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I don't have the book myself, but I believe it is called To Touch Kindle a Soul, on chinuch. It contains, in the endnotes a reference to a letter written by Rav Moshe Feinstein zt'l, Rav Shach zt'l, and I believe R. Yaakov Kaminetsky zt'l which prohibited television. The Hebrew text was said to be included in the "Laws of Yichud" (by the same author as the nice grey three volume "39 Melachos" work I believe) but this is no longer in print.

Is anybody familiar with the contents and or know how to obtain a copy?

Is it more of a teshuvah or more of a kol koreh (from the book it sounded like it might be a teshuvah with sources etc.)

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I'd seen a sefer on Halacha and technology with the question (from some right-wing circles), can a kosher butcher/shochet still be trusted if it turns out he watches TV? Answer: yes. If he believes in God, doesn't worship idols, and keeps Shabbat and Kashrut, this problem doesn't disqualify his kashrut. –  Shalom Apr 9 '10 at 14:19
The book with the reference is "To Kindle a Soul," by Lawrence Kelemen. The reference is in Note 2 to Chapter 6. You can find the reference by clicking on "Search inside" and searching for Feinstein here: amazon.com/Kindle-Soul-Ancient-Parents-Teachers/dp/1881927199 –  Isaac Moses Apr 9 '10 at 14:26
I once heard that TV is really an acronym for Tohu vaVohu. –  Adam Mosheh Apr 25 '12 at 19:32
From the text of your question it seems that you are interested in this specific book. But your title and the answers to the question seem to address the broader question of television. Which did you intend? And if it was the broader, perhaps you should consider clarifying in the question. –  HodofHod Apr 25 '12 at 20:01
@HodofHod, I'm primarily interesting in published halachic analysis of television by gedolei haposkim rather than hashkafic analysis of the issue and whether the piece published by the three rabbanim is included in the former or the latter. –  Yirmeyahu May 4 '12 at 4:23

6 Answers 6

The Lubavitcher Rebber writes that Television is forbidden because:

  1. It is so immodest, that even non-Jews started campaigning against it.
  2. It incites people to violence. (Watching movies with people killing each other causes one to think about murder).
  3. One will not be able to tell his children to watch only "kosher" material, as they will answer back "but you watch T.V. too".
  4. Who says that the parents will not be affected. Today they will watch kosher shows, and tomorrow they will watch not-kosher shows.
  5. Even if one (and his children) will watch only kosher shows, who says that others won't say that "since this big chossid has a T.V. I can also" (they won't know that he watches only kosher material on tv).

    The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that in the past, people would avoid Churches, and children would be educated not to even look at a cross. Now, with TV, people bring the church into their house.

The Nitei Gavriel writes (in the name of the Shevet Haleivi) that one who has a TV, reads inappropriate newspapers or goes to movies is considered a Porutz with regards to Hilchos Yichud. The Nitei Gavriel says, however, that this categorization applies only to those who grew up knowing the severity of the laws of Tznius. If one grew up among irreligious Jews, he no longer has the law of being a "porutz"

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But if they become a Porutz, do they get a Moshke? –  HodofHod Apr 25 '12 at 20:19
Rabbi Burston was (is?) a teacher in OT. For years he used to tell stories during lunch there, and the tapes have been distributed throughout the world. He has a few signature lines that he uses, one of them being (always at the end of some teshuva story): "and he went into his closet, and he threw out his telev... - I mean his getchkes....". –  HodofHod Apr 26 '12 at 12:51
The source of this is Likutei Sichos vol 18 page 459 (from a talk on Rosh Chodesh Elul Elul of 1954). There, the Rebbe continues after the final point brought here with a story of a Rabbi who would watch the priests' sermons on TV to decide what to talk about in Shul. That seems to be the context of "The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that in the past, people would avoid Churches, and children would be educated not to even look at a cross. Now, with TV, people bring the church into their house." -- referring to the programming, not the TV itself. –  Menachem May 3 '12 at 18:44
I suppose the Netziv is a Parutz then. –  Double AA May 4 '12 at 5:22
@doubleaa Wait, the Netziv had a TV? Or was it that he went to the movies? –  Seth J Jul 9 '12 at 2:00

Rav Moshe held it was assur (forbidden) to go to movies and theaters.

Rav Nebontzol (Rav of the old city of Yerushalayim and Talmid (student) of Rav Shlomo Zalman) writes in his Mishna Brura (B'Yitzchak Yikrah) in chelek 6 in the back (hanhagos v'minhagim number 3) that Television is assur.

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Movies and Theaters are assur because of moshav leitzim, I don't want to go into it but there is basis to draw a distinction between such public events and private ones, and I have seen poskim make such a distinction. –  Yirmeyahu May 4 '12 at 4:20
That show pritzus? Television nowadays is filled with it and that is the problem.movies and theaters have the problem of moshav leitzim and a breach in tznius. A documentary about clown fish for example is not what I am referring to. –  sam May 4 '12 at 6:00
I didn't say I've seen poskim who permit television per se, I said there are sources which I have seen that say it isn't moshav leitzim. Moshav leitzim would be ossur even without pritzus. –  Yirmeyahu May 7 '12 at 22:17

The letter from those Gedolei Yisrael regarding television was received differently by different people. It could be it was meant as a teshuvah but the reality that it was written in is not the reality today so many statements within it need to be taken in context.

That they actually held that the television itself (the actual physical thing) was a toeivah is clear, but only because television's (not the physical television, but the pastime that comes with it) programming was not within the users' control. Their problem was the content shown on it (which is generally speaking even worse nowadays!). The VCR was not yet popular in 1975 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_Cassette_Recorder ) and therefore it was not included in the discussion.

Today we have much more advanced technology and so many more problems and solutions that come with it.

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I have the kuntres Davar Bito which discusses this topic. Some of the issues include:

  1. Not to follow after your eyes.
  2. Not to bring a Toeivah (disgusting thing) into your home.
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אל תשכן באהליך עולה?? –  Double AA May 3 '12 at 18:35

Look in Shaarei Halacha U'Minhag (Kehos) for The Lubavitcher Rebbe's letters on why one cannot have a TV.

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brought here: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/15916/603 –  Menachem May 3 '12 at 18:45
Could you summarize it? We're looking for answers that stand on their own, not just link/point to answers elsewhere. Thanks. (I realize that this answer is quite old.) –  Monica Cellio Sep 28 at 1:58
@MonicaCellio I don't believe Joe will be back to fix this....his account page says he's unregistered, and hasn't been seen since October 2010.... –  Shokhet Sep 28 at 3:25
@MonicaCellio In any event, I think this answer is fine for this question, because the question was about finding a letter, and he found one. –  Shokhet Sep 28 at 3:26
@Shokhet ok, that's a fair point. And I should have checked the poster's activity, oops. –  Monica Cellio Sep 28 at 3:37

When I was in his shiur from 2009-2011, HaRav Mordechai Machlis shlit"a said over a maaseh shehaya about when he was applying to enroll one of his daughters (not sure which one) in a certain haredi seminary. On the application, there was a question about ownership of television in the home of the student. Any girl who lived in a home containing a television set would not be permitted to enroll in the school. However, the Machlis family owned a TV. When the dean of the school questioned Rabbi Machlis about his answer on the application, he asked why a God-fearing Jew could possibly own a television, which brings in the spiritual impurities from the secular world into a Jewish home. Rabbi Machlis responded saying that when Mashiach comes, he wants to be able to experience the entire series of events on live television. Rabbi Machlis thought that is a very religious thing to want. Unfortunately, in the end, his daughter was rejected from the school. I wonder who did the right thing, Rabbi Machlis by admitting that he owned a TV, or the seminary, for rejection of the desire to see biat hamashiach in hi-def resolution (k'ilu bichvodo uv'atzmo)?

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Was the TV hidden in a basement waiting to be taken out, or was it also used before Moshiach's coming? –  Shmuel Brin Apr 25 '12 at 20:53
@ShmuelBrin - He also made it sound like movies would not only be permissible as long as they were appropriate, but even a mitzvah (once in a while). So, apparently before. –  Adam Mosheh Apr 26 '12 at 5:48
a Mitzvah?... –  Shmuel Brin Apr 26 '12 at 6:24
Watching TV leshem shamayim? –  Shmuel Brin Apr 26 '12 at 19:07
Yes, you can learn positive lessons from certain episodes and movies. Also, history and science or things of that sort. News is also helpful for understanding what the world is going through at any given moment. –  Adam Mosheh Apr 26 '12 at 19:24

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