Home / Legacy /

Texting on Shabbos

 

I. R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach

A significant element of the evolution of Jewish law in the twentieth century was caused by the development and proliferation of radically new technology, the like of which our ancestors never saw. At the front of the curve was a traditional Jerusalem scholar, raised and educated in the old world but respected in and open to the new. R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (1910-1995) was a child prodigy in the Torah center of pre-State Jerusalem. As he rose in accomplishments and stature, he became one of the primary addresses of complex halakhic questions, particularly those dealing with new medical and electronic technology. He surrounded himself with expert advisors and acquainted himself with the details of these new developments. In the wake of recent articles on the alleged “Half Shabbos” phenomenon, in which otherwise observant teenagers text on Shabbos, commenters on this blog called for a re-evaluation of the attendant halakhic implications based on R. Auerbach’s views. Who else could so fully handle both the technical and halakhic aspects? The following is my admittedly limited attempt to uncover what his view would be.

In 1935, the young R. Auerbach published a book exploring the halakhic implications of electricity. Me’orei Eish boldly disagreed with established scholars based on an intimate understanding of the new technology and a world-class set of Talmudic arguments. Extremely popular in scholarly circles, the book raised the young scholar to fame and set him on his life course of halakhic decision-making on technological issues. In 1980, after 45 years and numerous technological revolutions, R. Auerbach published an updated edition of the volume. After another 30 years, in 2010, R. Auerbach’s children and grandchildren published a further updated edition, adding letters, some from manuscript, and published testimonies of R. Auerbach’s views.

The new edition also includes a 240 page study by R. Zalman Menachem Koren, explaining the various new technologies and their detailed evolution throughout R. Auerbach’s life and beyond. I don’t know his credentials but he seems to have meticulously researched both the engineering and Torah aspects of the subject. R. Koren proceeds by topic and collects everything R. Auerbach wrote on the subject, noting where technology changed in R. Auerbach’s life and since and trying to place everything in its proper context. R. Koren’s study is exhausting because he explains all the technology from first principles. But this thoroughness makes it an essential work, one on which I draw heavily in trying to determine — albeit tentatively and subject to review by greater experts — what R. Auerbach would say about texting on Shabbos.

II. Electricity

In 1946, R. Avraham Karelitz published his Chazon Ish on Orach Chaim in which he forbids completing an electrical circuit because it constitutes the forbidden labor of building (boneh). As already mentioned, R. Auerbach had written on the subject a few years earlier and had reached a very different conclusion. R. Auerbach exchanged letters with the Chazon Ish but neither changed the other’s mind. R. Auerbach was convinced that boneh does not apply to an electrical circuit that is frequently opened and closed in the course of normal usage. However, he carefully noted where he and R. Karelitz agreed. In particular, someone who normally leaves his computer on for days at a time (as I do) may violate the labor of boneh by turning it on even according to R. Auerbach (R. Koren, pp. 865-882, 971).

Significant for our purposes, R. Auerbach explicitly forbade turning on a fluorescent light on Yom Tov because it constitutes generating (molid) light (see below). But R. Auerbach rejected the generalization of this prohibition to apply to all usage of electricity, as some such as the Beis Yitzchak did.

Sometimes electricity causes unquestionable labor to occur, such as an electrically controlled sprinkler that waters grass. R. Auerbach argued that the person pushing the button, so to speak, is culpable for the resultant labor despite the electrical force in between. Yet even in other cases, where pushing a button does not cause forbidden labor, R. Auerbach still forbids using electricity because people will get confused and fail to differentiate between permitted and forbidden usages (Minchas Shlomo, vol. 1 no. 9 sec. 7; R. Koren, pp. 882-886). It seems to me that this reason is well suited to texting on Shabbos.

III. Writing

In the context of using personal computers and laptops on Shabbos, R. Koren (pp. 940-946) distinguishes between three types of screens/monitors — cathode ray tube (CRT), plasma and liquid crystal (LCD). R. Auerbach only discussed the first kind but from his logic we can deduce what he would say about the lattter two. The first issue is the prohibition of writing on Shabbos. Does causing words to appear on a screen qualify as writing?

R. Auerbach told Dr. Avraham Sofer that writing via an electron stream is not considered writing on a biblical level (Nishmas Avraham, vol. 4 p. 55ff.). One could infer that he held it to be writing on a rabbinic level. However, in a responsum to R. Ephraim Greenblatt regarding closed circuit security cameras, R. Auerbach wrote that because the image only remains for a brief moment until it is reconstituted on screen, it is not considered writing at all (Rivevos Ephraim vol. 3 no. 247). He explicitly distinguishes between writing on a screen and writing in fruit juice. The latter disappears quickly and is rabbinically prohibited but the former disappears instantly and is still rabbinically forbidden (if not for other reasons to permit) but not because it is writing.

R. Auerbach similarly distinguished between thermometer films, on which a fever causes the numbers to turn red, and a computer screen. He prohibited the former rabbinically as writing but not the latter (Nishmas Avraham, ibid.).

R. Koren (pp. 943-946) deduces from these rulings that R. Auerbach did not consider typing words or causing pictures to appear on a CRT screen to be prohibited writing at all. R. Koren then proceeds to apply this conclusion to plasma and LCD screens, stating that the same applies to them. However, he cautions about a recently publicized type of LCD (presumably ZBD) in which the screen retains what is written on it even after being turned off. The user merely changes what is on the screen. Writing on this type of screen would be biblically prohibited because the text (or picture) is created for what could be a long period of time.

IV. Lighting Screens

Screens present a further issue. The Gemara (Beitzah 23a) forbids (on a rabbinic level) spraying perfume on a garment on Shabbos because it creates (molid) within it a fragrance. While R. Auerbach disagreed with the view that causing electric current to flow is considered molid, he did not entirely reject the concept. His different discussions of the subject seem to contradict each other, although R. Koren reconciles them nicely (pp. 882-886).

R. Auerbach stated that this prohibition cannot be extended to cases beyond the one mentioned in the Gemara. However, he also wrote that it applies to a spark that will last (i.e. does not immediately disappear). He specifically stated that something that is changed from dark to light, such as a fluorescent lightbulb, is considered forbidden as molid even more than perfuming a garment (Me’orei Eish, ch. 2 sec. 7 p. 160). R. Koren suggests that R. Auerbach was stating that unrecognizable changes cannot be considered molid but lighting a dark object is rabbinically prohibited.

Applying this to screens, both CRT and plasma screens involve lighting pixels in one way or another. R. Auerbach would therefore consider their use on Shabbos rabbinically forbidden because of molid, just like he forbade turning on a fluorescent light. LCD screens are backlit. If the backlight is already on, then using such a screen only blocks or modifies light and does not turn it on. Therefore, molid does not apply to LCD screens unless you turn on the backlight. However, I can’t imagine a cellphone with the backlight continuously on. Therefore, even LCD screens are rabbinically forbidden, according to R. Auerbach, because of molid.

V. Saving

In the addenda to R. Yehoshua Neuwirth’s Shemiras Shabbos Ke-Hilkhasah (ch. 66 n. 211), R. Auerbach writes that saving onto a disk files that will be used for a long time is considered building (boneh). R. Koren (pp. 974-979) explains that R. Auerbach was writing in a time when computer programs would be saved on floppy disks and then used for years in that way. When you saved a file on a disk, you set the disk’s use and long-term contents. We don’t treat disks that way anymore and therefore saving files on a disk is no longer forbidden as boneh. Perhaps burning a CD or formatting/imaging a hard drive is today’s equivalent.

However, R. Koren suggests that perhaps saving information in an archive is considered boneh. While you are not completing the disk’s form because you will continue adding to the archive, you are still storing the information permanently for potential retrieval. He leaves this crucial question unresolved (p. 977).

When you send a text or e-mail, you are causing it to be saved not only on your phone or computer (usually) but also on intermediary servers. The text or e-mail is permanently stored electronically and will always be available for retrieval (e.g. by the police). It seems that this falls under a safek de-oraisa, a question of a biblical prohibition.

VI. Texting is Forbidden

My conclusion from this research is clear. As I understand the technology and halakhah, R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach would forbid texting on Shabbos due to a questionable biblical prohibition, a certain rabbinic prohibition and an important public policy reason. While I welcome corrections on both the technology and the halakhah, I add a further note of caution. Even if you can construct a halakhic argument to permit texting on Shabbos, you may not want to travel down that path. Not everything that can be done, should be. As the general public struggles to survive the crushing burden of constant connectedness, often by unplugging for a day or time on a regular basis, why would Orthodox Jews head in the opposite direction?

 

Share this Post

 

Related Posts

About the author

Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Torah Musings.

 
The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.
 

122 Responses

  1. IH says:

    Just as a point of reference, the halachic machloket on electricity was underway prior to your earliest reference here as can be can be found in the 1911 Otzar Yisrael entry for Telegraph/Telephone. See: http://hebrewbooks.org/pagefeed/hebrewbooks_org_2594_32.pdf (article starts on the previous page).

  2. Hirhurim says:

    Absolutely. That is why R. Auerbach’s book was so daring.

  3. IH says:

    We debated this recently and I see little point in re-engaging (unless you have new news – like clarifying RSZA’s words with R. Broyde in the intervening few weeks since we left off). I will only say that if it was as assur as you claim, then there would be no need to repeat your position statement again (and again).

    When stripped of its emotive veneer, the issue of the use of electronic gadgets on Shabbat is far from clear-cut halachically. And such use will become increasingly more prevalent among modern (Orthodox) Shomer Shabbat Jews as time goes on.

  4. IH says:

    Translating a key section of a psak of RSZA, Rabbis Broyde and Jachter render:

    “In my opinion there is no prohibition [to use electricity] on Shabbat or Yom Tov… There is no prohibition of ma’keh bepatish or molid… (However, I [Rabbi Auerbach] am afraid that the masses will err and turn on incandescent lights on Shabbat, and thus I do not permit electricity absent great need…) … This matter requires further analysis.
    * * * *
    However, the key point in my opinion is that there is no prohibition to use electricity on Shabbat unless the electricity causes a prohibited act like cooking or starting a flame.”

    And the original Hebrew is in the last full paragraph in the first column at: http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=15096&st=&pgnum=112&hilite

  5. IH says:

    For reference to interested readers, the 1991 paper by Rabbis Broyde and Jachter is available at: http://www.aishdas.org/articles/rmjb_electricity1.pdf

    It is worth noting that this paper needs some updating to deal with the huge changes in technology that have occurred in the 20 years since it was written that are material to halacha.

  6. Moshe Shoshan says:

    I would presume that creating PDF file would be similarly problematic.

  7. IH says:

    Finally, opening up the writing issue leads to all sorts of complications (e.g. Shem ha’Shem). This is the weakest of all the arguments, in my view.

  8. David Tzohar says:

    Besides the question of the use of electricity.(I go according to the Chazon Ish and the issur of boneh) Arent texting and similar activities forbidden under the prohibition of “oseh cheftzicha vedaber davar, or milei d’chullin? Even if this is “only” a rabbinic prohibition, it is important in keeping the seperate atmosphere of kedusha on Shabbat. It is a blessing that we should have one day free of cell phones and computers.

  9. Jon_Brooklyn says:

    Excellent post. I actually think the “questionable Biblical prohibition” is less questionable than you seem to.

  10. Shlomo says:

    IH, what about the statements by RSZA that would seem to contradict the one you have cherry-picked?

  11. JK says:

    Thanks for an informative post.

    Minor nitpick: should be fluorescent not flourescent.

  12. Michael feldstein says:

    Even if you can construct a halakhic argument to permit texting on Shabbos, you may not want to travel down that path. Not everything that can be done, should be. As the general public struggles to survive the crushing burden of constant connectedness, often by unplugging for a day or time on a regular basis, why would Orthodox Jews head in the opposite direction?
    —————————————
    Well said. And may I add that the whole phenomenon of our teens texting on Shabbos has absolutely nothing to do with any serious halachic thinking on their part about the matter of electricity on Shabbos. While the subject of electricity on Shabbos is a very interesting one, and it will need to be reevaluated as more and more e-readers and i-pads become commonplace, let’s not forget the real reason why our teens are texting on Shabbos — rebellion, spiritual boredom, and an inability on the part of parents and teachers to make Shabbos a positive experience for them.

  13. YD says:

    Can you clarify what the safek d’oraissa is with saving a text-message? If the issue with saving is permanenlty changing the electronic format of a disk, then shouldn’t that be a non-issue if you are simply “storing information?”

  14. SQ says:

    “While I welcome corrections on both the technology and the halakhah, I add a further note of caution. Even if you can construct a halakhic argument to permit texting on Shabbos, you may not want to travel down that path.”

    When did you become Blu Greenberg?

  15. Þanbo says:

    A bunch of thoughts, some lechumra some lekula:

    One thing RSZA seems to have missed regarding fluorescent lights, is that each fluorescent bulb contains two small glowing filaments, one at each end, that keep the gas heated and the current flowing through it. So it’s not just the molid aspect of causing the phosphor coating on the glass to glow, it’s also an incandescent-filament issue, and thus should be just as much a problem as incandescent bulbs or radio/CRT tubes.

    However, the argument about LCD screens with backlighting would seem not to be an issue if the backlight stayed on. Also, what about LED backlights, which I think are what powers the backlighting on cellphones, since it’s hard to miniaturize fluorescent bulbs too much? Or is it an LED screen itself, not requiring a backlight? The backlight could probably be rigged to stay on with a computer display, which isn’t particularly relevant for txting.

    The section on writing seems self-contradictory, some teshuvos say yes, some say no. And while you talk about generating pictures and writing, I don’t see how rulings about ‘writing’ extend to ‘pictures’. All your quotes seem to refer to writing – and is it writing or a picture to cause a picture of a page to display? You’re not writing in any sense – your act of will is not causing specific letters to be displayed, your act of will is causing the picture of a page to be displayed, whatever happens to be on it. But you conclude that R’ Korn infers from the evidence that writing isn’t an issue for most display systems.

    I’m a bit puzzled about extrapolating from CRT to other display systems, it seems that CRT would be prohibited outright because of the glowing anode. Particularly if there’s a power-saving feature that turns the tube off, such that tapping a key or moving the mouse causes the tube to turn on from being electrically “off”. Also, is he talking about persistence in the phosphors? As in, if you turn off a CRT in a dark room, you can still see a fading picture for a second or so? Which would not, I don’t think, be an issue for LCD/plasma/LED screens. But might be an issue for e-ink, see below.

    When you talk about saving as boneh, is it d’oraita boneh or d’rabbanan? You don’t seem to distinguish, I don’t know if it’s a distinction that is ordinarily made. But you assume it’s d’oraita and then want to say safek d’oraita lechumrah.

    The permanent writing issue seems to raise a question about e-ink screens. There, you have tiny particles that are physically flipped over, to show the light or dark side. There is no backlighting, it’s all reflective. So you apply power to flip the particle, but without power, the particles remain in their current state. So while the page is “turning”, power is applied, but once it’s set, power is not applied. However, that power application isn’t really visible to the naked eye. And when you turn off the device, it clears the screen. So does the macroscopic description rule (when you turn it off, the picture goes away, so it’s not permanent) or the microscopic (most of the time, power is not being applied to the screen)?

    So I’m left with “it’s not clear about the current state of technology, but maybe something could be designed, as RJD Bleich did with a transistorized PA system, that could work for Shabbat.”

  16. Þanbo says:

    on the social questions:

    1) reducing connectivity to the outside world – we’re not Old-Order Amish. that’s their issue, why they don’t want to be connected to the grid. Just because some of us also wear hats & beards & tichels, doesn’t mean we share their social agenda.

    further, the older issues that have the effect of reducing connectivity, such as not reading newspapers, are assered on technical halachic grounds (is the paper printed on Shabbos, if so it’s molid), not on social “spirit of shabbos” grounds. We’re all about the letter of the law, we don’t legislate based on the “spirit of the law” – that’s the domain of the Xtians and other sectarians.

    2) all of this is largely irrelevant to the txting teens – they know it’s assur, that’s why they talk about keeping “half-shabbos” – all melochos except this one. They’re not looking for heterim, they’re looking for an escape from boredom, like Michael Feldstein said.

  17. HAGTBG says:

    Very interesting post. I enjoyed reading it.

  18. Hirhurim says:

    IH: I note that you are ignoring all the issues in this post except for electricity. I am not sure how my presentation in this post differs from your reading. However, I sent this entire essay to R. Broyde although he may not want to comment publicly.

    Re writing, you are correct that, at least according to RSZA this raises the issue of erasing God’s name. However, this post assumes that it is NOT writing, except on a ZBD (which someone said on Facebook is how a Kindle works).

    David Tzohar: But what about learning Torah in this manner? Unless you meant uvda de-chol, which is a valid concern.

    YD: The text message is permanently saved as retrievable information onto a disk. According to RSZA, doing that for frequent retrieval is boneh. Doing it for potentially frequent retrieval is not clear.

    SQ: Blu Greenberg went the other direction, saying if we want it then we can permit it. Saying the opposite, that if something is permitted doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, is not at all controversial.

    Thanbo: I’m not sure RSZA missed anything about fluoresecent lightbulbs. I’d ave to reread that section carefully.

    Re LCD, yes I mention in the post that if the backlights are always on then there is no problems. According to RSZA, LEDs are rabbinically prohibited because of molid so LED backlights do not help.

    Re writing, I don’t understand your distinction between writing and causing pictures to appear. Either way, the issue is whether you are causing something to appear on screen — letters or pictures. RSZA says that when they are only flitting beams of electrons, then they are nothing.

    Re screens, CRTs are assur like a fluorescent lightbulb. All the other elements of a CRT are not crucial to this evaluation.

    Boneh de-oraisa.

    I’m not sure about e-ink.

    I think a Shabbos texter could be designed but it would have to have a continuously backlit LCD screen and not save texts anywhere, not even on servers.

  19. carlos says:

    For some reason people seem to be leaving out of the argument about “how assur” use of electricity is on shabbat the issue of has any posek in our times permitted it? the answer is NO, including RSZA –that is, RSZA explicitly prohibited as mentioned in the post despite his reasoning on the technicalities.

    Understanding the nature of the prohibition to use electricity (min haTorah, rabbinic, public policy of a great posek, etc.) is important both as a matter of Talmud Torah as well as psak halacha for emergencies, the army, the police, doctors etc. But for a blog commenter to take RSZA’s reasoning and use it permissively despite RSZA’s own stated unwillingness to be matir is ridiculous.

    The reality is that using electricity on shabbat is assur, and it will take someone of similar stature to RSZA to permit it (we could argue about who is of such stature, but it’s clear that no one commenting here is). For goodness’s sake, not even the rabbis who presume to permit all types of innovations of women rabbis and women ba’alot (?) tefila tell their congregants that using electricity on shabbat is permissible as long as it doesn’t involve light bulbs.

    Any ba’al habayit who argues l’ma’aseh that using electricity is permissible on shabbat because of how he understands what a posek “really meant” is fooling himself either about his own stature or the nature of the halachic system (or maybe, both).

  20. ruvie says:

    gil – nice informative post.
    could you expand on the saving as a safek de’oraita? does it matter how it is saved (not as letters but electric bits) for it to be considered writing and retrieved? is something permanent when it is stored in a different way than it appears? is it similiar to writing on invisible ink on shabbat? is there any issue or difference on battery vs electricity (plug into an outlet)?

    “Even if you can construct a halakhic argument to permit texting on Shabbos, you may not want to travel down that path. Not everything that can be done, should be.”

    agreed. but we made look at the issue – or how we react to it – in a different light if an halachic argument can be made ( not that it should be permissible).

  21. IH says:

    “the one you have cherry-picked”

    Shlomo – the quotation is taken verbatim from the appropriate section of R. Broyde & Jachter’s article (p.20) on “Electrical Appliances Permitted”. It’s not me, gov.

    “I note that you are ignoring all the issues in this post except for electricity… this post assumes that it is NOT writing…”

    Anonymous – I was just trying to summarize the key aspects we had covered in the last debate.

    —–

    More generally, in my view, the issue is not texting; but, the use of computers for learning on Shabbat, or the quotidian aspects of modern life that are increasingly dependent on electronic technology for the simplest of things (e.g. entering/exiting a hotel room, or an apartment complex). Given that such use by no means must be a “slam dunk” issur on Shabbat, the question will increasingly become one of how much money and effort the Shomer Shabbat community will want to expend to find ways to work around the pervasiveness of such technology. We’re already seeing the chinks in this losing battle — and it’s not just teenagers texting.

  22. yehupitz says:

    It’s nice to investigate something from a purely halakhic point of view. And RSZA and the Chazon Ish wrote very helpful and detailed analyses. However, for us to look at such issues from a purely pilpulistic perspective misses the point:

    It is clear as day that texting is and will always be declared ossur on Shabbos, just as electricity is and will always be declared ossur on Shabbos. The halakhic mechanics that lead to that psak have not always been clear, but there is no avoiding the conclusion. Notwithstanding the spuriousness of claims of political Daas Torah, there is halachic Daas Torah, and it is universal on this point: Consciously or subconsciously, the entire spectrum of halachic Judaism intuitively understands that directly using electricity or electronic devices will totally destroy Shabbos. In our generation, analysis of the halachic merits alone only weakens the obvious. The phenomenon is like that of people who write long, thorough and detailed articles about how Mishkav Zachar is forbidden. It conveys the impression that there is something to debate.

    In my opinion, claiming that Shabbos texting will be sooner or later be acceptable within the MO world is as baseless and unrealistic as the claim that it is a widespread problem. It is not, despite the current fad of worrying about it and writing articles about it. In fact, I see the public and media concern over it as exacerbating the problem. The more widespread the publicity, the more people will think that the desire to text this is some sort of tolerable yeitzer hara, and that texting is a communally widespread tolerable aveira, like breaches in Tznius and relationship standards.

  23. Shlomo says:

    IH – that article makes clear that RSZA’s theoretical heter would only extend to electricity that did not involve light. But you chose to cut that part out of your citation. And now you claim the article as a source for your approach. Very honest of you.

    More generally, the issue is not texting or computers, the issue is whether halacha overrides our convenience or not.

    Carlos – by “people” you mean one person in particular. The rest of us are, at most, arguing leshitato.

  24. Charlie Hall says:

    “regarding closed circuit security cameras, R. Auerbach wrote that because the image only remains for a brief moment until it is reconstituted on screen, it is not considered writing at all ”

    As we all unfortunately just learned, the images from closed circuit security cameras ARE recorded.

    ” regarding closed circuit security cameras, R. Auerbach wrote that because the image only remains for a brief moment until it is reconstituted on screen, it is not considered writing at all”

    Writing with fruit juice doesn’t completely disappear; it is possible to make the lettters reappear. http://chemistry.about.com/cs/howtos/ht/invisibleink3.htm. This has been used for centuries.

    ” the crushing burden of constant connectedness, often by unplugging for a day or time on a regular basis”

    Were it not for Shabat I would never turn off my Crackberry, er, uh, Blackberry.

    “Even if this is “only” a rabbinic prohibition, it is important in keeping the seperate atmosphere of kedusha on Shabbat. It is a blessing that we should have one day free of cell phones and computers.”

    Amen.

  25. carlos says:

    Shlomo, you may well be correct about what I wrote, I meant neither to count people with that position nor to single anyone out, I just meant to argue against the position itself.

  26. yehupitz says:

    Re: the halachic issues involved, if I understand Rabbi Heinemann’s view correctly, he views that the “D’oraissa” status of electricity on Shabbos is a function of what the electricity accomplishes. If it is intended to produce and produces heat or light, it is the melacha of creating fire. etc. I think this is the basis of R Heinemann’s psak on YomTov ovens that invisible unnoticeable electricity manipulation is allowed on YomTov. Otherwise, manipulating electricity would be d’rabbanan. This allows for much Amira L’nochri leeway.

    What is difficult to explain is why other usages of electricity are defined as “d’rabbanan.” Calling an act ossur d’oraissa is a halachic process that stems from the fact that the Melachos are conceptual categories. Hence, wringing liquid out of fabric and squeezong juice from a grape are subcategory of threshing. Watering plants is a subcategory of planting, etc.

    While halachos and minhagim of all levels have a conceptual base, d’rabbanans are more like historical decrees, with limited penumbras. Whence this tendency to refer to acts that are “not quite as ossur” as D’rabbanans? Is there an actual issur d’rabbanan that subsumes the act of electricity? Avsha Milsa (creating a noticeable stir?) Something else?

  27. yehupitz says:

    Another point that would provide food for thought for a future post: According to the Rambam in his hakdama to the Yad, the process of Torah She’Baal Peh did not truly end with Rav Ashi. According to him, “gezeiros, takanos and minhagos”, precautionary prohibitions, positive enactments and rabbinically endorsed customs do still truly exist after Rav Ashi. The distinction between the two levels, pre- and post-, is that the three levels of regulation pre-Chasima are universally binding, and those after are only binding on the communities of those Beis-Dins (read: poskim) that encat them. Viewed in this way, electricity (depending on the kind under discussion) is truly ossur “d’rabbanan” to those who follow the psakim of those poskim who declare it ossur, which is everyone.

    This is somewhat unusual, especially with a nation that has always preferred the tendency to think of all halacha as interprative rather than legislative. Tzorich Iyun.

  28. Hirhurim says:

    Sorry, that Anonymous of 7:44am was me. I’ve changed it.

    ruvie: does it matter how it is saved (not as letters but electric bits) for it to be considered writing and retrieved?

    The assumption throughout is that the saving is of binary numbers. RSZA understood that and still forbade it.

    Charlie: As we all unfortunately just learned, the images from closed circuit security cameras ARE recorded.

    It doesn’t have to.

    Writing with fruit juice doesn’t completely disappear; it is possible to make the lettters reappear.

    He actually mentions that. But it disappears enough.

  29. Hirhurim says:

    Thanbo:

    1) Re connectivity and the lack, no there is a movement among with-it, contemporary Americans to disconnect for some time a week. See, for example, this post: link. It’s only one of many examples.

    1b) We aren’t only about the letter of the law. See my letter to the Edah Journal re WPGs.

    2) I agree and am not speaking to them. I’m speaking to the adults.

  30. Thank you for the informative article. Great comments too! It’s so fascinating how a Kindle might involve different issurim then an iPad…!

    Bottom line: Texting on shabbos = Chazer Trayf! :)

    Good Shabbos to all!

  31. joel rich says:

    As I summarized here: http://torahmusings.com/2011/06/audio-roundup-cli/
    You need to understand the mechanism (cue “The Music Man” – “but you gotta know the territory”) … Then summary of electricity/Shabbat status and great quote from R’Yaakov (if I may use poetic license) – All the reasons forbidding electricity on Shabbat are weak (me – force?), but since all the gedolim of the previous generation agreed, it must be forbidden (I like R’Asher Weiss’s positivist formulation of this – anything the Rabbis think should be forbidden is the definition of maakeh b’patish!).

    Keep in mind aiui R”SZA initial entry was due to his mother(il?)hearing aid on shabbat. My projection (fwliw)is that electronics will continue to become more embedded in every day life and halacha will evolve (I would say be forced to reevaluate but that would violate my rule that change must be percieved as being organic ) to accomodate uses that are not percieved as totally threatening on a metahalachic basis. Meanwhile my friend Harold Z coninues to quote me from a number of years back that it wasn’t a slam dunk that electricity would be assur-had it’s initial uses been pure theory or non obvious issues unlike lighting

    KT

    KT

  32. Hirhurim says:

    R’ Joel: Nu, any corrections on the mechanics of a cellphone/smartphone?

    I find it hard to believe that RSZA’s entry was a hearing aid. His first work begins by taking on those who permitted turning on lights on Yom Tov.

  33. 11235813 says:

    Why is saving to servers not psik reisha dlo nicha lei?

  34. Tal Benschar says:

    1) reducing connectivity to the outside world – we’re not Old-Order Amish. that’s their issue, why they don’t want to be connected to the grid. Just because some of us also wear hats & beards & tichels, doesn’t mean we share their social agenda.

    further, the older issues that have the effect of reducing connectivity, such as not reading newspapers, are assered on technical halachic grounds (is the paper printed on Shabbos, if so it’s molid), not on social “spirit of shabbos” grounds. We’re all about the letter of the law, we don’t legislate based on the “spirit of the law” – that’s the domain of the Xtians and other sectarians

    What? The issue here is Shabbos, not general social connectivity. Acc. to the Ramban and other Rishonim, there is a mitzvas aseh d’oraysah of shabbaton which forbids treating Shabbos like any other workday. (I noticed that Gil’s letter to Edah brings down many mekoros and applications, so I won’t belabor that here.) You can call that “the spirit of shabbos” or “shabbaton” or whatever you like, but it still has significant halakhic force.

    While I generally agree with the posters here that wholesale acceptance of electricity use on Shabbos will never become part of normative Judaism, the real question is what about difficult situations, e.g. a hospital. Or, to use a less extreme example, someone in a wheelchair. Suppose the only way someone who is wheelchair bound can get to shul is to use an electric wheelchair and an electic elevator. That’s a much more difficult shayloh than whether a teenager may text on Shabbos.

  35. joel rich says:

    r’gil,
    It’s well known that his mother was hard of hearing (issues w/r/t kriat hamegilla etc.) and the story is iirc as a little boy he won prizes so he could buy her a hearing aid.
    KT

  36. IH says:

    Shlomo — why do you continually need to resort to ad hominem. It really is a bore.

    The nuanced article by Rabbis Broyde and Jachter concludes with:

    Conclusion
    The use of electricity on Shabbat and Yom Tov is a relatively new, and exceedingly complex, area of halacha. The variety of positions taken by the decisors is broad, and these differences are extremely relevant to the conduct of observant Jews. It is the near unanimous opinion that the use of incandescent lights on Shabbat is biblically prohibited. Beyond that, there is little agreement. Some authorities maintain that any time a circuit is opened or closed a biblical violation occurs. Other authorities insist that the use of electricity absent lights is only a rabbinic prohibition. Still other authorities accept that in theory the use of electricity without the production of light or heat is permitted – although even those authorities admit that such conduct is prohibited, absent great need, because of tradition.

    The variety of grounds prohibiting the use of electricity is reflected in discussion of specific appliances. Many authorities permit opening a refrigerator door on Shabbat even if the motor is off; some do not. While all concede that the radio and television cannot be used on Shabbat and Yom Tov, the nature of the prohibition is in dispute. So, too, all but Rabbi Auerbach concede that a telephone cannot be used on Shabbat (even he prohibits it absent great need) – however there is no consensus as to the source of the prohibition. The use of timers is equally in dispute. While nearly all concede that timers may be set on Friday to work on Shabbat, adjusting such timers on Shabbat and Yom Tov is still in dispute.

    I have quoted it in its entirety so I am not accused of cherry picking.

  37. S. says:

    In terms of public policy, perceptions about what shabbos is and isn’t is very important. As someone aptly put it “We have dug ourselves in even further as the ban on electricity has come to define Shabbos.” (Even if you disagree with the first part of the sentence, I think most will not disagree with the second part.”

    Anyway you slice it, it will be hard to say that texting, using a telephone-like device or similar, which is so radically different from what shomer shabbos Jews are accustomed to could ever be acceptable.

    What is interesting, is what about manipulation of electricity in things which don’t seem electrical? What if in the future there are cutting knives with a computer chip, and you can perfectly slice a nice roast with them? Or any of a myriad of things which don’t seem like machines, electric devices or non-shabbosdik, but happen to have an electrical component? I think that’s where the issue lies, not texting.

    A word to what Carlos writes:

    >The reality is that using electricity on shabbat is assur, and it will take someone of similar stature to RSZA to permit it (we could argue about who is of such stature, but it’s clear that no one commenting here is).

    I think this is another flash point between many in the MO camp and others. This logic is not compelling, if not abhorrent, to many in the MO camp, who do not agree that a rabbi can “make” something permitted or not permitted. Rather it is the force of their arguments, not stature, which makes something permitted or forbidden. Therefore, for many MO Jews, it is not for a great rabbi to permit something if on paper it is already permissible. One can say they are “fooling themselves” all they want, but that doesn’t change a thing.

  38. Rafael Araujo says:

    I agree with yehupitz. Whatever our disagreements about women’s roles, chumras, value of a secular education, etc. all sectors of Orthodoxy stand by the prohibition of electricity and electronic gadgets and devices. I also think that while we don’t have to be Amish the entire week, there is nothing wrong with being “Amish” or “Mennonite” for one day a week. If anything, it is something to praise, the fact we remain counterculture and that we don’t have to act based on the ebb and flow of technology and societal pressure.

  39. IH says:

    Gil — one important aspect of mobile telephony that differs from even the 1991 paper is that calls and messages occur without any wires actually being opened/closed.

    The communication, like on the Internet, occurs by packetizing the data associated with the “call” and sending it across wires that are already connected. Thus, one of the early aspects of the machloket (already visible in the 1911 source) is irrelevant. Similarly, the mobile device itself (if powered on) is regularly polling for a connection to a cell, irrespective of pushing any (virtual) buttons.

  40. Rafael Araujo says:

    “Suppose the only way someone who is wheelchair bound can get to shul is to use an electric wheelchair and an electic elevator. That’s a much more difficult shayloh than whether a teenager may text on Shabbos.”

    Or, with the advent of electric cars, can a person drive to shul if that is his/her only means to get there on Shabbos? I believe that just like we pasken that davening with a tzibbur is not enough of a compelling reason to drive to shul using a gas combustible engine, so to in the situations you proposed.

  41. Jay says:

    Hi – What I don’t understand is as follows:

    We know that The BRAIN works through electricity. The BRAIN stores information. When we communicate to another, we transfer information that is then stored electronically (and chemically) in their brain.

    How exactly is a computer or phone-to-phone any different from brain-to-brain?

  42. IH says:

    It is interesting to note that the Tzomet Shabbat Mobile Telephone, as described briefly in http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4091811,00.html appears to be entirely focused on the handset itself — and not on the network aspects that may involve halachic issues such as circuits, hard disks, etc.

  43. joel rich says:

    R’Jay,
    Good luck-in an earlier thread I raised the issue of brain/machine interfaces that exist now (e.g. prosthetics- more advanced way to control a prosthetic limb is by listening to muscles remaining in the residual limb that the patient can still contract. Because muscles generate small electrical signals when they contract, electrodes placed on the surface of the skin can measure muscle movements. Although no buttons are physically pressed by the muscles in this case, their contractions are detected by the electrodes and then used to control the prosthetic limb — in a way similar to the switch control method that was just described. Prosthetic limbs that function in this way are called myoelectric.)

    IIRC I didn’t get any takers.
    KT

  44. carlos says:

    To S:

    “I think this is another flash point between many in the MO camp and others. This logic is not compelling, if not abhorrent, to many in the MO camp, who do not agree that a rabbi can “make” something permitted or not permitted. Rather it is the force of their arguments, not stature, which makes something permitted or forbidden. Therefore, for many MO Jews, it is not for a great rabbi to permit something if on paper it is already permissible. One can say they are “fooling themselves” all they want, but that doesn’t change a thing.”

    You are right to a point. If a Rabbi permits (for example) some gender innovation and such Rabbi’s congregants or students follow that psak, then “my rabbi (who forbids) is greater than your rabbi” or “your rabbi isn’t among the great rabbis of the generation (who all forbid)” doesn’t get us anywhere, because people either don’t care or it devolves into a debate about who is great enough etc.

    But on the issue of using electricity on shabbos in ordinary circumstances, no one permits it (irrespective of how one views the reason for this). Now he who wants to permit has to say not only “those who forbid aren’t my rabbis” but also “I don’t care what my own rabbi says because I made an inference from a book.”

  45. Hirhurim says:

    Jay: I don’t understand your question. We are talking about specific melakhos — writing, generating (molid), building. Which melakhah do you think the brain activity violates? Particularly according to RSZA, there is no reason to think there is any problem.

  46. Hirhurim says:

    IH: News articles aren’t reliable. Is there a Tzomet publication about it?

    Your comments about phones are important and interesting, but I don’t think they impact RSZA’s pesakim.

  47. Hirhurim says:

    11235813: Most poskim do not allow a pesik reisha de-lo nicha leih on a de-oraisa.

  48. Rafael Araujo says:

    “Jay on July 22, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Hi – What I don’t understand is as follows:

    We know that The BRAIN works through electricity. The BRAIN stores information. When we communicate to another, we transfer information that is then stored electronically (and chemically) in their brain.

    How exactly is a computer or phone-to-phone any different from brain-to-brain?”

    I guess the CI forgot to assur living on Shabbos :)

  49. Þanbo says:

    Well, if he started writing about this issue in 1938, and the triggering issue for him was a hearing aid, it must have been a tube-driven hearing aid, which raises the issue of glowing filaments. You’re probably not too young to remember looking inside your parents’ or grandparents’ tube radios and seeing little orange lights inside the tubes – that’s the “electron gun”, the hot anode (negative terminal), heated to glowing so it gives off electrons. So then one would have to find special heterim to override the usual incandescent-bulb issur.

  50. IH says:

    “Your comments about phones are important and interesting, but I don’t think they impact RSZA’s pesakim.”

    I’d suggest re-reading the section on telephones in the 1991 paper. All of the five different aspects of using the telephone that are relevant from a halachic perspective (lifting the receiver, dialing, talking, holding the receiver, and returning the receiver to its place) are based on an assumptions about the science that are no longer true in mobile telephony.

    On Tzomet: perhaps a reader already knows? BTW, on re-reading the ynet article, it seems these are wired telephones, not mobiles, which amplifies my point (without prejudice to more details from a Tzomet source).

  51. S. says:

    >But on the issue of using electricity on shabbos in ordinary circumstances, no one permits it (irrespective of how one views the reason for this). Now he who wants to permit has to say not only “those who forbid aren’t my rabbis” but also “I don’t care what my own rabbi says because I made an inference from a book.”

    I know, but I was just speaking to the point that a rav of immense stature can permit it. The reality is it’s assur, you said, but “it will take someone of similar stature to RSZA to permit it”.

  52. IH says:

    “Most poskim do not allow a pesik reisha de-lo nicha leih on a de-oraisa.”

    But, per the conclusion of Rabbis Broyde & Jachter, there is no consensus on any aspect of this being assur de-oraita other than incandescent lights on Shabbat (and even that is caveated as “near unanimous”).

  53. IH says:

    On Tzomet, this summary from their website confirms the ynet article and my observation that their Shabbat Phone appears to be entirely focused on the handset itself — and not on the network aspects that may involve halachic issues such as circuits, hard disks, etc.

    http://www.zomet.org.il/Eng/?CategoryID=249&ArticleID=99

  54. Ari says:

    What are you building when you save something?

  55. Þanbo says:

    It seems to me, that in the past, saving to tape or disk made a visible phenomenon. That is, if you put a piece of paper on the tape (to protect it) then scatter iron filings over that, you could have seen the recorded bits. That wouldn’t work for modern 6250bpi tape, since each bit would be a tiny fraction of a millimeter long. But the original hard disk, the IBM 350 RAMAC disk storage unit, the bit size was about 1mm x 0.5 mm, which would be visible with iron filings.

    Even on the first tape units, the IBM 726 tape drive, the bits were 1/4 mm long by about 1 mm across the tape, which might be visible.

    http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/storage/storage_350.html
    http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/storage/storage_726.html

    So saving was at least originally within the realm of the visible. Today, not so much. And of course, in solid-state memory, not at all.

  56. Hirhurim says:

    I sent this post to R. Michael Broyde and asked for his reaction. He wrote back (with permission to share):

    “I thought this was excellent. I saw no problems with it. I would have phrased a few things differently, but minor quibbles.”

  57. Hirhurim says:

    Ari: You are building the disk.

    Thanbo: Does RSZA include the physical nature of disk memory in his considerations?

  58. Þanbo says:

    Gil: No idea. Just thinking out loud about the idea that halacha relates to that which is visible. That which is not visible, is not, like louse eggs, or bugs in water/lettuce.

  59. Þanbo says:

    The online version of Meorei Eish is the original from 1935. Magnetic recording hadn’t been invented yet.

  60. IH says:

    Gil — On R. Broyde, that’s fine as it goes, but doesn’t address any of the material issues we’ve debated. In any case, I would not expect him to say otherwise given the emotive nature of the topic. The timing is not yet right for the halachic re-evaluation, but IMO that day is coming faster than many expect.

    One more point on the Tzomet phone is that the secure version of it almost certainly includes a computing device in the path. And, I repeat, their only concern seems to be how to make actions on the wired handset itself work on the principle of gramma (some of which is already the case with a commercial mobile telephone as previously discussed).

  61. Þanbo says:

    actually, that’s not strictly true – the wire recorder was invented in 1898, and tape recording (on paper tape, but not commercially viable) in 1928. It’s only after the War that they became commercially viable. The Germans had some experimental recording devices during the War, but they were a national security secret.

  62. Hirhurim says:

    IH: I admire your persistence and will stop trying to take that away from you.

  63. IH says:

    The first commercial computer disk drive was the IBM 350 in 1956. ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_hard_disk_drives.

    On commercial analog recording devices, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_tape_sound_recording, but the net net is that they are only slightly earlier (late 40′s, early 50′s).

  64. Þanbo says:

    Gil: “building the disk” sounds stupid. The disk was finished when it left the factory. The paper was finished when it left the factory, your writing on it is a separate melacha,not “finishing th paper”.

    Which is why it seems to me it has to be something else, like building magnetic structures, which then leads to the question whether or not those structures are perceivable to the human senses.

  65. Hirhurim says:

    A disk that is frequently written over is done when it leaves the factory because it’s purpose is reuse. A disk that is designated for one-time saving (like a one-time CD-WO) is finished when something is saved on it. That is R. Korn’s evaluation of R. Auerbach’s point.

  66. Steve Brizel says:

    R Gil-excellent essay, and a superb discussion. I would agree with Tal and others that the real issue may not be the the halachic basis for conceptualizing why texting is prohibited, which R Gil set forth in detail, but rather engaging in some reinforcement of the hashkafic bases of Shabbos and emphasis on Shabason and having a Shevisah HaNikeres. Look at it this way-IMO, if you are bored on Shabbos even after a lot of sleep, a not very inspired Tefilah, Seudos with little Torah content,no interaction with your family, and you don’t have a regular seder for learning of any nature, you will be tempted to text or worse on Shabbos.

  67. HAGTBG says:

    Look at it this way-IMO, if you are bored on Shabbos even after a lot of sleep, a not very inspired Tefilah, Seudos with little Torah content,no interaction with your family, and you don’t have a regular seder for learning of any nature, you will be tempted to text or worse on Shabbos.

    Steve, for some people its the seder and the meal with Torah content that is boring. And saying being bored is a temptation to do things you shouldn’t its a truism and merely restating the issue.

  68. Rafael Araujo says:

    “Steve, for some people its the seder and the meal with Torah content that is boring.”

    Even if that’s true, and if true its sad though reality for some, that should not become the basis for permitting that which is assur (not saying you are arguing that point).

  69. IH says:

    So, someone’s learning on Shabbat afternoon and wants to chase down a mareh makom which is not in her home hardcopy library, but it is on her iPad. If there is no compelling halachic barrier, what is un-shabbasdik about looking it up? As a second-order case, it’s not on her iPad either, but it is on the web: same question.

    The point is that one can construct scenarios that either are “shabbasdik” or “un-shabbasdik” but these are separable from the artefacts involved in performing the action. The halachic issue at the end of the day is melachot (actions) not artefacts.

  70. Steve Brizel says:

    HAGTBG wrote in part:

    “Steve, for some people its the seder and the meal with Torah content that is boring. And saying being bored is a temptation to do things you shouldn’t its a truism and merely restating the issue”

    WADR, and in all seriousness-IMO, this is evidence of a more fundamental hashkafic-chinuch problem. If one views the Torah content of a Shabbos or YT mean or the Seder as boring-that is evidence of Haikar Chaser Min HaSefer in appreciating one of the major themes of any Shabbos or YT.

  71. Steve Brizel says:

    IH wrote:

    “So, someone’s learning on Shabbat afternoon and wants to chase down a mareh makom which is not in her home hardcopy library, but it is on her iPad. If there is no compelling halachic barrier, what is un-shabbasdik about looking it up? As a second-order case, it’s not on her iPad either, but it is on the web: same question.

    The point is that one can construct scenarios that either are “shabbasdik” or “un-shabbasdik” but these are separable from the artefacts involved in performing the action. The halachic issue at the end of the day is melachot (actions) not artefacts.”

    I think that R Gil’s analysis sets forth the halachic issues cogently. If you need Mareh Mkomos, any local Beis Medrash worthy of the name that is within walking distance has seforim. Otherwise, borrow or download the text after Shabbos. FWIW, I think that a very strong case can be made that the Kedushas HaYom of Shabbos is a combination of Shivasa MeMelacha and a Shivah HaMikeres from anything that smacks of a weekday activity, barring any unusual ( medical, etc) circumstances

  72. HAGTBG says:

    WADR, and in all seriousness-IMO, this is evidence of a more fundamental hashkafic-chinuch problem.

    Yes and no. I am sure a better job can be done. That being said our community indoctrinates that you have to be frum no matter what you think. The community has to accommodate those people whose heart isn’t in it either. (That has nothing what to do with permitting prohibited actions.)

  73. IH says:

    Steve — I was directly responding to Steve Brizel on July 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm “that the real issue may not be the the halachic basis for conceptualizing why texting is prohibited, which R Gil set forth in detail, but rather engaging in some reinforcement of the hashkafic bases of Shabbos and emphasis on Shabason and having a Shevisah HaNikeres”.

    My response is that the use of electronic gadgets can just as easily be for “shabbasdik” purposes as for “unshabbasdik” ones.

    Incidentally, it is not clear to me that the woman in my example could access the seforim in the way you describe (“any local Beis Medrash worthy of the name that is within walking distance has seforim”). Even if I accepted the premise that the seforim are there.

  74. Canuck says:

    The huge complexity in mobile phone technology (handsets, cellular networks and PSTN) make any analysis extremely difficult and temporary. On a much simpler level, doesn’t text messaging on Shabbos involve the transfer of an object (message) between public domains, making it a biblical prohibition?

  75. S. says:

    >My response is that the use of electronic gadgets can just as easily be for “shabbasdik” purposes as for “unshabbasdik” ones.

    Are you talking about a one function ipad? Last I checked it can be used for things besides looking up a mareh makom. Where does עשו סייג לתורה fit in?

    I could see this being different for electronic devices which seem different, let’s say just using a card to open a door. But it’s hard to see how using a computer is ever going to seem “shabbosdik.” And that’s apart for the issue of the unlikelyhood of people really using an ipad for only shabbosdik things, just as it is unlikely for people in practice to really only drive to and from shul.

  76. IH says:

    S. — many of us read newspapers on Shabbat today, even if not too long ago that too was an artefact where the עשו סייג לתורה was used to prohibit reading a newspaper on Shabbat using the same rationale.

  77. S. says:

    So עשו סייג is simply dead? I don’t see how you can do more than one thing with a newspaper (maybe do the crossword?) but it’s hard to argue that, unless we’re talking about a 1 or 2 function computer, that we can somehow assume that most people will really only use a regular computer for 1 or 2 ‘shabbosdik” functions, but not other things. All this is, of course, apart from the fact that we still haven’t exactly shown that it is permitted altogether, apart for the spirit of shabbos question.

  78. william gewirtz says:

    “writing” to a disk and rearranging bits is hardly boneh for any number of reasons; it is certainly much less than completing a circuit. besides if there was ever a case of psik raisha delo nicha lai, ask any teenager (or others) if they want their (often private) messages archived.

    the possible isurei derabbonan and the aseh of shivisah on shabbat are more than adequate to ban texting.

    it is critical given the expanding scope of electronic devices, that we be careful not to overstate the reasons why specific activities should be disallowed; in other contexts the issur being only a derabbonan at best may well be the basis for various leniencies. i await the halakhic “shabbos – kindle.”

  79. chakira says:

    This is good but it does not delineate permitted and forbidden uses of electricity on shabbat. What about grama? Dishwashers? Timers? Cooking with timer? All very different from SMS.

    Unrelatedly, it would be great to have a nice rundown of the permitted and forbidden forms of coffee brewing on shabbos. Since you covered half shabbos, please cover caff-shabbos!

  80. Hirhurim says:

    S: I think he means read the business section (or articles related to your work). Although that is only assur mi-divrei kabbalah and not min ha-Torah.

  81. Anonymous says:

    Canuck: And if I am in a private domain and and I speak to someone– transmit an object (message)– in a public domain…

  82. lawrence.kaplan says:

    Anonymous 5:47 was I.

  83. joel rich says:

    I have no problem bannning texting ipads et al as R’ Asher Weiss’s makeh bpatish (anything the rabbis thought should be banned on shabbat that didn’t fit into other categories), I do have a problem shoehorning things into a category not well designed to contain them in order to say they are assur. Further imho a linear projection (always wrong-but which way) is that these electronics will become more integrated into life (much like thermostats years back) and we will find a way to allow many uses imho. Time will tell.

    BTW I’d still like to hear if anyone has banned prosthetic limbs (or hearing aid implants etc.)

    KT

    KT

  84. IH says:

    S., Gil — if memory serves, newspapers are extrapolated from SA Orech Chayim 307. Probably the Chafetz Chaim in MB; but, I personally don’t have time to chase it down now.

    Shabbat Shalom

  85. Canuck says:

    >Canuck: And if I am in a private domain and and I speak to someone– transmit an object (message)– in a public domain…

    I think it goes without saying that one can speak to a friend across an eruv line. But sending a text message is analogous to handing a note to a messenger for delivery outside your domain. To make it simple, rather than writing an note on paper in ink, you send a colored piece of paper where the color contains encodes a message. Is this a biblical or rabbinic violation of Shabbos or neither?

  86. Canuck says:

    Sorry for the grammatical errors in my previous message; I posted before editing. Have a great Shabbos.

  87. Canuck says:

    On the texting on Shabbos issue, most people consider the electrical and electronic aspects, and perhaps that is enough to determine it is an act of “work” or not. I was curious to know if the issue is ever looked at from the angle of carrying objects (messages) between domains, which is the intention of texting.

  88. Anonymous says:

    Canuck — net net: it is dubious whether such electronic communications are either writing or objects from a halachic perspective.

  89. IH says:

    ’twas me. Shabbat Shalom.

  90. Canuck says:

    IH, maybe you’re right; I don’t know. But, most readers here believe texting is a violation of Shabbos, even if it’s not black and white. It would be a shame if it were to become commonplace for Jews to walk to shul on Shabbos while staring at their cell phones, avoiding eye contact with people, not to mention preventing opportunities to greet or chat with others. Shabbat Shalom.

  91. IH says:

    Canuck – let’s not confuse manners and/or enjoying the beauty of Shabbat with the legal/halachic aspects. Also, there are many things that are halachically frowned upon if not actually assur (e.g. chatting in Shul, particularly about business) that are tacitly accepted with little/no comment.

    And, I’m sure the texting teenagers would point to countless other “un-shabbasdik” things their parents do, or tolerate among their cohorts.

  92. Shimon S says:

    IIRC R’ Zalman Menachems name sounds and is transliterated as “Koren”, not “Korn”.

  93. Shlomo says:

    IH: I have quoted it in its entirety so I am not accused of cherry picking.

    And the entire quote makes clear that the argument to permit only applies to electricity which does not result in heat or light. Since it is hard to imagine texting that does not involve light, and you’re obviously smart enough to realize that, it is mystifying why you keep bringing this quote as support for permitting texting.

    Gil — one important aspect of mobile telephony that differs from even the 1991 paper is that calls and messages occur without any wires actually being opened/closed. The communication, like on the Internet, occurs by packetizing the data associated with the “call” and sending it across wires that are already connected.

    Pressing a keypad button (though not a touchpad) equally opens or closes a wire.

    Canuck: On a much simpler level, doesn’t text messaging on Shabbos involve the transfer of an object (message) between public domains, making it a biblical prohibition?

    1) You’re certainly allowed to yell from one domain to another.
    2) Wouldn’t this issue have come up 100+ years ago with the telegraph?
    3) The prohibition of hotzaah is derived from pesukim in (IIRC) Yirmiyahu which talk about a person carrying a burden… does not seem relevant here.

  94. IH says:

    Shlomo – there is no incandescent light in a mobile phone (or any modern computing device for that matter). And as you point out, the button issue on appliances has become moot with touchscreens. I won’t enter the Android vs. iPhone debate :-)

  95. Shlomo says:

    IH – it said light, not incandescent light.

  96. IH says:

    Shlomo — read the paper. It is incandescent light, in context.

    And, even then, note that lighting technology has dramatically changed since 1991 when LCD & LED screens were not genereally known about. This, like mobile telephony, is not accounted for in the 1991 paper (or any of the halachic thinking it surveys).

  97. IH says:

    For additional context, the paper was written before the Internet was on the radar screen of anyone but an academic.

    The domain microsoft.com comes online May 2, 1991.

  98. IH says:

    For those who don’t gave the time or inclination to read the paper, the key sentence from the summary of their discussion of lights is: “Non-incandescent ‘lights’ are not considered ‘lights’ according to halacha.”

  99. Steve Brizel says:

    Given the content of the so-called “major newspapsrs” today, there are times that the same lack any redeeming values anyway. As one who briefly glances through the NY Times Shabbos morning, and on Sunday, I have thought for a long time that the NY Times presently essentially is an upscale version of the Village Voice. FWIW, as a response to IH’s observations, most Batei Medrashim are well stocked, and the key to understanding RSZA’s Teshuvah on the entire issue is “Tzorech Gadol”, which IMO, cannot be defined as mere boredom or the lack of access to a sefer.

  100. Steve Brizel says:

    I recenly saw the two volume Meorei HaAsh at my chavrusa’s house. Is the new edition, and is it readily available in Biegeleisen , etc? What is in Meoeei HaAsh on this subject that is not mentioned in ShuT Minchas Shlomoh, especially Vol.1 and Shulchan Shlomoh on this subject?

  101. CG says:

    The topic has been revisited (in Hebrew) – in the two most recent issues of HaMa’yan – by Rav Dr. Dror Fixler, with a rejoinder by Rav Koren.

    http://www.shaalvim.co.il/uploads/files/11-C-5_24-34.pdf
    http://www.shaalvim.co.il/uploads/files/11-D-8_45-61.pdf
    http://www.shaalvim.co.il/uploads/files/11-D-10_91-102.pdf
    ~see page 8/9 of the pdf

  102. Eliezer Ben-Porat says:

    “I don’t know his credentials”
    R. Gil: Firstly, Rav Zalman Menachem’s surname is Koren. It it a Hebrew translation from ‘Winkler’. We both learnt under the tutelage of our Rebbe, HaRav E.E. Mishkovsky, the Rav and Rosh Yeshiva of Kfar Chasidim. Our Rebbe was himself a moreh horaah par excellence as attested by the Chazon Ish and gave only very few smichot in his life time. Most notable amongst them is the smicha he gave to the late young Sochachever Rebbe, and l’havdil ben chaim l’chaim, his smicha to Rav Koren.

    Rav Koren is distinguished with great knowledge of Torah, theoretical as well as practical. He is blessed with the keen ability to analyze complex realities and to distinguish the principles of Jewish law that govern those realities.He has a broad knowledge of many disciplines, including but not limited to, mathematics, astronomy, geography, history and botany.
    Eliezer Ben-Porat

  103. Steve Brizel says:

    Aside from the issues raised by this thread vis a vis texting and Shmiras Shabbos, I am curious whether any Mchanchim, youth leaders and advisors and parents have comments re technology and the attention spans of teens. What solutions are there other than a teacher or leader setting a rule that cellphones and the like are off limits? As far as the topic of Shmiras Shabbos is concerned, IMO, no case has been made that the need of a bored teen is a “tzorech Gadol”, as opposed to circumstances involving Pikuach Nefesh. IMO, the issue is howb we approach Shabbos and YT-if your approach is that Shabbos is dead time with boring meals, davening, and a lot of sleep and you don’t open a sefer, you should not be surprised to find out that texting on Shabbos is an issue. OTOH, viewing Shabbos as a day when you invite HaShem into your home, and YT as a day when you enter HaShem’s Home, might be an important hashkafic step to take towards experiencing the full Kedushas HaYom of Shabbos and YT. The failure to do so IMO will result in this topic being yet another example where IMO MO fails its next generation and essentially admits that it cannot raise fully committed Bnei and Bnos Torah who are active in the secular world

  104. IH says:

    Steve — Apropos of your concluding sentences, note the issue you raise is not just with MO:

    Regarding the latest Charedi Shabbat protests in Jerusalem:

    “… young people’s boredom during the summer months and long Shabbat, which makes them to look for “action” on the streets.”

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4097028,00.html

  105. Tal Benschar says:

    Re boredom, I recall once that R. Ahraon Kahn was speaking in YU, and he discussed what people do on vacation. Why, he asked, do YU students feel they need to do dangerous things like skiing on their break? If they feel they are burnt out from learning and studying all semester, how about taking on a chessed project for a couple of weeks.

    Maybe organized chessed projects (e.g. helping out at a soup kitchen, repainting the facilities of a tsedakkah organization, etc.) would be a good way to alleviate teen boredom.

  106. Þanbo says:

    S citing Gil:

    I know, but I was just speaking to the point that a rav of immense stature can permit it. The reality is it’s assur, you said, but “it will take someone of similar stature to RSZA to permit it”.

    Really? What about halacha kebatrai? Or Yiftach bedoro kiShmuel bedoro? Similar stature can also be relative.

  107. Þanbo says:

    Steve seems to have lost track of the fact that this phenomenon was originally reported among Lakewood kids. The fact that many who affiliate with MO are lax on observance is nothing new. What makes this interesting is confronting systematic non-observance among those who affiliate with “black hat” groups.

  108. Steve Brizel says:

    Let me be absolutely clear-Regardless of one’s hashkafic leanings, IMO, texting on Shabbos cannot be divorced from what I described in my post last night re how one experiences the Kedushas HaYom of Shabbos and YT.

  109. Adam says:

    Regarding the mentioned ZBD screen, I can’t say I am familiar with the technology, but if typing on it is called writing, then shouldn’t deleting the text be erasing? And isn’t this technology effectively the same as the Kindle, which continues displaying the current page even when off? If so, it seems to me that one needs to be careful not to erase God’s name on a Kindle, severely hampering its usefulness as a tool for Torah study. Thoughts anyone?

  110. Anony says:

    The “solution” to the texting “problem” is to declare texting permitted according to halachah which is a conclusion one may reasonably reach based on the discussions above. Those who wish to abstain may continue to do so. Think of it this way. We eat kosher Chinese food, we do not eat trief Chinese food. There is no confusion as a result. Those who text will not make the “mistake” of driving a car or using a power saw to cut wood. Intelligent adults are able to discern differences and follow nuances of instruction.

  111. Steve Brizel says:

    Anony wrote:

    “The “solution” to the texting “problem” is to declare texting permitted according to halachah which is a conclusion one may reasonably reach based on the discussions above. Those who wish to abstain may continue to do so. Think of it this way. We eat kosher Chinese food, we do not eat trief Chinese food. There is no confusion as a result. Those who text will not make the “mistake” of driving a car or using a power saw to cut wood. Intelligent adults are able to discern differences and follow nuances of instruction”

    WADR, this is an example of wishful thinking, as well as IMO improperly extrapolating from RSZA’s views that a “Tzorech Gadol” was needed to permit the same, is present in the circumstances presented in the discussion-which can be best summarized IMO as boredom and a lack of appreciation of the Kedushas HaYom of Shabbos.I question whether RSZA, if he was asked the question, based on the information that we have been discussing, would have permitted texting under these circumstances, as opposed to cases arising out of Pikuach Nefesh or similar needs.

    R Gil’s conclusions are worth considering :

    “My conclusion from this research is clear. As I understand the technology and halakhah, R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach would forbid texting on Shabbos due to a questionable biblical prohibition, a certain rabbinic prohibition and an important public policy reason”

    In classical halachic lexicon, the issue as per R Gil is a Safek D”Oraisa-which necessitates that we adopt a view Lchumra except when dealing with Pikuach Nefesh, an Issur DeRabbonan ( presumably Molid-but I would also suggest Shabason) as well as what is best described as rootd in either Meta Halachic or Ratzon HaTorah considerations.

    Unfortunately, deviationist groups and their rationalizing away and dispensing with much of Halacha, and especially Shimiras Shabbos,contains the same reductionist logical premise-the road to Gehinnom is paved with the best of intentions and the assurances that “intelligent adults are able to discern differences and follow nuances of instruction”, when in fact, far too many reject the same as either Pilpulim, unnecessary Chumros or worse.

  112. Steve Brizel says:

    IH wrote and posted this link:

    “Steve — Apropos of your concluding sentences, note the issue you raise is not just with MO:

    Regarding the latest Charedi Shabbat protests in Jerusalem:

    “… young people’s boredom during the summer months and long Shabbat, which makes them to look for “action” on the streets.”

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4097028,00.htm

    IH-Professor Heilman, in his excellent Defenders of the Faith, disussed the above cited phenomenon and attributed the same to the fact that the above sector of the Charedi world neither is the top echelon of the Charedi world in terms of their committment to Torah observance, etc.as a general rule, and not specifically because of the long Shabbos afternoon.

  113. Anony says:

    Steve, Would it not be a great kiddush Hashem and a kiyum of Kidushat shabbos if we could text with gedolim in learning all day long? Why do you wrongly assume that all texting would be trivial and meaningless? Aren’t you in fact preventing harbotzas Torah?

  114. Steve Brizel says:

    Anony wrote:

    “Steve, Would it not be a great kiddush Hashem and a kiyum of Kidushat shabbos if we could text with gedolim in learning all day long? Why do you wrongly assume that all texting would be trivial and meaningless? Aren’t you in fact preventing harbotzas Torah”

    First of all, the operative criteria is “great need”-which classically means Pikuach Nefesh-not being able to talk in learning all day with Gdolim. I would question whether most texting is important and meaningful.

  115. Steve Brizel says:

    Anony-Harbtazas Torah AFAIK, at least how the term is understood by the CC, RHS and R Asher Weiss, means doing the preliminary work to ensure that a shiur is publicized, etec, as opposed to the actual act of Limud HaTorah.

  116. Anony says:

    I think u misunderstand. Texting can be a positive means of Torah and mitzvot communication. Why do u insist on denigrating it? Why not make it mutar and turn it into a positive force for Jewish life?

  117. Feivi says:

    anony wrote:

    “Texting can be a positive means of Torah and mitzvot communication. Why do u insist on denigrating it? Why not make it mutar and turn it into a positive force for Jewish life?”

    Here’s another idea: why not make treif meat mutar. This will make meat a lot cheaper, and would help many Jewish families which are struggling so much in this tough economy. Then they would have more money to pay tuition etc. We can make this into a real positive force for Jewish life.

    The answer is simple: if it’s assur it’s assur. Doing an Aveirah cannot turn into a “positive force for Jewish life”, no matter how much you want to text on Shabbos…

  118. [...] of computer activity. However, the social media actions may. As we discussed in an earlier post (link, sec. V), sending an e-mail on Shabbos, which becomes permanently stored on a server, may be [...]

  119. Upsiditus says:

    “In our generation, analysis of the halachic merits alone only weakens the obvious. The phenomenon is like that of people who write long, thorough and detailed articles about how Mishkav Zachar is forbidden. It conveys the impression that there is something to debate.”
    A cursory glance at the Shulchan Aruch suggests very little about Judaism is “obvious.” Like it or not, there most certainly is “something to debate” about that issue.

  120. sholom90 says:

    “Think of it this way. We eat kosher Chinese food, we do not eat trief Chinese food. There is no confusion as a result.”

    And Conservatives permitted the use of a car on shabbos for *only driving to shul and back*.

    Look what happened.

 
 

Submit a Response

 

You must be logged in to submit a response.