1 Tammuz 5764
Movies: 3 Weeks & Year Round
Rabbi Aharon Tendler
Question #1: Is it Assur to see movies in theaters during the Omer and the Three Weeks?
Thanks for your question. Believe it or not- your seemingly simple question is actually quite a “loaded question”, and not one that I can give a simple Halachic response to. You’ve put me in a position where no matter what I answer it will imply that it is OK to go to theatres and watch movies- which is definitely not simple at all. If I say it is Ossur during this time, that will imply that it is permitted during the rest of the year. If I say that it is permitted during Sefirah and the Three Weeks- then this will certainly be saying that it is permitted the rest of the year! What I WILL say is that whatever is permitted during the year, is also permitted during Sefirah and the Three Weeks- except for the musical sections of the musicals. Background music does not present a problem. Additionally, I should add that although Halachically it may be permitted, a person who truly wishes to feel the Aveilus of Sefirah and the Three Weeks would avoid watching movies during this time, as it distracts from the feeling of loss. Now- regarding whether or not it is permitted to watch movies (even at home) or go to theatres, I’m pasting here two other responses that I have given to others on this topic which I hope you will find helpful.
What is the issue with Frum Jews and and the general custom of not going to movies? For men, is the reason wasting time from learning Ttorah or in general not being involved in something that may be a bad influence?
Thank you very much for your question. Obviously, there is no prohibition on all movies per se. There are many documentaries that have been produced that are very worthwhile. I assume that your question is regarding most Hollywood produced entertainment type movies. Both of the reasons that you mention are correct. For a Ben Torah who could spend his time learning, not to do so and spend that time watching movies is most definitely wasting time from learning Torah, which is a very egregious sin. However, even for someone who would not spend that time learning Torah and might go to a baseball game instead (just as an example) it is forbidden because of the fact that generally speaking these movies (unless rated G) have scenes in them that involve things that are detrimental to a person’s spirituality and prevent him from properly serving Hashem. Additionally, it is forbidden for a man to gaze at a woman that is immodestly dressed, or even to put himself in a position that he may see such a sight. Therefore, it is most definitely not recommended by Halacha that a man watch the typical Hollywood movie for entertainment.
I would like to add that the image of life that is generally portrayed on the screen is generally false, and creates the impression that these actors and stars are happy, when they really lead very depraved and unhappy lives. They also portray issues such as relationships between males and females in an unrealistic and false manner. This creates a certain image in the minds of men (and women, but I think that this affects men more than women) as to how their spouses should look, act, etc., and creates Sholom Bayis problems. The allowing of these secular, false, values into our homes is a major contributing factor to the breakdown of the Jewish family that we are unfortunately witnessing today. This applies not only to movies, but also to TV, novels, and magazines. The Torah teaches us (Shemos 23:7) “Midvar Sheker Tirchak!” – we must distance ourselves from anything false. This means not only not to speak falsehoods, but to also distance ourselves from seeing and hearing things that are false, and such movies are most definitely included in this. I hope that this has been helpful.
I have been told (with many sources in gemora,etc.) that it is assur to go to batei tiatron because of moshav leitzim or because of avodah zara.I was also told that Rav Moshe explicitly prohibits stadiums and theaters.
I understand all of this but i wonder if this means baseball stadiums in our days or is it just movie theaters? Is it broadway theaters as well? How far does this go???In all of the above, Jews are getting together with Gentiles in a place designated for entertainment so it doesn’t seem like there should be a difference???Is there anything the Rav can tell me about this? Thank you very much.
Thank you for your excellent question. Assuming that you refer to theatres and stadiums where there is no Pritzus (we’ve just excluded all theatres and football games- and many baseball games), there is a separate Halacha that we aren’t permitted to have fun and be entertained in a manner in which non-Jews entertain themselves- Zecher L’Churban. Please see the Kitzur Shulchan Oruch, 127:4. This includes circuses, Broadway theatres (which anyway are Ossur because of Pritzus), etc. However, although this is something you should personally accept upon yourself if you are able, you should only publicize to people who you think are able to abide by this, based on the principle of “Mutav Sheyihu Shoggegin V’Al Yeyu Meizidin”- it’s better that they should transgress this Issur without being aware of it then transgress it when they are aware of it.
Rabbi Aaron Tendler