If you happen to live on the 11th floor of an apartment building, Shabbat (Sabbath) can pose an interesting problem. For many observant Jews, operating an electrical device between sundown on Friday and sundown on Saturday would be a violation of one of the 39 categories of prohibited activity on Shabbat. It's kind of hard to operate most elevators without pushing a button, and the 11th floor is a rather long way up!
Fortunately, our building's second elevator is a product of the Israeli Knesset's Shabbat Elevator Law, requiring all buildings with more than one elevator to install a Shabbat Module in one of the elevators.
Being new to Shabbat, my three assistants and I decided to take a ride today to see exactly how our "special elevator" worked. First step? You stand outside the elevator and wait. And wait. Eventually, (in our building at least) if you're on an odd numbered floor, the elevator arrives and opens up, awaiting passengers.
We walked on board on at 11, and waited through the warning "beep" for the elevator to get on it's way. No need to push a button, because no matter where you want to go, the elevator has a plan, and we were just along for the ride.
Apparently ours is a special "odd floor" elevator. After leaving the 11th, we stopped on the 9th, 7th, 5th, 3rd and 1st before arriving at the ground floor, four and a half minutes after starting our journey.
After taking a tour through the bottom four floors of our parking garage, we stopped again on the ground floor before the elevator took us home directly to the 11th. We hopped off and the elevator continued on its merry way. Very impressive.
At sundown, our special elevator reverted back to being just another "boring old elevator". And it will stay ordinary. Until next week, when it becomes special once again!