Apr 30, 2009

Interesting Psak: Returning Calls

Rav Yisrael Rosen, the head of the Tzomet Insititute - a wonderful organization of Rabbis doing great work - has said that someone who does not return a phone call is deservant of death from Heaven.

The background is that during the days of Sefirat Ha'Omer, when we mourn the students of Rabbi Akiva who died because they did not treat each other with proper respect, this is a lesson we need to elarn. If someone leaves a message on your answering machine and you do not return the call, especially when you said "Leave a message after the beep!", you are treating them with a lack of respect, and we see from the story of Rabbi Akiva that the punishment for this is death from Heaven.

Rabbi Rosen also equates this with responding to sms and to emails, and even says anonymous emails (and I guess comments on blogs) should be responded too as well.

Rabbi Rosen points out the absurdity of the situation that nowadays, when forms of communication have become so abundant and easy, is when we have growing estrangement between people.

It looks like I have to figure out how to disable the voicemail on my phone!

(source: Ynet and Machon Tzomet)


  1. Ridiculous...
    Why do I HAVE to answer every voicemail and email? If there is something the other party should be aware of, I'll let them know. I don't think not returning messages shows a lack of respect, and I don't think a lack of respect deserves the death penalty.

  2. Not so simple at all. The other side of the coin is that when it's so easy to send a text message or an email, people don't think enough before they hit send and it is often the sender who is guilty of lack of respect for the recipient's time, privacy etc.

  3. That is very interesting, I think it's common decency to return phone calls and such. Although if I don't recognize a phone number on my cell then I wait for them to leave a message and see what it's about. if they don't leave a message then I don't return the call. Because I get calls forwarded to my phone from my house phone number, so if I don't recognize the number I assume it's somebody calling my house and not me.

    I used to be better at replying to e-mails, but now I have e-mails sitting in my inbox for months waiting for me to get back to it, but for some reason I don't feel up to replying.

    With comments I also sometimes take a while to reply, but at the end I reply to every person who leaves me a comment, to acknowledge what they said.

  4. From Ginzei Chaim 20, (Rabbi chaim Palagi):

    "Derech eretz kodma l'torah….Therefore, one who has received a letter from a friend should respond immediately as there are a number of prohibitions which one may violate by not responding in a timely manner. Responding to a correspondence is basic derech eretz, and causing one to long for a response has the potential to cause that person long term health concerns… It may just be that one's reply has the ability to lead to having a mitzva performed… Not responding causes the one who sent the letter great pain waiting for his needs to be addressed. It is also cruel and a sign of arrogance. He who judges the world will pay back such people midda k'neged midda. I myself have sent letters to many prominent people, and those who did not answer my letters fell to unfortunate circumstance."


  5. I find this interesting when we now live in an age where there is e-mail bankruptcy.

    In general, I think if someone asks for information on the list, they should have the courtesy to acknowledge that someone has tried to help. This is true even if the information is no longer relevant.

  6. this is not so simple. normally i do try to return phone calls and e-mails as soon as possible. however, i have enough self-esteem not to take it personally if someone does not return a phone call or email as promptly as i would like them to. i am a sensitive person, but people really have to try not to be so self-centered as to think " i sent so and so a message and HOW DARE they not reply. i think that this scenario is the bigger problem. perhaps the recipient didnt actually get the message in the first place. perhaps the recipient has been having it tough at work and cant respond quickly or at all to YOUR message? and they might not tell you this later. hevai dan es kol adam lecaf techut. give everyone the benfit of the doubt before all of self righteous retoric.

  7. These kind of decisions exist only to supply news items to blogs! C'mon R, U can do better.

  8. Myabe R' Akiva's students were sick of spam and telemarketing calls?


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