Forwarding E-mail

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Is it permissible to forward an e-mail without first obtaining permission to do so? From The Jewish Ethicist:

The moral of the story is that we should be very careful not to forward emails unless we are sure the sender approves. Even when it is clearly appropriate to transmit the message to others, consider if it may not be sufficient to provide a brief summary of the sender’s words, rather than just forwarding the exact words. Likewise, even when forwarding someone’s exact words, don’t forward the whole letter if the really relevant section is brief.

For more on the cherem of Rabbenu Gershom, see this post.

(Reposted from September 2006)

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

9 comments

  1. Takeway: only Ashkinazim have to worry about forwarding email…

  2. Glad to see this hasn’t changed since the original posting. Glad this made it through my Twitter filter.

  3. After I published my tounge in cheek comment, I realized that Twitter and retweeting might actually be shi’ech to this post. I think that the culture (Derech Eretz) of Twitter is such that forwarding [read retweeting] is by part of nature of Twitter, so reshus isn’t needed. Any thoughts?

  4. Neil, I think we have to make a differentiation on Twitter between public and private Tweets.
    – If the original tweet was public, the cherem may not apply at all.
    – If the original tweet was private and you retweeted it publicly, there may be bigger issues such as gneivas da’as, as well as a host of general ethical and social problems.
    – If the original tweet was private and you retweeted it in private, there are likely still issues as you may have different followers than the original tweeter and are thus exposing the message to a new audience.

  5. I’m doing my tikkun leil shavuot shiur this year on the concept of baal tomar, I’m guessing that it would apply to the written word as well (although in practice even the original issur [according to some it’s a torah prohibition, others hold it good advice) seems to not be widely practiced)
    KT

  6. R’Gil,
    TY – as Maxwell Smart might have said “Ah Yes, the old Talmud Torah is different Trick”
    KT

  7. One big metsius difference is the possibility for email, as opposed to a physical letter, to have multiple recipients at once. If someone sends an email cc-ing 5, 15, 50, or 100 people, is there some point at which it stops being a “private” correspondence and can be shared? Intuitively it seems that one could import rules from lashon hara here, but the cherem is technically distinct.

  8. Probably the only place where E-mail is considered private communication.

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