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How do you make a smart phone kosher?

By making it into a dumb phone and disabling its internet and call-making capabilities.

From time to time I have been having fun at the expense of religious institutions that try to find ways of getting around the restrictions that their religious rules place on them. Orthodox Jews are the most source of fun, both because of the Byzantine rules that they have as well as for the convoluted logic used to get around them when they become inconvenient in this day and age. But this latest move is one of the most absurd.

The taboo among the ultra-Orthodox in Israel about using smart phones is no longer, with the launch of models deemed appropriate for the devout.

So how does a smart phone cross from treyf to kosher? It has to be de-smarted.

The Haredi objection to smart phones is that they allow free access to the internet, putting all aspects of secular thought, culture and media, as well as sexual content like pornography, at the fingertips of the observant.

“We get new cell phones in the shrink wrap, open them, and modify them,” Rami Levy Communications’ manager Shlomi Gulian told the Forward. The alteration completely disables web browsing. It is, Gulian stressed, irreversible.

Apparently you cannot make phone calls either but you can send and receive texts and download ‘appropriate’ apps only from a special approved app store.

But the problem I foresee is that once you allow not-so-smart phones, you lose control, since you will not able to tell easily who is using a kosher phone and who is using one that has access to all the inviting but forbidden fruit of the internet. Maybe they will institute kosher phone patrols, where people will be subject to random inspections of their phones.

Comments

  1. CJO says

    Maybe they will institute kosher phone patrols, where people will be subject to random inspections of their phones.

    Well, except, the presumption is that people want these devices, right? Are they being forced on anyone? (Without getting into whatever indoctrination may have led to the attitude in the first place — I understand that there is a sense in which religion itself and fundamentalist orientation in particular are “forced on” many, but given an adult fundamentalist, why are we concerned with the limitations they choose to act under?)

    Atheists love to jump on what are perceived as “religious institutions that try to find ways of getting around the restrictions that their religious rules place on them” but I think that’s a misrepresentation. The context of the rules being “inconvenient in this day and age” misses the mark also, as they are supposed to be inconvenient to some extent, or they would be pointless, and they have always been so (though I guess they become relatively more inconvenient as everyday life becomes less so). The presumption that Jews must, to be consistent, hold that God’s intention was to make little old ladies walk up 12 flights of stairs to be holy, rather than using a “Shabbas elevator”, for instance, is incredibly uncharitable. The questions addressed by these workarounds are about how to continue to uphold the people’s side of the covenant in radically altered domestic and civil environments, not how to get out of it so that it doesn’t affect their everyday lives at all. They believe God wants them to distinguish themselves from their neighbors by following a code. But why so many mocking atheists think this should entail distinguishing themselves from their neighbors by living as if modern technology doesn’t exist at all is beyond me.

  2. sqlrob says

    Atheists love to jump on what are perceived as “religious institutions that try to find ways of getting around the restrictions that their religious rules place on them” but I think that’s a misrepresentation.

    No, it’s not. Hiring people to push buttons isn’t working around the restrictions?

  3. CJO says

    Because of course God intended for little old ladies to walk up 12 flights of stairs. (Not a Jew, not religious at all; “God” here is shorthand for “The God atheists insist Jews must believe in”)

  4. Mano Singham says

    For some reason, they don’t want the phone call feature either so they would need to dumb down the cell phone too.

  5. Frank says

    I’m confused. “The God atheists insist Jews must believe in”? I don’t think atheists insist that Jews believe in any god. Some people self identify as both atheist and Jew. Some Jews do believe in a god that requires them to follow a set of rules.

    I’m really not sure what point you are trying to make.

  6. Irreverend Bastard says

    They take a smart phone, and they remove the smart, and then they remove the phone?

    What’s left? Text messages? Why not just use a carrier pigeon, or smoke signals?

  7. billyeager says

    “all aspects of secular thought, culture and media, as well as sexual content like pornography, at the fingertips of the observant.”

    I’m betting the latter of those ‘evils’ is likely considered the lesser. Pornography leads to apologising to your God who saw you ‘knocking one out’, ‘secular thought, culture and media’ might lead to the realisation that nobody was watching you knock one out.

  8. MNb says

    “Well, except, the presumption is that people want these devices, right?”
    Right. As soon as enough people buy those desmarted phones you can be sure that some of them want the forbidden devices as well. That’s human nature.

    “how to continue to uphold the people’s side of the covenant in radically altered domestic and civil environments, not how to get out of it so that it doesn’t affect their everyday lives at all.”
    What’s the difference?

    “so many mocking atheists think this should entail distinguishing themselves from their neighbors by living as if modern technology doesn’t exist at all is beyond me.”
    But that’s not what MS is mocking. He mocks the unnecessarily complicated ways they try to deal with modern technology.

  9. steve oberski says

    In the specific case of Orthodox Jews, spitting on little girls going to school, harassing women on buses, indoctrinating and otherwise abusing children also helps them uphold the people’s side of the covenant and distinguish themselves from their neighbors, don’t t you think.

    And as for those making those poor, poor little old ladies walk up 12 flights of stairs to be holy, that’s a personal choice on their part, isn’t it ?

  10. steve oberski says

    But don’t be mixing it with the meat of the kid.

    Isn’t the Torah amazing, it predicted the invention of cell phones.

  11. lorn says

    Send me $600 and I’ll send you a Kosher I-phone, two tin cans, a pair of Apple stickers, and length of string. With this model it is much more difficult for the kids to download objectionable apps or dabble in pornography. A mere $600 to keep your kids safe, what’s not to like.

  12. says

    I occasionally encounter people who tell me that “most jews are atheists” and that all the silly kosher nonsense is ‘respect for culture’ — it’s certainly hard for me to understand bending over backwards and jumping through such hoops for a god that doesn’t exist.

  13. doublereed says

    I occasionally encounter people who tell me that “most jews are atheists” and that all the silly kosher nonsense is ‘respect for culture’ — it’s certainly hard for me to understand bending over backwards and jumping through such hoops for a god that doesn’t exist.

    Most Jews are atheists (hard to judge the exact amount of course). That’s confirmation bias. It’s not like they’re going to have an article on how wacky secular people are.

    The Haredi and Orthodox certainly aren’t atheist. They’re fanatics.

  14. doublereed says

    Also, I don’t know much about Israel. I would guess they have significantly more Jewish fanatics in America. So I’m more comfortable saying that Most American Jews are atheists.

    Just keeping kosher isn’t that big a deal. It’s only the crazies that have two kitchens and break their phones.

  15. Chiroptera says

    I think his point is that we atheists are being too mean when we make jokes about people for thinking that an invisible elf-king who lives in the sky has made up complicated rules to show that they are an extra special people, because they quite rationally believe that the invisible elf-king has allowed the extra special people to add even more complicated additions to the arbitrary and nonsensical rules iin order to adapt to modern society.

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