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Social Media For Shabbos

 

An interesting article raised the question of whether you may schedule e-mails or social media updates to occur on Shabbos (link). For example, I can post to my blog and schedule the post to appear on Friday night. Within an hour of that post’s publication, a third-party application Tweets the blog’s title, first few words and link to my personal Twitter account. And if I could ever get the technology to work properly, it would also post a link to my Facebook account. The next morning, at 5am on Shabbos, the application sends an e-mail of the full text of that blog post to this blog’s distribution list. Am I allowed to schedule all of this to happen on Shabbos?

The following are my tentative thoughts to begin discussion. As always, ask your rabbi and don’t follow what you read online. In all this discussion, we must keep in mind that at nearly all hours of the day, it is not Shabbos somewhere in the world. Someone reading the blog post or Tweet need not be violating Shabbos. For that matter, a gentile, who is not obligated to observe Shabbos, may also read it.

I. Scheduling

In the above example, some of the computer functions happen on Friday and some on Shabbos. The blog post is actually filed on Friday with an exact date and time of publication. If someone accesses the blog before the publication time, the computer holds back the post. After the publication time, it shows the post. Nothing really changes on Shabbos.

However, the social media functions happen on Shabbos. The third-party application learns about the post on Shabbos, grabs the information, submits it to Twitter and Facebook, compiles it into an e-mail and sends it out. Similarly, if I use an e-mail application that allows me to schedule an e-mail for Shabbos, it waits until the right time and then sends the e-mail out on Shabbos.

Truthfully, though, when a blog post appears on Shabbos it is captured by other third-party applications and registered in search engines. However, I do not control any of those applications and suggest that I am not liable for their activity.

II. Server Activity

Therefore, I suggest that scheduling a blog post for Shabbos does not cause any problem 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 biblically forbidden (under the labor of boneh). R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach forbade it regarding a floppy disk and others debate whether this ruling also applies to archives on servers.

The third-party application’s action is, in theory, indirect (gerama). I am just posting to my blog. The application then, on its own, grabs that information and submits it to social media platforms. However, I arranged these functions and want it to perform them. This is the normal way of doing things. Perhaps, then, this is not gerama but the normal course of business (see this post: link).

If Tweeting or sending an e-mail is biblically forbidden, then the case we are discussing would be comparable to setting a fax machine on a timer so it sends a fax on Shabbos. Piskei Teshuvos (Shabbos vol. 1, 242:7; vol. 2, 263:46) forbids such an action. However, the widespread custom is certainly to allow setting timers before to schedule forbidden activities to occur on Shabbos provided they do not generate noise or otherwise interfere with the Shabbos atmosphere (link). I suggest that the above activities qualify.

III. Appearances

The final issue is one of maris ayin. While all observers are required to judge favorably and assume you did not violate any prohibitions, you are still obligated to avoid situations in which you appear to transgress Torah laws. The definition of precisely what this entails remains fuzzy. I was taught that it depends on what the average onlooker will initially think.

In the case of blogging or Tweeting on Shabbos, I suspect that we are still at the point where observers will suspect you of violating Shabbos. When people turn on their computers after Shabbos and see your updates that appeared on Shabbos, they will think you posted them on Shabbos. Scheduling is still a trick of the trade and insufficiently well known. However, disclaimers explaining the situation suffice.

IV. Business

All of the above refers to personal usage. If you are scheduling business updates for Shabbos, you run into the potential problem of Shabbason. Piskei Teshuvos (Shabbos vol. 2, 222:1) quotes the Chelkas Ya’akov who rules that allowing your business to run on Shabbos, even if you are not personally involved, entails a lack of resting. Your work needs to stop on Shabbos (see Rashi on Ex. 20:9 and Ramban on Lev. 23:24).

What is business? Blogs with advertisements are paid every time the blog is accessed. Is a Tweet directing readers to my blog considered business? Quite possibly.

V. Tentative Conclusion

Therefore, my initial reaction is that scheduling blog posts, Tweets, e-mails, etc. should only be done if it is for personal rather than business use and should include a disclaimer stating that it was scheduled before Shabbos.

 

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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.
 

19 Responses

  1. Jon Baker says:

    I suppose to some extent it would depend on whether you hold like RMF on timers in general – OK for lights, since they’re a necessity, but not OK for anything else – VCRs, radio, oven, etc.

  2. Hirhurim says:

    Yes, my prior post on timers assumes not like R. Moshe http://torahmusings.com/2012/01/robots-on-shabbos/

  3. Haven’t you heard? Social media is ma’aseh dor hamabul. You’re a click vegetable. #Asifa

  4. Avi B says:

    I had this discussion with a couple of rabbanim when I lived in NY, as many of my fellow business bloggers were Jewish. The answer I received was that it was best to avoid creating content that would solicit responses on shabbos.

    As such, I rarely posted blog posts on Fridays, especially Friday afternoons. This works well for bloggers as it the accepted social norm is to reply to commenters within 12-24 hours – so posting when one would be unable to reply would be a social faux pa.

    The same was true for tweeting. As most of my tweest received responses for about an hour after the tweet, I avoided tweeting an hour before candle lighting. This also works well for the tweeter, as the accepted social behavior is to reply to @messages in a timely manner, and this wasn’t a time when I was available for tweeting.

  5. Reuven Spolter says:

    Would one be permitted to own a vending machine that vended over Shabbat? Wouldn’t a blog (that paid for every click) be the same thing? If that’s the case, would there not be an argument for closing the blog over the 25-hour shabbat period, so that no profit could be made from your “business” over Shabbat?

  6. Akiva says:

    The article and the comments assume a common time zone. I post from Israel but have a majority readership in the US, though also some in Australia.

    As such, anything I post from Thursday night through Sunday morning is going to appear as coming out on Shabbat somewhere in the world.

    This is an unavoidable problem but perhaps can be partially addressed by simply marking the post time in an obvious and clear fashion at the start of the article (since the article is picked up by various services as described in the post above, doing so would be necessary as a manual step as part of the article content).

  7. Moshe Shoshan says:

    If all this is so, it is very difficult to operate an internet store, especially if Jews on the other side of the world might be buying. presumably one could find a non-jewish partner. but still it is a major limitation to being involved in e-commerce, not much mentioned.

    I understand that R. Carmel, Rosh Kollel at Eretz Chemda, is meikil on this, but I dont get the svara

  8. ba says:

    I was learning the laws of Shabbos, and I came up with a corresponding situations (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasoh 1:26):

    “Cooked food — on erev Shabbos it is permissible to put it on an electric stove which isn’t working, even though it is connected to a timer which will connect the current on Shabbos, as long as it is covered (with asbestos or something similar).”

    The source (footnote 73) was the Chazon Ish.

  9. Jon Baker says:

    We did this with our gas-electric oven for years. We burned out two igniters, which cost expensive repairs, then were told that leaving it on for 25-96 hours over Shabbos/Yom Tov was what was killing the igniters. So we got a timer for the oven. When you shut off the electricity, an internal valve automatically shuts off the gas, so you don’t die if the power goes out. Electric ignition and controls, gas for heating. The oven would shut off about midnight to 8 AM, so by time we put the food back in the oven for lunch, the oven was already hot.

    As R Haskel Lookstein said to R Josh Lookstein when the latter was learning Hilchos Shabbos at YU, “Just remember, WE REHEAT. No matter what they tell you, WE REHEAT.”

    I’ve been wondering about the following situation someone suggested: set the timer on the microwave to start sometime later, so as to cook vegetables from raw and serve it hot at the yom tov meal. Setting aside the issue of turning the light on when you open the door, is there a problem with this? E.g., seder starts at 8, you know maggid takes about so long, so you set it to run about 9:30. Ding- fresh hot asparagus.

  10. MiMedinat HaYam says:

    http://www.star-k.org/kashrus/kk-commerceontheweb_rev.htm regarding website openoin shabat. (i guess besides eretz chemda)

    jon b — i always assumed that is what the star-k’s (misnamed) shabbat mode is.

  11. Hirhurim says:

    Reuven Spolter: Would one be permitted to own a vending machine that vended over Shabbat? Wouldn’t a blog (that paid for every click) be the same thing? If that’s the case, would there not be an argument for closing the blog over the 25-hour shabbat period, so that no profit could be made from your “business” over Shabbat?

    In the very next siman, Piskei Teshuvos permits vending machines. In footnote 7, he differentiates between the Jew soliciting business and the gentile asking (i.e. buying from the vending machine). Just leaving a website up would seem to be like having a vending machine.

    Akiva: The article and the comments assume a common time zone. I post from Israel but have a majority readership in the US, though also some in Australia.

    It all depends on where you live.

    Moshe Shoshan: If all this is so, it is very difficult to operate an internet store, especially if Jews on the other side of the world might be buying

    As per above, operating an Internet store is permissible but many are strict and close it for Shabbos in their own time zone.

    ba: “Cooked food — on erev Shabbos it is permissible to put it on an electric stove which isn’t working, even though it is connected to a timer which will connect the current on Shabbos, as long as it is covered (with asbestos or something similar).”

    I’m not sure I see the similarity between the cases.

    Jon Baker: I’ve been wondering about the following situation someone suggested: set the timer on the microwave to start sometime later, so as to cook vegetables from raw and serve it hot at the yom tov meal.

    I believe this is essentially the machlokes over setting a coffee machine on a timer. Some permit and some forbid.

  12. ba says:

    Your response:
    ba: “Cooked food — on erev Shabbos it is permissible to put it on an electric stove which isn’t working, even though it is connected to a timer which will connect the current on Shabbos, as long as it is covered (with asbestos or something similar).”

    I’m not sure I see the similarity between the cases.

    Until now.

    The similarity is this:

    In the case I brought, you can do something permissible now EVEN THOUGH IT WILL CAUSE A MELACHAH TO BE DONE ON SHABBOS (the current being connected, as per Chazon Ish’s opinion of electricity).

    In the case you brought, you are doing something permissible now — connecting circuits by your typing — which will cause a melachah to be done on Shabbos (connecting circuits, by having the program you use send out the emails on Shabbos).

  13. Hirhurim says:

    ba: If the food is already cooked, there is no melacha in reheating it. There are potential issurei derabbanan which have to be dealt with but not bishul.

  14. Hirhurim says:

    On a related issue, R. Nachum Rabinovich (Si’ach Nachum, no. 14) is hesitant to permit taping a TV show (presumably news interview) during the week that will be show on Shabbos. He only allows it if a sign shows throughout that it was pre-taped and there is communal necessity for the appearance.

  15. There does not appear to be any violation of Shabbos (certainly not De’oraita) and I’m not sure what the issue would be de’rabbanan.

    Most pulpit Rabbis I know run their business on Shabbos/work on Shabbos (for example give a speech) and get paid for that work (or at least the preparation). Regardless, they are working on Shabbos not “resting” as you put it. I think you need to define business in a more narrow context (not wider context) for the referenced Chelkas Ya’akov to make sense.

    If a Tweet directing readers to your blog is considered business then talking about your blog at shul on Shabbos would be considered business or just walking arould in public on Shabbos(since people recognize you and associate you with your blog) could be considered business.

    Anyway, Maris Ayin does not apply here as per the Pri Chodosh.

  16. MiMedinat HaYam says:

    r gil — “On a related issue, R. Nachum Rabinovich (Si’ach Nachum, no. 14) is hesitant to permit taping a TV show (presumably news interview)…”

    herman wouk z”l, put in his contract with cbs network, that they will not broadcast his programs (war and rememberance, and the winds of war) on shabbat.

    2. “ba: “Cooked food — on erev Shabbos it is permissible to put it on an electric stove which isn’t working, even though it is connected to a timer which will connect the current on Shabbos, as long as it is covered”

    better question — if i send the rehaet signal from another timezone.

  17. Akiva says:

    R. Gil, I don’t understand your response. It doesn’t matter where you live, it matters if your blog is read only locally or world wide. If you post on Friday you’re in my inbox Shabbos night in Israel, Shabbos day your time. Looks like you posted on Shabbos to a casual view of my inbox.

    Therefore you shouldn’t post on Friday? It’s +10 hours from you to your readers in South Africa, and +17 to your readers in Australia. Therefore you shouldn’t post after Thursday afternoon if you have readers in Australia?

  18. Hirhurim says:

    Akiva: Are you addressing the issue of melakhah or maris ayin? If the latter, then I don’t think it’s normal for people to assume an English writer lives in Israel. If the former, the Yom Tov Sheini Kehilkhaso (ch. 14 n. 17) says he heard from R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach that you can send a fax from the US on Friday afternoon to Israel because Shabbos depends on where you are not where the melakhah takes place. Piskei Teshuvos (Shabbos vol. 2 263:46) quotes many other poskim who say similarly (but missed this reference). This is common in business situations where you may have to speak on the phone with colleagues in London on Friday afternoon (NY time) in the winter. You can do it as long as the colleagues aren’t Jewish.

 
 

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