While admittedly close to Purim, this is NOT a Purim Torah. ๐Ÿ˜‚

Pretty much all of us know about emojis, as they're virtually everywhere nowadays. Emojis are increasingly being used as proof in court- an Israeli couple was recently found liable for backing out of an apartment lease based off their emoji usage ๐Ÿ˜ณ.

In light of this, was wondering how emoji would be viewed through the eyes of Halacha. For example:

  • Writing on Shabbos - Writing 2 letters is against the Torah (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Shabbos 11:9 ), if someone wrote 2 emojis would it be considered violating the melachah of writing? โœ๏ธ๐Ÿ™…โ€โ™‚๏ธ

  • Cursing one's parents - this is explicitly prohibited (Leviticus 20:9) if someone were to chalilah v'chas send their parent a middle finger emoji would they be in violation of this commandment? ๐Ÿ‘ด๐Ÿ‘ต

  • Pledging to give Tzedakah- The Shulchan Aruch (YD 258:13) states that if one pledges to give Tzedakah they cannot retract it. Ex: Reuven texts me "Hey can you pledge $18 for me to run the half-marathon?" and I reply with "๐Ÿ‘" ... would that be considered Halachically binding?

  • (I'm sure there are more examples, please share if you think of any!)

Thoughts? ๐Ÿค”

Edit: Saw this article that quotes Rabbi Shlomo Aviner who says that the "praying hands" emoji is "avak avoda zara" (ie the 'whiff' of idol worship) and that G-d fearing Jews not use it. R' Aviner believes the "source [of said emoji] is the ancient idols of the Far East and of Christianity"


As people are too shy to post an answer, I'd dare to.

Linguistically, it appears that all languages stemmed from sign-based languages , such as "Egyptian_hieroglyphs" and developed into "grapheme" based (letters) (see "Writing_system" WIKI). This is clearly pronounced in Hebrew with some words referring (and graphically resembling) to symbols, such as ื‘ for a house, or ืข for an eye, ื• for a hook etc:

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As a consistent communication system, any system of signs is accepted as a language as long as it is practiced and trusted/relied on by some group of people. THe best Gemmorah I know to source this is in Nedorim 10a:

ืžืชื ื™ืณ ื”ืื•ืžืจ (ืœื—ื‘ื™ืจื•) ืงื•ื ื ืงื•ื ื— ืงื•ื ืก ื”ืจื™ ืืœื• ื›ื™ื ื•ื™ื™ืŸ ื•ื›ื•'

MISHNA: In the case of one who says to another that a certain object is konam, konaแธฅ, or konas, these expressions are substitutes for the term offering [korban], and the vow takes effect. etc.

ื’ืžืณ ืื™ืชืžืจ ื›ื™ื ื•ื™ื™ืŸ ืจื‘ื™ ื™ื•ื—ื ืŸ ืืžืจ ืœืฉื•ืŸ ืื•ืžื•ืช ื”ืŸ ืจื‘ื™ ืฉืžืขื•ืŸ ื‘ืŸ ืœืงื™ืฉ ืืžืจ ืœืฉื•ืŸ ืฉื‘ื“ื• ืœื”ื ื—ื›ืžื™ื ืœื”ื™ื•ืช ื ื•ื“ืจ ื‘ื• ื•ื›ืŸ ื”ื•ื ืื•ืžืจ ื‘ื—ื“ืฉ ืืฉืจ ื‘ื“ื ืžืœื‘ื•

GEMARA: It was stated that amoraโ€™im disagreed about substitutes for the language of vows. Rabbi Yoแธฅanan said: They are terms from a language of other nations that mean offering, dedication, naziriteship, or oath. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: These terms employ language that the Sages devised [badu] with which one can take a vow. etc.

Another example is brought by the Gemorrah is signing contracts with pictures, which was very popular and everybody wore a ring with his stamp qualifying as one's signature, for example Rabbi X drew a picture of a ship to signify his signature (source needed)

Therefore, as long as a certain community uses this system and relies on it in their intercommunications, it can be considered a language. And if a person "speaks that language", i.g. belongs to that community and uses that language, it is legally (Halachicly) obligating, even if others don't (just like two Jews talking Chinese in Israel).

  • Pretty sure the thing about the ship is a Gemara toward the end of Avodah Zarah, but I canโ€™t find it right now. Not sure that itโ€™s because people are too shy; more likely they just didnโ€™t come up with an answer.
    – DonielF
    Apr 2 '19 at 1:22

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