Category Archives: Ask the Posek

Kislev 5771 – Are We All Thieves? Copying Music

Are We All Thieves? Copying Music Kislev 5771
Are We All Thieves? Copying Music
by Rabbi Aaron Tendler

 

Dear Rabbi Tendler,

If I have Music on my ipod that I copied from my friends music library, and I would not (REALLY I WOULDN’T ) buy it otherwise but I like the cd or song and listen to it every once in a while, is it considered stealing? and what about cds you used to have or your married siblings have, can you copy those … thank you so much!!!!!

Name and Seminary withheld upon request

Thank you for your important question. Believe it or not, this is one of the easiet questions to answer- yet at the same time it is one of the most difficult questions to answer! The easy answer is that it all depends on what restrictions the artist or whoever “owns” the song have placed on it. If they say no copying allowed, and you have copied the song to your ipod, this would be theft (I’m assuming that you copied contemporary Jewish music, in which case it is likely that there was a “Mechirah Al Tanai”, a conditional sale restricting unauthorized copying. Music with a generic copyright may be copied for personal use, if you would not purchase it otherwise, and only resale to others would not be allowed.) The difficult part is- how do you know exactly what they are restricting you from? There are some situations where a person is permitted to make an assumption that an artist gives permission, for example if you purchased a CD and you make a copy just in case it may scratch. Then the question arises- can I now keep the backup copy in my car, lend it to a friend, or give it to my daughter going away for a year in seminary? There are so many different situations and variables involved in this, that it is almost impossible to give a thorough answer that would cover all circumstances.

I’m taking the liberty of pasting here an answer given by Rabby Yisroel Belsky Shlit”a of Yeshiva Torah V’Daas (and posted on the torah.org website) that sheds light on some of these issues. I hope you find it helpful!

Take care,

Rabbi Aaron Tendler

QUESTION 82: COPYING ONE’S OWN CD FOR SAFEKEEPING

Can I make a copy of my own CD or tape, and put it away, in case it breaks or gets lost?

RABBI BELSKY

I think it is universally accepted that when you buy a CD, you are allowed to make a backup copy of the CD. This way if you break or lose the CD, you still have a copy to replace the original, and you don’t have to buy another one. I tried to look into this, and I believe that this is the accepted practice – that a person who buys a tape or CD can make a backup copy of it.

The bottom line when making a copy is that there shouldn’t be two people who have the same tape or CD, when only one paid for it. That’s the easiest way to define the central issue. If two people have use of a tape or CD at the same time, that means both people should have paid. If there are two users, there should have been two customers. But if there is one user who just wants to make sure that he doesn’t lose his tape or CD, and makes a copy, then we only have one user, with an extra backup, and that’s allowed.

QUESTIONER

If it breaks, and I hadn’t made a copy, can I borrow the same title from a friend, and then make a copy for myself?

RABBI BELSKY

If it breaks and you had forgotten to make a backup, does that mean you are now stuck, and have to go out and buy another original version of the tape or CD? I would say that you could act as if you had been wise and prudent in the beginning, and could make a backup now – by making a copy from someone who has one. The producer of the tape or CD doesn’t expect there to be two users who buy three originals. His intention is that there are two users who buy two original copies. You’re not taking away from his business, or causing him a loss.

I think it can be done because you had the right to do this before you lost it.  You just assumed that you wouldn’t break or lose it.

——————————————–
QUESTION 84: MAKING COPY OF CD FOR SPOUSE

I bought a CD that I listen to in my car. Can I make a copy so my wife can listen to it in her car also?

RABBI BELSKY

The rule of thumb is this – ask if you are making a copy instead of buying it.  If you did not have the ability to make a copy, would you buy another one? If so, you would be required to buy two, i.e. pay for two.

The reason it’s permitted for someone to make a copy to use in the car as well as at home, is because a person can’t be at home and in the car at the same time. If he couldn’t make a copy, he would have to carry the CD back and forth between his house and his car. He makes the copy for the convenience of leaving one in the car, and having one at home, so he doesn’t always have to take it back and forth. But if he couldn’t make a copy, this ‘convenience’ is probably not important enough for him to actually buy two copies. So when you make the copy for the car, it’s not to copy an item that you would otherwise buy, because you wouldn’t have bought two to begin with. You are just making the copy for the car because this is more convenient for you.

However, having one for yourself and then making a copy for your wife – that’s different.  Perhaps if you couldn’t copy the CD, then you would actually buy two. Perhaps both of you want to listen to the CD at the same time. In that case, you’d be making a copy to save yourself the price of the second one, which is prohibited.

On the other hand, it’s also possible that you and your wife are very frugal, and that you would never buy two. Instead, you tell your wife, “We should buy two different CD’s, and I’ll listen to one and you’ll listen to the other one. Then later, when we get tired of listening to our CD’s, we’ll switch. It will be better, since instead of having only one CD that we have to share, we’ll have two instead.”

Still, it’s not that common for people to buy two of the same CD, even in the case of getting one for himself and the other for his wife.  But if that’s what you usually do, then you must pay for the copy.

QUESTIONER

Assuming I made a copy for the car, and the original is at home, how important is it that I know, for example, that my kids aren’t listening to it at home while I’m in the car listening to mine. So it ends up that both CDs (the original and the copy) are being used at the same time. Should I make sure they’re not being used at the same time, or is that not important?

RABBI BELSKY

The fact that they are being used at the same time is not really going to change things. It’s whether you would have bought two of them or not. When it comes to kids, I think it’s more common for a person to get one for the kids and one for themselves, because the kids will probably end up damaging it. On the other hand, if you’ve already heard it a lot, and you wouldn’t mind taking risks and giving it to the kids, then it should be all right.

QUESTIONER

So you have to be honest with yourself? Just ask yourself: Would I have normally bought a second copy?  If the answer is yes, then you have to buy another copy.  If the answer is no, then you could make a copy and both use it.

RABBI BELSKY

Yes, I think so, but you have to be very honest with yourself.

QUESTIONER

So the question is how honest you are being with yourself?

RABBI BELSKY

Yes. If you’re not too honest, or if you doubt that your soul-searching is that accurate, then follow the rule by kashrus: “When in doubt, do without!”

posek

Teves 5771 – Stretching Our Religion – Yoga

Yoga Teves 5771
Stretching Our Religion – Yoga
by Rabbi Aaron Tendler

 

Dear Rabbi Tendler,

Is there a problem with doing Yoga? I’ve heard that it may be a form of Avodah Zarah. Can you clarify the issue?

Thank you very much.

Name and Seminary withheld upon request

Thank you for your question. Although I must admit that I know very little about Yoga, from the information that I have gleaned from various references it is clear that it is an important feature of Hinduism, which is clearly Avodah Zara. Apparently, there are also many different types of Yoga, some involving “religious meditation”, and other involving non-religious meditation.

It is important to realize that every religion that is started has some elements of truth to it, as this is how they attract adherents. However, they “repackage” the truths with other beliefs, and present it as a “package deal”, and the claim is made that if one part is true, the whole must be true. This is how Christianity and Islam were started (based on our truths of Yiddishkeit). The Rambam (Hilchos Avodah Zara 1:1) writes that even Avodah Zara was started in this manner, and over time the original truths were pushed to the background, and only the nonsense (in the case of Hinduism I assume that this would be the deification of cows, etc.) remained.

Consequently, it is important to distinguish between meditation and exercises that are beneficial to a person’s mental and physical well being, no matter what their beliefs are, and rituals that are part of idol worship. There is nothing wrong with meditation per se, references to it can be found in the Sifrei Kabbalah and even to a certain extent in Sifrei Mussar (Hisbodedus). People claim that meditative exercises can assist them in reducing weight, toning nerves and muscles, and improving their mental health, among other things. If this is true, there is nothing wrong with it, and a person might even be fulfilling the Mitzvah of “V’Nishmartem Me’od L’Nafshoseichem” by doing so. But to believe that this only works through a religious medium, and to pattern these exercises in the manner of those that practice Avodah Zarah, is clearly not proper according to Halacha. I also believe that since Yoga is so closely connected with Hinduism, it would not be proper to organize a group of people, even if they are properly doing these exercises and call it a “Yoga class or group”, rather it should be called a “meditation class”, or something along those lines.

If however, it is a regular exercise class with the yoga and breathing stretches and so forth- not connected to any form of religion etc – this, of course, is fine.

Take care,

Rabbi Aaron Tendler

posek

Shevat 5771 – Of Washing / Thunder / Eating Before Purchase In Supermarkets

Of Washing / Thunder / Eating Before Purchase In Supermarkets Shevat 5771
Of Washing / Thunder / Eating Before Purchase In Supermarkets
by Rabbi Aaron Tendler

 

Dear Rabbi Tendler,
Can you dry your hands on your clothing if you’re not wearing them?

Thank you very much.
Name and Seminary withheld upon request

Thank you for your question. The Mogen Avraham (Orach Chaim 158:17) quotes the Tashbe”tz states that a person should not wipe their hands on their shirt (Chaluko) after washing Netilas Yadayim, as this is “Kasheh L’Shikcha”- makes a person more likely to forget their learning. The Pri Megadim (Aishel Avraham- quoted there in the Mishna Berura 45) asks whether or not this applies to other clothing as well, as is unsure of the answer. Likewise, it is not clear if this applies only to a garment that you are wearing, or even one that you aren’t wearing at that time. Therefore, a person should refrain from wiping their hands on any garment even if they aren’t wearing it, unless there is absolutely nothing else available.

Take care,

Rabbi Aaron Tendler

 

Dear Rabbi Tendler,
How often is one allowed to say the brachos on thunder and lightening? Can it be said more than once a day?

Thank you very much.
Name and Seminary withheld upon request

Thank you for your question. The Beracha on thunder and lightning may be said many times in one day, but only once per every “event”, In other words, if it is the same storm, you should not make the Beracha each time you hear thunder and see lightning. If the storm cleared up and then another one came along, you should make the Beracha again.

Take care,

Rabbi Aaron Tendler

 

Dear Rabbi Tendler,
Are you allowed to hold something in your hand while washing (such as a ring)?

Thank you very much.
Name and Seminary withheld upon request

Thank you for your question. The Halacha is that when washing the water must come into contact with your entire hand, without any Chatzitzah (barrier) preventing this from happening. If you are holding something it is pretty much impossible for this to occur, and therefore it should be put down before washing.

Take care,

Rabbi Aaron Tendler

 

Dear Rabbi Tendler,
Is it permissible to eat a food item in the store before purchasing it, with the knowledge that you will surely buy it? For instance, you or your child opens up the package of pop corn, eats from it and then hand it to the cashier to pay for it on the way out.

Thank you very much.
Name and Seminary withheld upon request

Thank you for your question. This really depends on whether or not the store owner allows this. It can usually be assumed that this is allowed under extenuating circumstances, e.g. to calm a hysterical baby, as long as you make sure the item is paid for. However, the best thing is to ask the manager or whoever is in charge of the store at that time.

Take care,

Rabbi Aaron Tendler

posek

Adar I 5771 – Saying Tehilim…At Night?

Saying Tehilim...At Night? Adar I 5771
Saying Tehilim…At Night?
by Rabbi Aaron Tendler

 

Dear Rabbi Tendler,
I have a question concerning saying Tehillim. I belong to a Tehillim group that has been together for almost two years meeting several hours after Mot’zei Shabbat. Just recently one of the women announced that she was told not to say Tehillim in the evening and for sure not Mot’zei Shabbat. What does this mean for the rest of us? Are there set rulings for saying Tehillim? Help!

Thank you very much.
Name and Seminary withheld upon request

Thank you for your question. The truth is, it isn’t only an issue regarding Tehillim, but studying any part of the Written Torah in the evening would be forbidden according to those who observe this Minhag. The Be’er Heitev, in his commentary on the Shulchan Oruch, Orach Chaim 238:1, quotes this custom in the name of the Ari Z”L. The Shaar Hatziyon there states that even according to the Minhag, it is only a preference to study Torah during the day rather than at night, but if this is too inconvenient, it is certainly permissible to study Torah and recite Tehillim at night. The Teshuvos Be’er Moshe, Vol IV Siman 22 states that if Tehillim are being recited on behalf of someone who is sick or in need, there is no basis at all not to recite Tehillim at night.

This custom is based on a Medrash that states that when Moshe Rabbeinu was studying Torah with Hashem on Har Sinai, he could tell the difference between night and day because during the day Hashem would study the Written Torah with him, and at night the Oral Torah. On the other hand, the Gemara in Berachos (3b) teaches us that Dovid HaMelech would compose and recite Tehillim at night after Chatzos (midnight). The Be’er Moshe therefore says that there is no reason not to recite Tehillim after Chatzos, if one wishes.

Interestingly, according to all opinions, if Tehillim are being studied with their commentaries, it is permitted even earlier during the night (i.e. before midnight). So, you might wish to propose a compromise where your group could become a Tehillim study group, rather than a gathering for women to recite Tehillim. This can also be done in the merit of someone who is sick or in need.

I am not familiar with any distinction between Motzaei Shabbos and any other night regarding this custom.

I hope that this is somewhat helpful.

Take care,

Rabbi Aaron Tendler

posek

Adar II 5771 – Coffee!!

Coffee!! Adar II 5771
Coffee!!
by Rabbi Aaron Tendler

 

Dear Rabbi Tendler,

Can you please bring some clarity to a much talked about issue – COFFEE! Can you buy brewed coffee from machines in stores [7 /11 – Starbucks etc]? Is there a difference between flavored and unflavored? If you want to sit down in the store and drink it, can you use their utensils [cups, spoons], or do you need to always use disposable things? What about the brewed coffee on airplanes? Can you drink that? If the answer is no, does that include El Al as well? Are there other issues about coffee that we would need to know?

Please shed some light on this big issue!

Thank You!
Sharfmans 2009

Thank you for your important question. There are three primary Halachic issues that need to be addressed regarding the Shaaloh of drinking non-homemade coffee (e.g. from a coffee shop, vending machine, or on an airplane). The first is the actual Kashrus of the coffee itself. The second is the status of the utensils they are prepared and served in. The third is whether or not it might be prohibited because of Bishul Akum.

Kashrus of the Coffee

Unflavored coffees, whether caffeinated or decaffeinated, may be assumed to be Kosher. However, they would need to be certified Kosher L’Pesach for Pesach use. Flavored coffees should not be used without a Hechsher.

All creamers, dairy and non-dairy require a Hechsher. Sugar does not require a Hechsher.

Utensils the Coffee is Prepared and Served In

If there is reason to believe that the coffee was prepared using any utensils that may have been used for non Kosher food or coffee, it shouldn’t be considered Kosher. Cups and spoons that may have been used for non-Kosher hot drinks should not be used, either.

This would present a problem purchasing coffee from a vending machine, unless you know that it exclusively dispenses Kosher products. The vendor often changes the flavors dispensed through various nozzles, and it is possible that this nozzle was previously used for a hot flavored non-Kosher coffee.

Coffee shops generally use separate pots for the flavored and non-flavored coffees, so this should not be a concern. On airplanes as well, the pots are generally used exclusively for non-flavored coffees, so one can assume that the coffee itself is Kosher.

Even if you are certain the product is Kosher, and the pot is used exclusively for Kosher products, you must be certain that other utensils used in making this product are used exclusively for Kosher products as well. This includes mixing spoons and steam wands, in the case of fancier coffee drinks.

The Minhag is not to be concerned about the problem of the utensils being washed together with non-Kosher utensils, unless you know for a fact that they are washed together using very hot water, for a number of reasons.

Bishul Akum

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (38:12) states that a “Shomer Nafsho,” one who wishes to guard their Nefesh, should be careful not to drink coffee, tea or hot chocolate that has been prepared by a non-Jew on a consistent basis because of Bishul Akum. Each person should decide for himself whether or not he or she qualifies as a Shomer Nafsho. If one feels that this is an appropriate description of one’s self, this would seem to preclude a person from going to coffee shops such as Starbuck’s on a consistent basis. This would not preclude someone from enjoying coffee prepared by a non-Jew occasionally, such as when traveling on an airplane (El Al or any other airline), or purchasing occasionally from a vending machine, when one knows the abovementioned problems are not a concern.

Other Halachic Issues Related to Drinking Coffee

The Halacha is that we only make a Beracha Achrona on a drink when a Revi’is (approx. 3.3 ozs. which is a bit less than 1/2 a cup) has been drunk within a short amount of time. Therefore, the Mishna Berura recommends that a person should leave over this amount when sipping a hot beverage until the end, when it has sufficiently cooled, and drink it at once, so that they could make a proper Beracha Achrona on the drink.

Take care,

Rabbi Aaron Tendler