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"


1 Answer 1


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
    Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 1:22

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