Why Whirlpool and GE Make “Sabbath Mode” Appliances

“Let there be light” might be an important part of the Old Testament, but for Orthodox Jews, it can be a burden on the Sabbath. The traditional day of rest, which starts at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday, forbids any work, including turning on lights, ovens, blenders, etc. That’s why dozens of major appliance brands like KitchenAid, GE, LG, and Whirlpool consult with Jonah Ottensoser at kosher-certification company Star-K to offer appliances with something called “Sabbath Mode,” which keeps lights off in your refrigerator, automatically ends timers, and so on, so Orthodox Jews don’t have to interact with their appliances. Regular ovens shut off automatically after 12 hours; Sabbath-compliant ones keep on heating, so people can cook throughout the day. No lights, digits, solenoids, fans, icons, tones or displays are activated/modified in the normal operation of the oven. There’s even a built-in delay between the request for temperature change and its actual implementation, so you can’t ever be accused of working to change the temperature. Many also have a “timed bake” option, where the timer shuts off after a certain time rather than requiring you to turn it off. So, why are appliance manufacturers willing to spend a significant amount of time and energy pleasing a small group of consumers? Appliance companies want to build products that don’t exclude people, because that means they exclude a market opportunity or some innovation.