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Let's take as a given that it is forbidden to turn a television on or off or otherwise use electricity on Shabbat. Let's also ignore the whole issue of watching TV in the first place. We can also assume that you are not allowed to (or wouldn't want to) leave the volume on.

May one turn a television on before Shabbat, mute the sound, and watch it on Shabbat? Sources or solid arguments only.

  • well using captions would be assur, and there is a machlokes between the Rambam and Ramban(Rashba) if one can read sifrei chochma. so the question should be narrowed down a bit,since watching a cartoon should certainly be a problem. – sam Nov 26 '15 at 4:01
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    @Sam And according to those who allow one to read newspapers on Shabbat for enjoyment? – LN6595 Nov 26 '15 at 4:06
  • The newspapers back in the day incorporated news and advertisements, I think that watching a cartoon or football game might be different, anyways many achronim opposed such a practice see MB – sam Nov 26 '15 at 4:14
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    @LN6595 I have a feeling that you're not looking this (based on how I understand your caveat of 'solid arguments only'), but the answer simply is it's not (to use the colloquial term) 'Shabbosdik' to watch TV on Shabbat. I know a lot of people don't like this, but something being not appropriate for Shabbat means that it could actually be forbidden to be don on Shabbat (the classification is known as Uvdin D'Chol, see this article for a bit more on the subject: chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/484238/jewish/… ). – Salmononius2 Nov 26 '15 at 4:33
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    Apparently r'Soloveitchik's answer to this question was something like "Shabbos with the TV isn't not Shabbos, but it isn't Shabbos either." Good luck finding someone who puts a finer point on it. – SAH Nov 26 '15 at 9:33
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Rabbi Blass answered this question saying "It is forbidden to watch television, educational or otherwise, on Shabbat because of prohibitions relating to Shabbat. On other days, you have to apply self-censorship to what you watch (including commercials) and not spend quality time that could otherwise be dedicated to Torah study or good works."

Rav Eli Mansour writes, "It is, of course, strictly forbidden to watch television on Shabbat (and even during the week the propriety of watching television is certainly questionable), even if one sets the television on a timer before Shabbat, as watching television is not at all in the spirit of the day." Seemingly, Rav Mansour would say the same issue of "spirit of shabbos" whether it was on a timer or just started before shabbos. Rabbi Hassan echoes the same issue here.

It seems the poskim discussing the question online generally point to a muted TV station turned on before shabbos as being a problem of spirit of shabbos.

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