(JTA) — First there was KosherLamp, the bedside light that could be turned on and off on the Sabbath.
Then came KosherSwitch, the controversial toggle that allows users to control lights and other electronic appliances on Shabbat.
Now there’s HotMat, a new foldable hotplate designed to give observant Jewish consumers a safe, portable and rabbinically sanctioned method of heating up food on the Sabbath.
HotMat is hardly the first Sabbath hotplate on the market. But after a malfunctioning hotplate was blamed for a tragic Brooklyn fire a year ago that killed seven children from a Jewish family, HotMat provides fresh safety features and functionality.
For one thing, it’s the first foldable hotplate on the market, making it ideal for travelers – religious Jews or otherwise. It also offers four separate surfaces for heating food – two that get hot, and two that get warm. (“So you don’t burn your rice,” says creator Rafi Gabbay.)
Jewish law forbids cooking food or using fire on the Sabbath. However, food may be heated or kept warm on Shabbat under certain conditions: The heat must be indirect and non-adjustable, and cold liquids may not be heated at all.
HotMat has been certified for Shabbat use by the Zomet Institute, Israel’s leading designer of electronic devices for use on the Jewish Sabbath, and has been safety-certified by TUV labs, a German safety certification company.
Gabbay, the 37-year-old entrepreneur from Jerusalem who invented HotMat, says creating the product was a way to combine his training in industrial design with his interest in Jewish philosophy.
“I’ve been tinkering with this concept for years,” Gabbay told JTA in a telephone interview from his home in Israel.
“The standard Shabbat hotplate is a product a lot of people don’t like,” he said. “It’s heavy, bulky, often burns the food, and then there’s the issue of safety. It’s a very dangerous product.”
HotMat aims to address those deficiencies. The patented product went through two years of lab testing and refinement to achieve its high safety ratings. The multiple surfaces with varying heat levels are designed to let you keep your soup hot without burning your kugel soufflés (in accordance with Sabbath restrictions, the temperatures are not adjustable). The Teflon-coated aluminum heat surfaces are designed to be easy to store and clean. HotMat weighs about 5 pounds, far less than standard Shabbat hotplates.
HotMat retails for $129 and is newly available in the United States at hotmathotplate.com. After the HotMat went on sale in Israel and Europe last year, the product quickly sold out.