Can you leave your computer with video chat on (to another person) on over shabbos? And what if there's also audio?

For example a relative in the hospital, relatives that in a far away country, or just on in general.

This is all under the assumption that you will not touch the computer or camera.

  • Similar: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/73006 – msh210 Jun 14 '16 at 13:07
  • IMHO, it comes down to "מראית עין" - "seems not fit", not even עובדין דחול. For those who oppose R' Elyashiv's prohibition of being digitally recorded on Shabbos (my Rabbi Z"L included) there could be only indirect problems. As with Shabbos clock that was widely criticized at first and then became a commodity, same with other technologies that fall under "מראית עין". – Al Berko Oct 16 '19 at 7:38

The answer to Can one run a surveillance Camera on Shabbos? quotes Dose of Halacha as saying, with regards to being photographed by a surveillance camera:

R’ Moshe Feinstein (in a letter to R’ Yisroel Rozen of the Tzomet Institute) wrote that as the data is not being permanently recorded, it is at worst a derabanan. Although the cameras operate for security purposes, the passerby does not benefit from being photographed. One only benefits from the system when there’s an unwelcome intruder. Thus, one may walk in front of a camera on Shabbos as this is a case of pesik reisha delo nicha lei (see Shulchan Aruch OC 320:18) which is permitted in a rabbinic prohibition. Likewise, one may operate a surveillance camera. R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Ateres Shlomo 6, p57) concurs.

In the passage i bolded, we see that the reason Rav Moshe allowed it is that it is a psik reisha d'lo neicha lei -- an unavoidable melacha that he does not benefit from.

This is not the case by a video chat. Here, the person being videoed definitely does benefit from it -- that's the whole point of leaving it on. Hence, it must be a case of psik reisha d'neicha lei (an unavoidable melacha whose outcome is favorable to him) which is forbidden.


You may want to view these other discussions:

Why do music tapes and CDs warn about playing on Shabbos?

Am I allowed to view a Kotel Cam on Shabbos?

In terms of an answer: It seems to me that this would be the same as viewing television on Shabbat, being not in the spirit of Shabbat, even when left on. However, I wonder if it falls under medical necessity in terms of hooking up to someone in the hospital. I would extend the question further to: is it okay to video chat with a Doctor on shabbat, in the event of an emergency. Does this break fewer laws than answering the phone, if the entire computer and video chat are connected before Shabbat?

  • 2
    I strongly suspect that being video/audiotaped on Shabbat, on purpose, is a bigger deal than watching TV on Shabbat. – Isaac Moses Dec 12 '11 at 18:06
  • I would expect the same considerations that inform the TV question to factor in, but there are (at least) two key differences. First, you're being recorded (unlike TV), which suggests more stringency. Second, it's interactive, which -- in a case of medical necessity -- could be more lenient. (How it compares to the phone, though, I don't know.) – Monica Cellio Dec 12 '11 at 18:46

This seems that it would be asur (Yalkut Yosef Kitzur S"A 318:51-53). A paraphrase:

יש ללמד לא להכניס לתוך סרט וידיאו לפני שבת עבור המכשיר לעבודה על ידי קוצב זמן.‏

It is [proper] to teach to not put a movie into a vcr before shabbat and for the device to work by a timer.

  • Does this, perhaps, have to do with the fact that the VCR is turning on on Shabas? – msh210 Dec 12 '11 at 17:43
  • Yes, that is one reason, however in the Rav writes (Y"Y KS"A 318:37) there is an additional reason of "zilzul beshabbat kodesh." – Hacham Gabriel Dec 12 '11 at 18:05
  • How is it connected to video chat? – Al Berko Oct 16 '19 at 7:26

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