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The Cell

The cellular phone is a very important invention but is often misused. Since Rabbi Yosef Karo didn't live in the age of the cell I will take the liberty of adding halachos pertaining to this contraption.


1] Don't answer your phone while conversing with someone. It is rude. It shows the other person that he is not very important to you. Now he must wait idly while you finish your conversation.

2] DEFINITELY don't answer the phone while on a date. It is doubly rude.

3] Don't answer the phone while learning or davening. G-d is not calling you. Nobody on the phone could be more important than what you are doing at the present moment.

4] Don't answer the phone while someone is giving a speech or shiur. A persons phone goes off and he answers and starts talking while the everyone notices and is distracted from listening to the shiur. I have witnessed this countless times [not only during my own shiurim] and am constantly amazed by the level of insensitivity displayed by such people.

5] Turn it off during a chuppah. Let the couple get married in peace. Also during a funeral. Yes, many people speak on their cell phones during funerals.

6] Use it only when necessary. Own your phone but don't let your phone own you.

7] Many people have told me that they WISH that they didn't carry a phone around! Who is forcing you?!

8] There are exceptions to these rules.


I would love to hear differing opinions or additions to this list.

an expansion of seif alef: turn it off when you or your spouse and children come home! They are the most important people in your life and deserve your undivided attention for at least a half hour after walking through the door.
seif 10: a little tznius while you're using it. don't walk down the street loudly gabbing about your latest medical test or last night's argument with your spouse.
seif 11: no ringers that annoy people, or draw unnecessary attention to oneself!
seif 12: safety is a mitzvah too- don't talk on the phone while driving!
i heard you can now get a phone with a hechsher. i'm still waiting for them to invent a mobile that shuts off the minute it detects lashon hara...

Rav Moshe Wolfson says he does not think a person who has a cell phone can say the Bracha Shelo Asani Aved in the Morning. Also is it possibile to get The Tolner's shiurim on Sefira. The question you had on the Rambam's Halacha that the Cohen Godol must stay in Yerushlayim Rav Avrahom Shore son Of the Ohr Gedalyahu in his Sefer Halekeach Vihalibuv has an amazing answer in Parshas Kedoshim(This weeks Parsha) I suggest You check it out its available on Rechov Meah sharim in the big Seforim store I forget the name.Its in one of the older ones

re: seif 3. i have an issue..
we know there are specific halachoth about interrupting certain places in the tefillah out of yirah or kavod..

i've been looking for a while to see if i could find any halachoth about interrupting out of ahavah. (I was told that there was such an inyan mentioned in tosfot somewhere, but i'm still waiting for someone to get back to me with the source.. i didn't find anything in my searches, though i only searched what was available to me, the Shulchan Aruch (and commentaries printed inside) and the Tur.(ditto))

for example, if my wife calls me in the middle of tefillah or limud or the middle of a conversation I will answer the phone. (If it is in a conversation i will make an apology and tell them i will get back in touch with them later) (in the case of shemonah esrei i will make a judgement call about how serious the conversation is---unless i think it's an emergency, i'll just call her back when i'm done.. if i have a serious safek i will finish as quickly as i can with as much kavannah as i can. -- on the issue of worrying about an emergency i'm torn because it gets into the realm of emunah)

Similarly if my son is crying and I'm in the middle of learning or praying and my wife can't take care of him at the moment, then i will interrupt to comfort him. (There is even a story about the Baal HaTanya chastising his son over meditating and ignoring the calls of his grandson.)

To my understanding, how can I expect HaShem to take me seriously and listen to me, give me the attention i need, if I don't listen and give attention to those that need me?

ps. now that i think about it, the last time i spoke with you in person i interrupted our conversation because my wife was calling me, i hope i explained the situation and didn't offend you..if i did, i hope you forgive me, and i will endeavor to remember to ask you in person the next time i see you.

Rav Elchanon- what about using your blackberry and reading your emails during chazaras Hashatz or sending a text message? It's unbelievable to me that people do that.
And Yitz- would you answer your wife's call during a business interview or an important business meeting? I would assume not. In addition, answering the phone during davening disrupts everyone around you.
I was in a yeshiva during yom tov where they give a $50 stipend to all those that agree not to have a cell phone in the beis medrash. If they sign up and then are michsho, they have to pay the $ back and a $10 kenas.

@eytan feldman,

sorry for the confusion, I was referring to the inyan of interrupting your conversation with HaShem, clearly it's a different story in a minyan. In the past I have left the room (slowly making as little impact as possible) before calling my wife back on the rare occasion that she called me during shaharit, minha and arvit fall into a different category as i said i'm less likely to answer if in the middle of shemoneh esrei, and minha and arvit are almost exclusively the amidah.

as to during a business meeting or interview, i tend to excuse myself, answer if it's my wife, and inform her that i'll call her back as soon as i'm out of the interview/meeting. it happens all the time with meetings, and i can think of once for certain that it happened at an interview. Since my wife is more important than our parnasa of course she comes first in such matters.

when it will interfere in a large meeting for me to answer the phone i either text her discreetly to tell her that i'm in a meeting, or if it can't be discreet, i will get up and leave the room and call/text her back.

I have texted from minyan to tell her where i am on occasion, i understand your complaint, but the act of texting shouldn't bother someone else at all, and if it does, then why not judge the other person favorably, and assume it's important? In general we need more ahavah and less din when dealing with our fellow Jew.

checking the sports scores? if you know better, don't do it, and if you don't know better, then i'll be happy that you're in shul checking sports, rather than attending the sports event instead of shul.

I try to be careful about not dressing nicer for a meetings/interviews than i would for shabbath and things like that, so i try (HaShem please help!!) to have the right priorities.

The only caveat is that i'm in israel, so perhaps it's more acceptable and less looked down upon in business settings that i answer my phone under the stated circumstances. I do have my phone on silent+vibrate at all times, (which is a pain when i lose it somewhere and can't call it to find it) because having the phone ring is annoying to me and to others. So i never have to worry about it perhaps going off during learning/tefillah/meetings and bothering others.

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This comment has been removed by the author.

sorry about the removed posts... i was having some technical issues
i think that ppl check email and text message b/c they know that one cant talk during daveing. however, they feel the reason is b/c it will disturb other people. while this is true, the main reason is b/c we are having a conversation with Hashem and its rude to do other things. (This is why the shulchan aruch says that talking during davening is a grave sin--- not b/c u r being disrespectful to your friend, but rather to hashem .... and one can assume that talking and texting are the same)
2 points--
1)i was in a very 'chashuv' shul in New jersey. Not only did they have a sign banning cell phones with little cell phones pictures on it.. they also had blackberry's, laptops and ipods. again b/c the issue isnt limited to talking.
2) Another shul in Jersey imposed a 25$ fine (tzedakah) to anyone whose cell phone went off. in fact, the rabbi had signs hanging from the ceiling that were intened to litterly hit ppl in the face to remind them to shut off their phones during shul.

Tonight I was learning w/ a chavrusa and I had a hand on his chair. All of the sudden the chair started to vibrate. I told him that someone is calling him. Then it vibrated again.

I wish my chavrusas wouldn't have their phones with them [or on] when we learn. It is REALLY distracting!

Thanks for the input.

Yitz - I have no recollection. But I do hope we meet again soon because I like you.

R' Yossi my friend - you can email tolna@neto.bezeqint.net and purchase cds with the Rebbes shiurim and also get a weekly printing of the shmues.


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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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