Michael Balkin observes traditional Jewish practices, but walking to services has been difficult for the past 20 years. A worsening neurological disorder has made walking more than a few steps nearly impossible for the 59-year-old West Bloomfield resident. But in recent years, things have improved for Balkin, thanks to a motorized -- and perfectly kosher -- scooter.

"Now I'm able to do whatever and go to Shul and do whatever I want and how I want," said Balkin.

Orthodox Jews don't drive vehicles or use anything motorized during the Shabbat, or Sabbath, which lasts from sundown Friday to nightfall Saturday. But a Bridgeport company has rolled out specially designed scooters that allow Orthodox Jews to follow their beliefs and still make it to the synagogue. Amigo Mobility International Inc. began making the Shabbat-approved scooters five years ago. It uses a module manufactured in Israel and certified by the Zomet Institute, an Israeli nonprofit that specializes in electronics that meet Halakha, or Jewish religious law.

It's designed in such as way that on Fridays and Saturdays, it's a special mode and during the week it is a standard mode. It carries a special black-and-white sticker that has to be displayed at all times so others know it meets Halakha law.

COMMENT: I have been unable to find out what exactly makes a scooter kosher on some days and not kosher on others. However, I assume it works in a similar way to this kosher lamp. You switch it on before the Sabbath and it remains on. If you don't want the light on the Sabbath you simply turn the wooden box, that covers it, so that there is no window for the light to shine out of.

Yes, that is bollocks, of course. You are still switching it off. Do they really think Yahweh is going to be fooled by such a cheap trick. And it's a complete waste of electricity which, no doubt, will bug Yahweh even more. But, to be fair to orthodox Jews, most of their rabbis would simply give disabled people dispensation to ride an ordinary scooter on the Sabbath in the same way that Muslims get dispensation if they need to eat, for medical reasons, in daylight hours during Ramadan.

In other words - somebody is making a lot of money out of the fact that a lot of people have got completely the wrong idea about who Yahweh is.



  1. Wow! question answered! Last week I attnded a meeting in the Jewish student Center of a local university. In the ladies rest room, there was a typed notice taped to the wall over the light switch. It asked u to leave the lights ON, as some students had requested. (Usually the message would be asking u to turn the lights off). So I was guessing that it had to do with Sabbath laws, and now u have clarified the
    matter for me and I can get on with the rest of my life! :>)
    Thanks MP, fount of information!

    PS. just re read this, no, the meeting wasn’t in the rest room….

  2. Nij. Do I take it from your email that you are, or, at least you identify as, a person of female persuasion? I’d always assumed you were a bloke.

  3. Mad One, I trust that you have been given special dispensation for such witty graphics during Lent.

  4. Yes, KJ. I got it from the Zomet Institute (see above). They do dispensations, doctorates, ordinations – pretty much anything you like for a small payment in American dollars.

  5. I am pretty sure that the Sabbath concept is “Worship, study, and enjoy family and neighbors”, and if you need a wheelchair to do so, you may use a wheelchair. The neighbors should mind their own biz instead of checking for stickers.

  6. Oh dear,MP,not a guy, female, widow,3 grown kids, 5 grandchildren,lover of dogs-especially collies & Welsh Corgies, nurse, Religious Education Coordinator,Legal Guardian ( for the elderly), Anglo Catholic most of my life RC 14 years etc. etc.

  7. You aren’t allowed to kindle a fire on the Sabbath – this, in some schools of rabbinic thought include turning on electric lights, etc., as creating combustion. My sister-in-law got a new stove and found that it had a kosher setting that allowed you to set the oven to begin cooking at a certain time.

  8. I don’t know that a dispensation to ride a scooter to synagogue would be allowed in a typical orthodox Jewish community, though not fasting for medical reasons is common. It certainly wouldn’t have in the community I was in.

    The idea is that you don’t need to get to the synagogue for health reasons; your life is not in any way endangered. I suspect that more middle-of-the-road Jewish communities would be happier about it, or at least more likely to listen to arguments about the social or mental well-being of someone who has mobility problems.

    Similarly, if you’re not feeling well, the house is cold and you think you may get ill, you are allowed to turn the heating on even though it is Shabbat… but if you’ve forgotten to leave a light on and you’re not actually going to die of darkness, tough bananas. But people are generally encouraged to put on another jumper first!

    The prohibitions around electricity all have to do with some bright spark who decided that electricity is like fire, which one may not build up or extinguish on the Sabbath as that constitutes a form of work.