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No Mitzvah to Return Non-Kosher Cellular Telephone

ywtext.jpgHaGaon Rav Nissim Karelitz Shlita has released a unique p’sak halacha pertaining to the mitzvah of ‘hashovas aveida’ and non-kosher cellular telephones, reports.

According to the report, if one discovers a non-kosher cell phone and knows who the owner is, and knows for a fact or has a reason to suspect the owner uses the phone for prohibited access, one is not compelled to fulfill the mitzvah of ‘hashovas aveida’.

The p’sak in the Rav’s sefer also states if one does not know who the owner is and the cell phone is not the ‘kosher phone’ with rabbinical approval, one is not compelled to try to locate the owner.

(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)

38 Responses

  1. Many people are going to strongly disagree with the Rav’s statement. One should really give the benefit of the doubt to EVERY Jew even if he is not frum. Perhaps he is using the phone for business or he just needs to be kindly encouraged to become frum. By not returning someones phone in this maner is assor and is a Chilul Hasham. In my opinion, even if the person uses the phone for improper use, the tradeoff of not returning it and giving up a kidush Hashem is just not worth it. I certainly would return it.

  2. sure since he didn’t make some “kosher” business lets not return his phone i have a regular phone and use it in only with accords halacha if someone doesnt return it he is over on issur mideoraisa

  3. 1. Your headline is incorrect. According to the article, Rabbi Karelitz holds that it is obligatory to return the phone when you know who the owner is and have no reason to suspect the phone is used for “prohibited access”. Practically speaking, this will be true in almost every case, as people tend to have their own home numbers or contact information stored in their phones.

    It is unclear what you (or Rabbi Karelitz) mean by “prohibited access”. If you mean accessing inappropriate materials, then again there is no reason to be “choshed b’ksharim,” and the phone should be returned in virtually every case. On the other hand, if “prohibited access” refers to any use of the Internet, such as reading this website, one may assume that most Internet-enabled phones are occasionally used for that purpose. You should really write clearly, rather than using vague oblique euphemisms.

    2. This is an excellent example of how being machmir in a mitzvah bein adam l’makom can lead to being makil in a mitzvah bein adam l’chaveiro.

  4. I wonder what he would say about phones in america then, given there are no kosher phones. I wonder what the mkor for it is. I dont remember seeing anything remotely similar in eilu metzios.

  5. The headline seems more declarative that it should be. The article states that two conditions are:

    1. If one knows for a fact that the owner uses the phone for prohibited reasons (how can the nonowner know “for a fact” what the owner uses their phone for?) and

    2. If the finder has “reason to suspect”…again, upon finding someone elses phone, how can one “suspect” anything and when does one apply dom lekaf zchus?

    The concern is that hasovas aveida is a huge mitzvah that one does not to miss fulfilling.

    Maybe a follow up article can expound on a variety of situations where not fulfilling hashovas aveida would be permitted.

  6. So which is it? The headline said to keep non-hareidi cellphones and not return them, whereas the second paragraph conditions it on knowing the phone will be used for something prohibitied, and the third paragraph says it applies only if it is a non-Jewish cell phone with an unknown presumably non-Jewish owner.

    It seems the rule, according to your article, is one is required to return a “non-kosher” phone if you know the owner is a Jew, and have no reason to assume the phone is being used for aveiras.

  7. So one is allowed to be cho’shet a yid that he would allegedly be doing an aveyra?
    I am sure I am not the only one who doesn’t get it.

  8. “This mamesh make no sense”

    What? Careful what you say about Da’as Torah…take great care when writing about things you don’t understand

  9. Actually if u see s/one w/ a non-kosher phone the halacha is u have to try to steal it from them.
    As I am viewing this arcticle on a VERY non-kosher phone (u know txt, internet, gps, wtvr else is ‘bad’) I’ll have to watch myself when I pass by ppl who think they r doing mitzvos, when all theyre doing is stealing!

  10. I also remember hearing a psak that if you find someone’s college books or notes there is a mitzvah to not return them…

  11. In fact, if you think that someone is using a cell phone for improper use, then perhaps its a mitzvah to steal (to remove the stumbling block) it from them. This is a diyuk from the original psak.

  12. paramodox – thats ridiculous. You’re not even allowed to steal your own property – according to rav elyashiv(and his mekor is found in many, many seforim for this concept), one ay only steal or destroy an item that is assur be’hana’ah – i.e., an avodah zaroh, payros of an asherah tree, basar becholov, etc.. – the ony question in halacha to which there still is not a clear answer is the permissibility of a teacher/parent/child destroying, let’s say, a television(prohibited under ‘al tishcon beohalecha avlah’, as per the gemora which says one may not have literature in his house that is not edited for content, kal vechomer with all the pritzus one is exposed to by watching a mere commercial), or a cell phone which one can easily, even unintentionally use for tumah – this is not being ‘choshed’ a yid any more than a television would be – one can open a browser on an average smartphone and be exposed to pritzus on a homepage, an ISSUR DEORAYSOH LECHOL HADEOS of lo sasuru(it is an absolute chiyuv to avoid seeing pritzus, and if it is impossible one must avoid looking at it). The fact that elements of the velt dont care about this mitzvah deoraysoh, and own televisions, unrestricted internet, cell phones which have the same content, etc.., does not mitigate it, but rather makes the matter all the more serious. (I have a filter on my browser which does not allow images at all to be seen – please, dont call me a hypocrite or other goyishe garbage).

    You have no mitzvah to steal, let’s say, a pork chop, from a yid – linei iver is one of the most misunderstood dinim, oy ave I heard it abused and misused so so many times. Lifnei iver means if someone cannot do an averah withiout you, and you come along and give it to him(the averah), like the gemora’s case of being stuck on an island. If a man is on an island ith no animas, or food, and you give him issur, that is lifnei iver – what the velt refers to as lifnei iver in the colloquial context(as in, helping someone else sin), is actually either maseis, or mesayeh averah(depending on what the situation is). In this case, returning it to him might not be lifnei iver, since he can get it back some other way(goyim these days sometimes return items, and a cell phone usually has someone’s name or contacts on it, or other yidden might who are not aware of this problem). This sounds more like mesayeh averah, since you’re helping him potentially sin(not that he’s zicheh going to do it, but it is very easy – most people who use this features are most likely not aware of the severity or the existence of the prohibitions involved therein, so you can assume someone with such a phone, who might in every other way be an ahrliche person, will not be informed about this danger – fakert, you are being dan him ecaf zchus if you say he WILL sin, since he will only sin due to lack of knowledge, i.e., beshogeg, and that in every other area of yiddishkeit he is ehrliche – this might in fact be the kavanah of rav karelitz, as opposed to some of the more knee-jerk posts above, I know gedolim think things out, and this might be a part of his cheshbon).

    May all of klal yisroel be zocheh to shmiras einayim!

  13. I believe that the comments here are totally not appropriate and the question is why does the moderator allow them to be any case, I believe that reb nissin karelitz shlita is refering to eretz yisroel where the norm is to have a kosher cellphone and there is a halacha that if a person finds treife meat that belongs to a yid and he knows that by giving it back to him this yid will eat it, he is forbidden to return it. The same is here. Most of these comments are “daas balle battim”.

  14. To #4
    The biggest CHILLUL HASHEM is if you don’t listen to your GEDOLIM.
    If you don’t understand their PSAK then first discuss it with your local Rov.

  15. 24, I too feel the comments are problematic. I had a few questions myself and decided not to pose them. May I suggest to the editor that an article like this not be posted unless there is REAL clarity about the matter at hand? You folks at the homepage are the journalists. Please try to verify all the questions your readers will have, the where what when how why, etc. More than for journalistic integrity, to help us maintain our respect for daas Torah. Thanks.

  16. ” I believe that reb nissin karelitz shlita is refering to eretz yisroel where the norm is to have a kosher cellphone”

    I believe that the norm is to have a regular cellphone with a kosher sticker.

  17. @24 Although its true that some of the comments could be phrased a bit more respectfully, the fact is that there are a lot of good points being made. You cited the case of treife meat that belongs to a Jew. Although its a valid example I think what many of the commentators here are saying is that how can one judge another persons use of their phone (just because its not “kosher”) without any real proof. Furthermore if one knew who owned the phone and concretely knew they were misusing it then withholding the phone from then will just cover up the problem temporarily not stop it. Within a few days that person will probably just get a new phone and continue in their ways. Lastly, in America people have the freedom to write their comments especially since these ones really aren’t “totally not appropriate.”

  18. while i think its not for us to argue with gedoilim i have some high doubt that rav n. karaelitz actually said such a thing lets be dan lekaf zecus him that he will not stoop into such activities. And even if he does say it he is refering to more the yidden that dont need it and do things on it. And thirdly rav n karelitz is a rov in eretz tisroel everyone should go by their own local rav or poisek but chas vesholom to question his words!!

  19. a lot of you have very valid points but i do want to point out some mistakes that were made. first of all we obviously don’t understand this psak so we really should get some clarity from ywn! second, as someone who lives in israel i wouldn’t say non kosher phones are not the norm! many many very frum, good people have them. (i know someone who works for eida charaidus and he has a NON KOSHER phone!!! imagine that! for those of you who think it’s an aveira, don’t listen to this lashon hara!) as a matter of fact, kosher phones started out as a way to make money! lucky people that it caught on but it originally didn’t have anything to do with rabbanim! in that case it makes the psak more confusing. i happen to have a “non kosher” phone which i hope i never lose esp. bec. i may not get it back. i only have it bec. it’s cheaper and i have an internet block. i never used it for anything remotely bad!!! so please be dan likaf zchus everyone that they don’t use it for the bad. and one more point, someone with a “kosher” phone can be using it to speak to the wrong people and discussing the wrong things. maybe we should not return those too just in case!!!

  20. To all those people who say that we must listen to the Gedolim, where are you coming from. These Piskei HAlacha that then get spread out all over are in truth, not Halachicly binding, and therefore, irrelevant.

    Paramodox, your ideas defy logic … how about actually looking into the pertinent Halachos, and then coming back and telling us what the REAL halacha is

    As well, I would like to make it public knowledge that I will return any cell phone I find to it’s rightful owners

  21. @28 huh???
    the business world of Eretz Israel is allowed to have a non kosher phone… so a businessman cant get his phone back?
    also “one is not compelled” is vary unclear, so if its because of lifney iver, one isn’t allowed to return!
    besides the unfortunate truth is, that oftentimes the data that gets to the godol is misleading or false entirely… (for example the net can only be used for dvorim asurim and NOT have any benefits at all).
    BTW its quite funny to discuss Internets vices on a site…

  22. @KeenObserver: vague oblique euphemisms is where it’s at! We can’t even function without euphemisation in this community anymore. Did you know that my kid’s teachers have in all honestly taught them that “stupid” and “disgusting” are “bad words” on par with anything banned by the FCC? The crreping euphemisation is infuriating!

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