides is to blame. The willingness to lie to maintain the appearance of following the irrational belief system is to blame. Self-centeredness, on an international scale, is to blame.

The same can be said of Muslims. And Catholics. And Protestants. Clinging to any belief system that on occasion requires an explanation like "My ways are higher than your ways" is stupid.

In the centuries before giant military transport ships and satellite communications and Stealth bombers, friction between conflicting irrational belief systems occurred less often and the collateral damage was much more confined. Now that Earth is wired like one large city, being stupid has a much greater impact.

I let go of mine. Let go of yours.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Thoughts on Super Bowl Sunday

Iran, gay-bar shooting, Muhammad-cartoons backlash, suicide bombers, Gaza, surveillance, the Super Bowl, FEMA, Alito, intelligent design, millionaire Christians, SUVs, cell phones...