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Which prominent halakhic authorities permit (or forbid) the reading of secular books, magazines, and newspapers from Friday evening until Saturday nightfall? Why? Is it uvda dechol? What if it is an oneg for me to read something that is not inherently Jewish?

(I am not asking for psak, I am just interested in learning all of the opinions on the matter.)

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related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/9936/759 – Double AA Jun 10 '12 at 21:21
The 39 Melachot by R' David Ribiat is perfect for this kind of question. He usually brings all the relevant opinions in his extensive footnotes. – Menachem Jun 11 '12 at 21:14
Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/28910 – msh210 May 22 '13 at 17:46

I will summarize three positions I have read on this.

1. Artscroll

Artscroll has ruled (in Limud Yomi: A Daily Dose of Torah ed. 1 vol. 7) that it is forbidden to read business texts, including advertisements and billboards (p. 91) and newspapers (p. 108); but permitted reading books of secular knowledge (p. 99). They cited no sources except Shulchan Aruch 307:14, who permits reading letters which may contain vital information, and R' Moshe Feinstein (no source), who says this ruling doesn't apply nowadays.

2. Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah

This is the position of Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah (ch. 29): It is forbidden to read letters unless he hasn't previously read them, any business documents (#45); but permits reading newspapers "me'ikar hadin" except not the business sections, and he discourages it anyway (#46), and permits "books of learning" (sounds like Artscroll's "books of secular knowledge") but discourages it again (#47). He permits reading non-business bulletins, but not bulletins of deaths (#48). He quotes sources for everything.

3. Shulchan Aruch

The Shulchan Aruch (307:17) rules that it is forbidden to read anything but Torah on Shabbos, but quotes a "yesh mi shematir" (Ramban and Rashba) to read books of secular knowledge (as above). The Mishnah Brurah there writes that although the practice is to follow the "yesh mi shematir," it is better to be stringent.

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And where did Artscroll get his semicha from? – Double AA Jun 10 '12 at 21:57
It annoys me that they never quote sources, but they might have had a source. – b a Jun 10 '12 at 22:13
@ba Does the book at least have a listed author? – Double AA Jun 11 '12 at 0:35
@AdamMosheh Tircha DeTzibbura. – Double AA Jun 11 '12 at 0:52
@DoubleAA I had assumed that the label "Artscroll" would be enough for you to decide whether you would hold by it; however, I will copy the information: The editor is "R' Yosaif Asher Weiss, Rosh Yeshivas Ohr Hadaas, Staten Island, who is also a distinguished editor of the Schottenstein editions of the Talmud[s] Bavli and Yerushalmi." It says that the halachah sections are from R' Simcha Bunim Cohen (but gives no information). (Book). (@AdamMosheh It seems to me that it is only prohibited when there is a suspicion that it might lead to erasing.) – b a Jun 11 '12 at 1:05

In Ketzos HaShulchan volume 4, R' Avraham Chaim Na'ah (Badai HaShulchan 107:43) brings the ruling of R' Yaakov Emden [Responsa 306 of She'elat Ya'avetz] that reading publications that have in them discussions of business is forbidden on Shabbat.

R' Avraham Chaim Na'ah explains that this refers to even intending to read just the news (which is technically permitted on shabbat, since it is necessary to know what's going on and brings one pleasure to read it - and pains one not to read it) and skipping over the business parts, since it is impossible to make sure you don't read the business parts at all.

[Although he doesn't discuss this explicitly, I think advertisements might fall under the category of business. If so, one couldn't read any publication that had advertisements, since it is impossible not to see them]

Based on this, R' Na'ah originally thought to permit reading publications made by Bnei Torah which don't have business in them at all, but are made to strengthen Torah observance. R' Na'ah concludes however, that one shouldn't even read those publications on Shabbat, since sometimes when one reads them he is pained by the plight of Orthodox Jewry around the world, and it is forbidden to discuss/read about matters that pain you on Shabbat.

R' Na'ah then says that all this is talking about publications that are made by Torah Observant people. Other publications include many things that are forbidden to read even during the week, such as heresy, frivolity, etc. And just like on Shabbat, one can't say he'll only read the "kosher" sections, since it is impossible to limit what you see that way. [makes me wonder what he'd say about the internet]

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