There appeared several months ago in one of the free neighborhood circulars an interview with the owner of a well known cellular phone shop in Bnei Brak who had transformed it into a Kosher Store, selling only rabbinically certified phones. Here is the dialogue:
What made you switch over to kosher products?
The rabbonim and dayonim publicized a letter describing the pitfalls resulting from the use of the regular smartphones. They called upon the public to buy their cell phones only in stores which exclusively sell the kosher models and are under rabbinical supervision. When I read this letter, it touched me deeply. The description of the stumbling blocks was not new to me; in fact, I was familiar with it from close at hand. What gripped my conscience was the fact that they placed the blame entirely on the shop owners.
The Israeli kosher cell phone logo
I decided then to stop dealing with the so-called [tomech kosher] kosher-supported brands altogether. But since the switch over was complex, I kept on putting it off. My shop, which had always been teeming with customers, found the flow dwindling to the point that I found myself sitting behind the counter a whole morning without a single customer. I contacted my suppliers and informed them of the change I was making.
Note: In Israel there is a rabbinical committee that vets cell phones. In general they allow only phones that do nothing more than carry telephone conversations, that is, no SMS, no cameras, no movies or even recordings. One can tell from the telephone number if the line is a kosher phone or not. Generally, only the kosher phones support the kosher lines, but there do exist the so-called kosher-supporting instruments which allow the use of a kosher line within a non-kosher instrument.
You mentioned the sad consequences which you saw firsthand by your customers. They certainly didn't activate the downside features in your store!
When the devices came in for repair, I was easily able to read the history of the user. It was shocking! There were times when I was sure that it was not the owner himself, since from the dialogue with him regarding the repair, I understood that he himself was unaware of the various uses of his phone outside of the conventional telephone exchanges. I immediately concluded that it was a son or daughter who had availed themselves of the device without his knowledge.
Did you tell them that?
"Yes, I did. One of my customers, an avreich, almost fainted on the spot! Indeed, he had a son, an excellent yeshiva bochur studying in one of the best yeshivos, who had recently begun backsliding within a very short period and for no accountable reason. He immediately understood that his own phone was to blame and didn't know what to do with himself.
It was a phone he had purchased by you?
To my regret, yes. I recently went to consult with HaRav Chaim Kanievsky to ask how I could make amends for having sold non-kosher phones. He said that at least I should do my best to convince other dealers not to carry uncertified models.
And you did so?
I was able to convince two other dealers and they changed over their stores to carry only the kosher-certified phones. I wanted to do the same with others but it wasn't even necessary. Within a short time, almost all the cell phone shops in the city put themselves under rabbinical supervision and sold only the fully certified models.
How many shops are involved?
There are lists which are publicized from time to time. Two weeks ago, I saw such a list and counted some twenty-five stores with supervision. This is an amazing fact! Before the rabbonim came out with their letter, there were only three certified shops but after the letter, within half a year, over twenty were added to this list. This trend is also reflected in most of the chareidi communities throughout the country.
How do you explain this?
The facts speak for themselves. The fact that so many outlets decided to be under supervision, most of them from pure economical reasons, indicates that the public itself is interested in obeying the directives of the rabbonim and when they were called upon to avoid buying the `kosher-supported' devices and only purchase in stores with certification, the public cooperated. In this way, even the other dealers decided to follow the trend for their own commercial benefit.
The Demarcation Line
"Why are there still some die-hards who do not opt for the kosher models? What benefit do they have from this?" This was the puzzled question asked by HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman. One of his devotees attempted to explain the difference which existed at the time — a price gap of one hundred shekel or more.
"That's all?" he asked.
The asker blushed when he replied, "Some people also want the other features such as MP3 music and a camera within the phone." Maran was silent. After a brief pause, he said a very poignant message regarding those who want the pleasures of this world as opposed to those who opt for Olam Haba.
The Torah leaders related to this aspect when they wrote, "When an issue stands in the offing which affects the fate of our very selves and the future of our children, it should be obvious that there is no room at all to make calculations of monetary gain or loss."
Since then, the cost of the certified cell phone has dropped, with the only difference between the conventional model being the presence of music and camera. It is very likely that if the reader had to decide, he would allow a camera in his phone and would find some brilliant technical solution to hermetically seal off any possibility to hook up to a computer where he would be able to download the pictures without connecting to the Internet of said computer using Bluetooth. But at the present, since the reader is not the deciding factor, he must accept the limitations of his kosher phone since this is the boundary which our gedolim have established.
When there is a safety fence dividing dangerous Arab settlements from the Jewish population, even if you might generously feel that one could move it two meters outward and gain additional space, you will never cross over that border in the meantime. And you will certainly not breach the safety fence or destroy it.
You will also understand very well why this safety fence was erected: not in order to fence you in but to keep the terrorists from reaching you and your family!
This is not merely a natural safeguard but a heavenly preservation. If we preserve this fence like the apple of our eye, a fence which our Torah leaders have erected through toil, we will gain superior protection from harm and hazard.