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Security Cameras

Category: Shabbat // By Rabbi: הרב הילל מאירס // Answer date: 01.01.2021

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Question:

We live in the 19th quarter in Paris and it is normal for people to have security cameras watch their house all the time. These cameras record everyone walking by and sends the feed to a monitor in the house and it stays in a computer for a few days before being erased. Can we use the cameras on shabbat or are we causing other people to sin when they walk by and their images are recorded by the camera?

Answer:

This Shailah has been discussed at length throughout many of the modern day Poskim. The Shailoh they deal with are the cameras in the Old City of Yerushalayim which record automatically all people passing by and saves the to a disk. Among them R’ Ovadia Yosef Yabia Omer 9:35 Oh, HaRav Elyashiv brought in Orchot Shabbat and HaRav Shmuel Vosner Shevet Halevi 9:9. Similarly Poskim in Chutz Laaretz grapple with the same issues of security cameras like HaRav Moshe Shternbuch , the Revavot Ephraim, and the Beer Moshe.
First I would like to emphasize he Poskim are only discussing cases of possible danger which can be avoided by use of the cameras. Even with all of the reasonings to permit the cameras there are may reasons to forbid them like Uvda D’chol or Psik Reisha etc. However since there ais possible danger involved they found a Heter.
Another point Poskim discuss is what type of camera system is involved. Cameras used to be film cameras and pictures were stored on film. This was a very big problem of Ktiva on Shabbat. If the camera writes the images to hard drive in the computer then erased at different day automatically and between Live feed video cameras which only show the picture on another screen and is not recorded.
In regard to cameras which don’t have a disk there is no Posek who overtly forbids walking in front of a camera as such. There are two reasons to permit it 1) tis not Ktiva-writing which lasts for than a day, 2) At most it is a Psik Reisha D’lo Nicha Leih, an unwanted inevitable outcome, of a rabbinic ordinance which is permitted. Nowadays these cameras are not in wide use except by security systems in buildings with security guards ,but private cameras are saved to disk. However there is room to wonder most of the Teshuvot were discussing cameras written to a physical hard disk but digital cards etc. there is nothing actually imprinted on anything and might not be considered writing at all, but this needs further investigation.
There are those Poskim who do forbid walking in front of a camera which records the images or many days. HaRav Rabinovitch even pointed out that security cameras might be Nicha Lei, a wanted outcome since the fac that the work makes a person feel safer where he is.
However Most Poskim concur that in the place of great need there is room to be lenient. Including R’ Elyashiv, R’ Shternbuch , R’ Ovadia who says that R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach agreed as well to these lines of reasoning. 1) The Chatam Sofer writes that any Melacha done automatically even if that is how it works is only Grama. 2) The Rashba says that by an unintentional act, we only forbid it is when there is a direct action and reaction , not if there is no physical connection to the Melacha. 3) May Poskim are of the opinion that writing to a disk is only Derabbanan. Rav Elyashiv says it’s not the normal way to write to walk past something.
In conclusion: If there is no pressing need for you to have your cameras on then don’t . If it is needed then there is room to be lenient to even walk in front of them.

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