Ask The Rabbi

Ask the Rabbi #26

The Color of Heaven Artscroll

Ask the Rabbi

June 18, 1994; Issue #26

This issue is dedicated in the memory of Samuel and Fannie Goldberg O.B.M.

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Contents:
  • Sending E-mail to a place where it is still Shabbat
  • What's the deal with Judaism and Hair???
  • Subscription Information
  • Back issues are indexed both by issue no. and by subject
  • Ohr Somayach Home Page

  • Sending E-mail to a place where it is still Shabbat

    Cheryl from Long Beach wrote:

    Can you access systems that are in areas where it is Shabbat? For example, on erev Shabbat I can access via Internet the local Jerusalem time. It is not yet Shabbat in California, but Internet tells me it is already Shabbat in Jerusalem. Every time I log on locally I am drawn to pull up the time just to have that real link to Jerusalem.

    Shmuel Steele wrote:

    Is it permitted to send E-mail to you on erev Shabbos in America? An additional factor is that the E-mail messages are not sent out here real-time, but are collected every few hours.

    Saul G. Behr of Univ. of Witwatersrand, South Africa wrote:

    What is the law in the case of any sort of instantaneous communication between different time zones on or around Shabbat?

    David Mitchell of SMU, Dallas wrote:

    I hope there is no problem with me sending E-mail to your account while it's Shabbos by you! (correct me if I'm wrong).


    Dear Cheryl, Shmuel, Saul and David:

    There are two concerns here:

    1. May someone set up a machine before Shabbat to receive E-Mail (or faxes, for that matter) on Shabbat?
    2. May someone for whom it is not yet Shabbat cause "melacha" (work forbidden on Shabbat) to be done in a place where it is Shabbat?

    Regarding the first point, one is allowed to initiate a process before Shabbat, even though the work will continue unattended throughout Shabbat. For example, one may program a timer to turn lights on and off at specified times during Shabbat. Other examples are setting a thermostat, or switching a fax machine to "auto-receive."

    As for the second point, the question centers on whether the mail server or fax machine located in the area where it is Shabbat is:

    1. An extension of the sender (picture the sender of the E-mail having really long arms), which would be prohibited on Shabbat.

    Or,

    1. Independent of the sender (the sender has nothing to do with the machine once he issues the send command).

    A source that apparently supports the position that the machine is independent of the sender is found in the book Shemirath Shabbath. It states that in a place where it is not Shabbat it is permitted to phone a non-Jew in a place where it is Shabbat.

    In order to receive a definitive ruling with regard to Email and faxes I asked Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg (one of the foremost Halachic authorities of our time). He ruled that it is in fact permitted to send E-mail and faxes from an area where it is not Shabbat to an area where it is Shabbat. So as the sun is beginning to lower on the horizon on erev Shabbat and you are faced with a question that just has to be answered, don't hesitate to send it to us!

    Sources:

    • Rav Yehoshua Y. Neuwirth - Shemirath Shabbath, 31:26.


    What's the deal with Judaism and Hair???

    Bernardo Coiffman wrote:

    Dear Rabbi,

    What is the significance of hair? Why does Judaism seem so concerned with it? Women cover their hair, men have Payot (sidelocks), and boys have their first haircut at age three...

    Thank you


    Dear Bernardo,

    Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch in his commentary on the Torah discusses the subject of hair and reveals some very powerful and insightful concepts. Take your face for a moment -- I sure don't want it :-). There are parts of your face which we would consider more physical and parts which represent the more intellectual. Your mouth and your eyes would be examples of the more physical parts. Your forehead would be the part which represents the intellectual. We know that both of these categories are important but the physical requires special monitoring. If you allow yourself pursuit of the physical without some mechanism for control you could slide into a pattern of self destruction. Hence the hair. It is a marker that says: "Pay attention to this area!! Monitor it so that it can be used for good. Don't allow it to run off unbridled!!"

    If you think about this for a while you will get a sense of why Judaism concerns itself with issues such as the covering of a woman's hair (sensuality), Payot for a man (dividing the part of the brain that controls the sensual from that which is involved in the intellectual); and even why we cut a young boy's hair for the first time at the age we begin his education (learning how to use his intellect to control his behavior).

    In short, hair [or long hair :-) ] represents sensuality control.

    Sources:

    • Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch - Commentary on the Torah, Leviticus 19:27 and 21:5.


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