The Orthodox community in London has been troubled by a city plan to replace the old water meters with digital units which would cause the desecration of Shabbat whenever one turns on a simple faucet.
After seeking a solution from local engineers, the London Badatz (religious high court of justice), possibly the most stringent Haredi organization in the city, decided to approach the Tzomet Institute in Gush Etzion, Israel, for help Makor Rishon reported Friday.
The Zomet Institute (acronym for Tzivtei Mada veTorah – Teams of Science and Torah) is an Israeli high-tech, non-profit organization specializing in IT equipment and electronic appliances designed to meet Halakhic issues in the modern world.
The Zomet Institute is affiliated with Modern Orthodox Judaism, but its head, the late Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, had an ongoing consulting relationship with Haredi rabbis, most notably the late Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.
Tzomet head Rabbi Menachem Pearl told Makor Rishon that the London Badatz had been asked by the local court to provide a halakhic opinion on or offer a substitute for the digital meters. “One of the engineers the approached in the UK was able to explain to them what the electric circuit was doing on Shabbat, but was unable to offer solutions,” Rabbi Pearl explained.
According to Rabbi Pearl, “there are digital water meters in Israel as well, which challenge our ability to keep the Shabbat, because turning on a faucet would close an electric circuit. Another problem is that the instrument keeps writing numbers which is a kind of writing, which constitutes a transgression even if it is done indirectly (grama) – and is only allowed in case one stands to incur a loss. The only time grama is permitted for a private need is to put out a fire in one’s house.”
The solution Tzomet came up with was to introduce a small change to the code governing the digital meters so that they record changes every 100 liters (1 liter = 1.05 quarts). “It is reasonable to assume that even if one takes a shower on Shabbat, the water use would not reach 100 liters, and so the counters would not write numbers each time one turns on a faucet in the house,” Rabbi Peral explained.