Jun 12, 2008

Interesting Psak by Rav Sherlo: working in pornography

Rav Yuval Sherlo was asked a shailo by the webmaster of a website if he is allowed to continue working there if his work entails uploading immodest material and programs that are not in line with halacha.

Rav Sherlo's response was, as per the posting on the website of his Yeshivat Hesder Petah Tikva, that the situation is a complicated one. "
It involves issues such as; placing a stumbling block before someone, assisting someone in doing an aveira, parnassah, and more.

Rav Sherlo says that he compares uploading material to the Internet is similar to walking in the street, while there is a difference between walking in the street and going to a mixed beach. The comparison is not pure as there is a difference between walking in the street and between uploading inappropriate material to the Internet..

Even though the street is filled with things inappropriate to be looked at, we are not told to not walk in the street. But going to a mixed beach is not allowed. In other words, there is a fine line, a lie that is difficult to delineate, but that line says what is normal behavior for people even if it is not completely approriate, and will hopefully change, but we are part of that, bdieved, and this is what the gemara categorizes as "There is no other way". [Rafi G.: In other words, one cannot avoid walkign in the streets, so it is ok, whereas mixed beaches are not something that is crucial to every day normal behavior and therefore that is something that can be prohibited].

Therefore, if the questioners situation involves uploading pronographic materials to the website, it is definitely prohibited, and the webmaster should resign. But if the situation is only things that are normal, even if not appropriate, then because of his need for parnassah it will be permitted for him to upload the materials and continue working there.

This is similar to responsa previously given regarding people selling women's clothing that might not be appropriate and modest."

When I was still in college, I did an internship with a venture capital company. One of the employees who was training me told me about a similar halachic question he had had. He was a frum guy and was in a position where he was to be investing in a company that dealt, so I understood at the time but he was a bit vague, in pornographic material. He told me when the situation arose, he was uncomfortable with it and he did not know what to do. He asked his rav and was told that he was allowed to proceed with the investment. I do not remember the details of why (maybe he did not tell me).

That does not fit with Rav Sherlo's answer, as he says actual pornography would not be allowed - only things that are considered normal daily activities (perhaps that rav considered it more normal of an activity than does Rav Sherlo? :-) ). This provides some insight into the predicaments some people get in and the halachic complications surrounding them.


  1. Probably because investing in a company doesn't necessarily require much real contact with the goods they produce, whereas when being their webmaster an entirely different level of contact is necessary.

  2. I don't remember the situation exactly, but it was more than just an investment. there was a strong element of management and a level of control involved.

  3. Was it in Chutz Laaretz? I might be wrong but for some reason, i have a "feeling" that it might be a nafka minah if your audience (in the case of the investor) is mostly non jewish rather than Jewish (Rav Sherlow in Israel, I'm guessing).
    Like in the question of selling clothing, I feel it would be much less of a problem selling un-tzniut clothing to non Jews.
    Again, I'm just speculating. No idea.


  4. Life does get complicated.
    As an English teacher picking out the right school book is also a problem. And still I'd be surprised and skip sections.

  5. As Rav Cherlow said: אם מדובר בדברים שהם רגילים ושכיחים ברשת,

    Isn't pornography one of the most popular categories of material on the internet.

  6. A more interesting shayla is can one work for a company that *prevents* such images from being viewed (e.g. filters), but he invariably will see them.

  7. I like anonymous's question.

    That being said, my father has an old funny story about a friend of his who was in the video editing business. He was once offered a lucrative deal to edit pornography films. While looking into the issue he came up with a chidush to solve the problem. He would place several mirrors around the room, one in front of the tv, one reflecting off of that, and a third which he would look into presenting a situation of "מראה שלישי", related to the concept of "kos shlishi", and then it wouldn't be a problem...

  8. anonymous - maybe that would fall into the category halacha calls "erva b'ashashis"...

    whats - maybe the same would apply. I am not so sure that look at morn through a couple of mirrors makes it any better. but if you get a positive answer fro a rabbi on that, let me know...


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