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If I see a neighbors inappropriate mail, am I allowed to throw it out?

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    Shimon Katz, Welcome to mi.yodeya, and thanks very much for the interesting question! Please consider clicking on register, above, to create your account. This will give you access to all of mi.yodeya's features, and will allow you to take full credit for your contributions.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jun 16, 2010 at 1:44
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    If you have been reading his mail, you are in violation of a takkana rabbeinu gershom, no matter what kind of smut he is receiving. Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 20:49
  • @AqibhaY.WeisingerEtc It's very possible that takkanah is expired.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 21:55
  • @DoubleAA can you site a source for that? From what I understand even if it may have 'technically' expired (not sure it has) the force of the takkanah is still in place because it was accepted by the general population
    – none
    Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 21:57
  • @AqibhaY.WeisingerEtc, it is as probable as not that one can tell it is inappropriate without opening it, or if it has been delivered to you by mistake it is likely that you may open it without noticing the error.
    – Yirmeyahu
    Commented Jan 20, 2013 at 5:40

1 Answer 1

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I think there are a few different scenarios here:

  • Shmerel looks into his neighbor Berel's mailbox, and sees something inappropriate.

Mind your own business. Messing with his mailbox is a federal crime. Dina d'malchusa dina.

R' Moshe Feinstein once dealt with a fellow who would seize people's (totally appropriate) stuff and demand they give tzedaka before he'd give it back. The question was whether the guy was sane.

  • Due to a postal error, Shmerel receives a piece of inappropriate mail, addressed to his neighbor Berel.

That's a tougher question; are you actively facilitating a sin by now delivering it to Berel? My gut reaction is neither to throw it out, nor to deliver it yourself. Mark it "WRONG ADDRESSEE" and let the post office figure it out.

There may certainly be cases where it's advisable or even required to offer constructive criticism to Berel, but that's a complicated topic, and may depend on how Berel will receive the criticism.

  • A yeshiva has a policy of screening all incoming student mail

This one has been addressed in the literature. I know Rabbi Frand has a tape on the subject. If you enter the yeshiva on its terms, and the halachic prohibition on reading others' mail (formalized by Rabbeinu Gershom) is intended for the individual's wellbeing, but in this case the yeshiva is certain that he's better off not receiving this mailing, that's a different story.

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    I think I saw this question once in the context of of Is a son allowed to take away his fathers cigarettes? Commented Jun 15, 2010 at 22:56
  • Related, but not necessarily the same. Do we distinguish between in-the-family and a neighbor? With mail, that's a federal crime? Between physical and spiritual harm?
    – Shalom
    Commented Jun 17, 2010 at 7:25
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    A yeshiva has a policy of screening all incoming student mail Some religious institutions (I don't know anything about yeshivas, specifically) can be intrusive without acknowledging it anywhere, so the student has not agreed to have zir post screened, and does not know it is being screened. Does that make a difference?
    – TRiG
    Commented Jul 9, 2012 at 16:03

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