"NIS Three Million for new Shabbos bottle cap,"
said the headlines. What's the story behind this
welcome innovation for shomrei Torah
We called the home of the rav who was the main
initiator of the idea and the following
Q: What's the great chiddush in the
A: The removal of the ring. That's the
chiddush. The halachic problem was the
ring's Achilles' heel. Once it was removed from the
bottle, everyone heaved a sigh of relief.
Q: But the invention itself doesn't seem
A: You're right. We are more excited about
the company's agreement to pursue this issue than
about the invention itself. We've been in contact
with them for two years. It was a great effort on
both sides, ours and theirs. They invested NIS
three million in the Shabbos bottle cap, including
development expenses and advertising.
Our efforts were quite intensive. The first stage
involved obtaining the signatures of prominent
rabbonim on the proposal. The next step was to find
appropriate avreichim to accompany us to
meetings with heads of the company. We held
numerous meetings and made scores of telephone
The whole venture began in the summer of 5758
(1998). The first letter on the subject from HaRav
Nissim Karelitz -- who was joined by HaRav Yosef
Sholom Eliashiv -- is dated Sivan 5758. The idea of
having a Shabbos bottle cap for soft drinks is a
simple one. The difficulty, of course, was in its
My initial thoughts were not optimistic. I was
convinced that no soft drink company would be
willing to do this project just to benefit the
We later found out that market surveys had
indicated that the entire chareidi and religious
sector was aware of the problem of opening bottles
on Shabbos, that many poskim rule that it is
forbidden to open the usual cap that is attached to
the bottle with a ring that breaks off when the
bottle is first opened, and would react favorably
to a lechatchilo solution to the problem.
The Pepsi-Tempo people received us cordially. But,
of course, economic considerations weighed heavily
against us, and there were many obstacles along the
way. But we succeeded in the end, with Hashem's
Some say that bottles with the Shabbos cap contain
less soda, but this is just the way things worked
out. Previously Pepsi launched a campaign selling
bottles with a liter-sixty-five of soda. Later they
offered the Shabbos caps only on bottles with the
original amount of a liter and a half. The
supposition that the disparity covers the costs of
the Shabbos cap are completely unfounded.
The fact is that Tempo (which has the Pepsi
concession in Israel) has two large factories: in
Netanya and in Holon. The liter-sixty-five
production line is in the Netanya factory, while
the liter and a half bottle is made in Holon. The
machinery producing the Shabbos bottle cap was
better suited to the Holon factory. If the company
had postponed the release for a few months, they
could have transferred the equipment to Netanya,
they said. However, they didn't want to postpone
it, and they thus began the new production in
Holon. In any case the liter-sixty-five campaign is
only scheduled to last a few months. Nonetheless,
they have plans to compensate the chareidi sector
for this disparity.
What is the cap all about? What were the problems
to be overcome?
In order to ensure that all bottles are not opened
before purchase, the law says that all bottle caps
must be manufactured with a ring. The ring breaks
off the cap when the bottle is opened. The law, of
course, is meant to protect the consumer from the
introduction of unsanitary, harmful or poisonous
material into products. The Shabbos cap replaces
this ring with another kind of sealed cover, called
"shrink wrap" -- a clear plastic wrapper applied
with heat and pressure. Once removed, it cannot be
replaced. This solves the safety problem.
Small mineral water bottles without caps already
have this type of plastic covering. But there were
no large capped bottles without the ring available.
The new Shabbos caps are currently being imported.
They could be manufactured locally if warranted by
The company had to purchase a new machine to keep
pace with the production rate of tens of thousands
an hour amounting to a hundred thousand a day. It
then needed machinery to close the new caps and
wrap them in the "shrink wrap." Special engineers
were hired to adjust the machinery for this task.
Along with marketing and advertising costs, the
Shabbos bottle cap was an expensive proposition.
Q: Is the bottle with the symbol "Shabbos
cap" marketed country-wide or only in areas with
substantial religious populations?
A: You won't find it in Tel Aviv. It is
meant for the chareidi community. The bottles are
marketed in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem.
We wonder if the company fears media backlash.
Apparently they are proceeding with caution. But
they also know that they have no reason to fear the
secular sector, which is incapable of getting
together to ban a particular product. That's the
way it was in Levayev's Ramat Aviv shopping mall.
They yelled and screamed yet did nothing.
(Incidentally, today that mall is the most
successful in all Israel.)
The average secular Jew is motivated by taste alone
when it comes to his consumer shekel. In addition,
contrary to what is portrayed by the media, most
people in the country do not hate religion.
A new mall was recently built in Zichron Yaakov.
Its owner insisted on one ironclad condition: that
the rented stores be closed on Shabbos. Some
thought that he would fail. But boruch
Hashem all the stores were rented, and the mall
is closed on Shabbos. Everything is closed. He
succeeded far more than anyone expected and is
thinking of opening a synagogue and a kollel
No one will unite against a soft drink marketed
with a Shabbos cap.
The activists in the affair were fine
avreichim from the entire chareidi spectrum:
Chassidim, Sephardim and Litvaks. Tempo's rabbi was
of tremendous help, and the company's director,
Jackie (Yaakov) Ber, should be commended for his
efforts to overcome all hurdles.
We closed the conversation with the blessing of the
Torah: Shabbos is the source of blessing, and on
the merit of your special kiddush Hashem may
you know only good. Hopefully this is a
breakthrough for many other positive steps in this
direction. Let us sanctify shem Shomayim by
means of strengthened observance of Torah and