Technically Legal
March 7, 2008 9:20 AM   Subscribe

Technological loopholes to religious law?

This phone has an indirect dialing mechanism, allowing Shabbat-observant Jews to use the phone on Shabbat. There are some other examples here, such as the fridge.

The Charming Burqa (previously on the blue) uses wireless technology to transmit an image of the wearer's choosing, potentially enabling them to show themselves in public.

I'm interested in more examples of people using technology to find loopholes in religious law. Preferably ones that are well-accepted in whichever religious community they were meant for. Got any?
posted by SBMike to Religion & Philosophy (23 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Many hospitals and apartment buildings have their elevators programmed to open at every floor on Sabbath so that observant peopel don't have to push the buttons.
posted by mds35 at 9:25 AM on March 7, 2008

People, even.
posted by mds35 at 9:26 AM on March 7, 2008

There is a whole ton of these that relate to observant orthodox Judaism... are you looking for a list of all the other Jewish ones at the moment, or are you more looking for technological loopholes that apply to other religious traditions?
posted by andoatnp at 9:29 AM on March 7, 2008

Oy. This site seems to have a lot of these sorts of tchotchkes, such as The Kosher Clock ("The Shomer Shabbat Alarm Clock with 5 Alarms!")
posted by mosk at 9:32 AM on March 7, 2008

Most of the examples that you will find are about Jews. Jews are very legalistic in their approach to religious observance.

Razors: (Religiously observant) Jews can't shave their faces. More precisely, they cannot touch their skin with a blade. But..... since an electric razor has a screen between the skin and the blade, religiously observant Jews may shave their faces (and legs, etc.) with them. Nutty but true.

Raising Pigs: Pigs (all non-kosher animals) are not allowed "on" the land of Israel. So there was no bacon in Israel for quite some time. Now, due somewhat to russian immigrant Jews wanting to eat some bacon like they did back home, farmers raise pigs on platforms. Since the platforms are not "on" the land, hahaha, you've technically gotten around the religious stricture.
posted by zpousman at 9:32 AM on March 7, 2008

Yeah, Shabbat Elevators is what I was going to suggest.

Muslem/Christian and Jewish taxi drivers switching off Saturdays and Sundays is kind of related.

I think we (Jews) are better at finding ways out of being truly observant than anyone else - for many of us, technical observation is more important than the spirit of observation. There are rebbes who spend their entire careers trying to justify various modern ways of living that seem to contradict the restrictions of the sabbath.
posted by luriete at 9:33 AM on March 7, 2008

The Amish a fairly vague set of rules about not using any more technology than necessary, which leads to some weird compromises between using technology and not using it. For example, it's relatively common for Amish communities to allow gas-powered farming equipment, but require that a horse must pull it.

As with the other examples you mentioned, these types of things are less about "loopholes" and more about trying to stay within the spirit of religious traditions while integrating modern technology.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:40 AM on March 7, 2008

An Eruv is one of the more strange adaptations Orthodox Jews have come up with, in this case to be able to carry things on Shabbat.
posted by zachlipton at 9:47 AM on March 7, 2008

The oven in my Appt. has a Sabbath mode where you can set it on a timer to go on at a certain time at a certain temp and then turn off again all on its own.
posted by Captain_Science at 9:51 AM on March 7, 2008

Pretty much all high end appliances sold in the US have some sort of Sabbath mode programmed into them.
posted by Nelson at 10:03 AM on March 7, 2008

Great question!

I've got a couple of other fun Jewish ones for you:

The KosherShaver organization offers a mail-away service which modifies your Norelco electric razors kosher by altering the cutting mechanism slightly. There's also a do-it-yourself option! Fun website to explore.

And the Zomet institute oversees a number of hi-tech (or at least clever) engineering and inventing projects designed to allow observant Jews to do all sorts of normally-prohibited activities on the Sabbath (including writing, talking on the phone, etc.). Another interesting website to play around with.

Any others out there?
posted by AngerBoy at 10:25 AM on March 7, 2008

Sounds like we should add a "jewish" tag to this one!
posted by canine epigram at 10:53 AM on March 7, 2008

Amigo Mobility manufactures a variation on their standard scooter (power wheelchair) that has a Shabbat mode, and has been approved of by some Orthodox authority in Israel.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 11:54 AM on March 7, 2008

Er, added note: there seems to be a bit of a "yeah, it's a loophole" sense to the scooter - apparently, people are encouraged to consult with their rabbi, who can help them decide whether not using a powered wheelchair on Shabbat would constitute enough of a hardship to justify using this "Kosher Scooter".
posted by spaceman_spiff at 11:57 AM on March 7, 2008

Read accelerando by charles stross about a crazy space-orbiting imam and the bizarre interactions between 24th century technology and interpreting the hadith.
posted by lalochezia at 12:25 PM on March 7, 2008

I mean, the most obvious thing that pops up in supermarkets in Jewish neighborhoods around this time every year is "kosher for Passover" versions of normal foods. My friends' parents said corn syrup wasn't kosher for Passover so they'd go to the ice cream man, who sold the Mexican bottled versions of some sodas (which used sugar rather than corn syrup).

I still honestly have no idea whether corn syrup is kosher for Passover or if the parents were just looking for a little peace and quiet around the house.
posted by crinklebat at 12:28 PM on March 7, 2008

While homsexuality is illegal in iran (and anywhere where sharia is practiced), and femininity in men is societally a big no-no, transsexuality is not specifically dissallowed by islam.

Thus the legal solution for iranian homosexuals with a trans-inclination (or people in general with a trans inclination) is to have state and religion supported sexchanges and gain full rights as women. Apparenly these people are discriminated against much less than closeted homosexuals or men that act effeminately.

See wikipedia as well for more links.
posted by lalochezia at 12:31 PM on March 7, 2008

Kosher bacon cheeseburgers are a possibility.
posted by fermezporte at 12:39 PM on March 7, 2008

Similar discussions over on the blue might interest you.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:59 PM on March 7, 2008

And, upon closer reading of your post, I see one has, indeed, already interested you.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:00 PM on March 7, 2008

One of my favorite work arounds, though not technical exactly, is also for the Passover. Apparently, the law states that you have to clean the house of all leavened foods, you can't even own any. So, you find an amenable goy and sell him the leavened food that you might want to have around after passover. After Passover, you but it back. You further get around the rule by just boxing the stuff up- if it's not yours and in a box, it's not in your house.
posted by gjc at 6:39 PM on March 7, 2008

Thought of another one, and this one is not from Judaism, so I'll include it here for the sake of trying to fill this list out more with wider (and wilder examples).

Muslims can't have sex before marriage (duh). So in Muslim countries, when you go to a whorehouse, you can get technically, temporarily married by filling out some forms. Then you do what everyone does at a whorehouse. Then you get unmarried before you leave.
posted by zpousman at 11:07 AM on April 12, 2008

There's something about this discussion that bothers me. It's not technicalities of law, it is the law, as far as traditional Judaism is concerned. What's the spirit of the law? When you ask God and can convince the Jewish people that God's told you the answer, then start talking about letter and spirit. In the mean time, if people believe that it's in the spirit of the law to take the letters of it seriously, who is anybody to say otherwise?

BTW, the eruv way, but way predates anything that could be reasonably called 'orthodox' Judaism, which is a modern phenomenon.
posted by Salamandrous at 12:39 PM on April 12, 2008

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