Rav Meidan: IDF Spokesman May Take Photos on Shabbos


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Rabbi Yaakov Meidan, a rosh yeshiva at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Gush Etzion has released a p’sak halacha supporting the IDF Spokesman’s Office photographing on Shabbos.

The rav informed is talmidim that soldiers serving in the spokesman’s unit, both regular and reserve duty personnel are permitted to photograph on Shabbos when such activity entrails documenting events since such action “is part of the war itself”. The rav explains that this is part of today’s “modern battlefield” and popular opinion is imperative towards influencing events.

The rav elaborates, that today’s IDF spokesman Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai, is among the first in his position who comes from the ranks of combat soldiers. He feels this is what the case should be since he is better suited to address and comprehend situations that occur in the battlefield.

Regarding the military’s public relations, the rav feels the IDF is lagging and this particular area is not performing at the same level as many other areas of the military, in need of significant improvement. He explained that while documenting events with cameras on Shabbos that may not be pikuach nefesh are still permitted under Halacha of warfare and the need to document said events on Shabbos.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)


  1. Reminds of Rabbi Goren permitting cigarrette factories to operate on Shabbos during war.

    Shame on “religious” zionism.

  2. I am highly skeptical if any Rav who was not employed by the IDF would hold that. Can he suggest any situation of someone who died because they didn’t make a propaganda photography on Shabbos?

  3. The report is rather unclear. On a news site that caters to the yeshivah world it would be nice to have a link to the actual teshuvah, so that we can see the arguments and mekoros. We shouldn’t need to rely on the dumbed-down and awkwardly-translated language in which piskei halacha are reported in the secular press, for people who don’t have the background to understand leshon chachomim.

    But in principle it makes sense that at a time when we see that false reports of Israeli “atrocities” cause actual people to be killed, it is pikuach nefesh to document what happened and prevent these blood libels from being believed.

    On top of that we know that war is permitted on Shabbos, so long as it was started before Shabbos. This has nothing to do with the heter for pikuach nefesh; it’s a separate heter that the Torah gives (עד רדתה). This heter applies בין מלחמת מצוה, בין מלחמת הרשות, and includes everything that is an inherent part of war-waging. So the question is only whether such documentation is really part of the war, or a separate activity of the IDF, which is not covered by the heter. In previous times one could say that it was just PR which could create goodwill, but was not part of the war itself. Nowadays, when wars are won and lost on the public’s TV screens, it’s much more likely that documentation is part of the war itself, and thus covered by the Torah’s explicit heter to do it on Shabbos.

    That’s what I guess the teshuvah will turn out to say, but it would be nice not to have to guess. How about it, YWN editors? How about promoting some limud hatorah by tracking down the teshuvah and linking to it?

  4. Of course he’s talking about propaganda (public relations) photographs, since no one would argue that photography for intelligence gathering is prohibited.

    There is a “shitah” that holds that: 1) establishing the State of Israel is a mitsvah; 2) Anything that helps the State of Israel is therefore a mitsvah; 3) that the mitsvah of “yishuv ha-Aretz” is fulfilled by establishing the state of Israel, and this mitsvah is more important that Shabbos; 4) anything that helps the Israeli economy or political system allows you to ignore Shabbos. It is all quite logical (and if you have trouble seeing the logical, some consultation with R. Yaakov Daniel might clarify matters).

  5. Can he suggest any situation of someone who died because they didn’t make a propaganda photography on Shabbos?

    How many Jews have died because of the blood libel of Mohammed al Dura? How many of those lives could have been saved if the IDF had immediately released film proving that they had not killed him?

  6. #6, There is a tiny grain of truth in the “shitah” you cite: it’s a clear halacha in Shulchan Aruch that the mitzvah of yishuv ho’oretz overrides some shvusim on Shabbos. Not, ch”v, de’oraisos, but for instance the issur of amiro lenochri does not apply when buying land in Eretz Yisroel. The same Chazal who made the issur in the first place permitted it for the purpose of yishuv ho’oretz.

  7. To those who believe you’re in a position to second guess Rav Meidan’s psak halacha or lomdus, I suggest you go to Yeshivat Har Etzion website and listen to any of his shiurim.

    Then get back to us with your detailed kashias.

  8. It is intutitive that there are multiple scenarios under which it will be essential to take photos on shabbos to document ongoing events in real time. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that such critical needs will always trump shabbos observance in conditions of war or national emergency. The IDF cannot run to a rav every time some shabbos issues arises. The commanders must have 100 percent certainty that a lawful order will be obeyed without some frum solider calling “time out” while he consults his local rav or posek.

  9. #6 If I remember correctly, Rav Sonnenfeld had property bought on Shabbos, had a shtar written up and contract finalized** so that another piece of land would be in Jewish hands (guess that is called “Mitzvos Yishuv Haeretz”)

    ** which entailed chilul shabbos

  10. Please be careful when commenting about rabbanim and poskei hallacha when you have not read the teshuva and are reading it fourth hand.

  11. the one whoa approved it is hagaon harav avigdor halevi nevenzhal shlita chief rabbi of the old city of yerushalayim, i was the when the question was posed. and to kitzur dot net, do you really think hating on jewish people that may look slightly different than you is what Gd wants and will bring mashiach closer?!

  12. #10, Again, Gadolbe’einav shows himself to be a kofer. It certainly does take the equivalent of a rocket scientist to decide that something overrides Shabbos. In this case, we have someone like that; R Meidan is certainly of the calibre to pasken a shayla like this, the only question is whether he’s right. Rocket scientists can make mistakes just like anyone else, which is why rockets sometimes fail.

    commanders must have 100 percent certainty that a lawful order will be obeyed

    The emphasis is on “lawful”. An order to break Shabbos is not lawful (no matter what the Knesset may say).

    without some frum solider calling “time out” while he consults his local rav or posek.

    Whereas you’re perfectly OK with a soldier consulting a lawyer before obeying an order that he suspects may be unlawful? Because that is the reality — it is unlawful for a soldier to obey an unlawful order, and he can go to prison for it. The problem is that you don’t believe that Shabbos is more important than the Geneva Conventions.

  13. #11 and #14, I’m sure both R Sonnenfeld and R Nebentzahl had such cases. And one needs neither a R Sonnenfeld nor a R Nebenzahl to pasken this way, because it’s an explicit law in Shulchan Aruch.

  14. Given that today almost all cameras are digital, what is the issur in photographing on Shabbos? Is that deoraysa or derabban? I have a hard time seeing how it can be deoraysa, since you can’t see any change at all.