Thursday, January 09, 2014

A 21st century responsum - the Shabbos Blettel asks if it is permitted to lie on a school's internet questionnaire

One of the more interesting, creative works I've seen in the past couple of years is the Shabbos Blettel, which is an incredible (mostly) Yiddish periodical published online.

After a hiatus, there is a new issue (#11) and it contains the following responsum concerning the question of whether or not it is permitted to lie on a Chareidi school's questionnaire about technology use. These invasive questionnaires are increasingly standard, requiring parents to respond. But with only one kind of answer acceptable, parents who own devices such as smartphones generally feel compelled to answer untruthfully, or invite scrutiny that they do not need. Currently, these questionnaires mostly rely on some form of the honor system (with caveats). So, is it permissible to lie?

Here is the responsum:

Here is a link to a pdf of this responsum: link

And to the entire issue: link


  1. Isn't it a little early for Purim Torah? What else are we to think of a teshuvah that condones lying in order to achieve a Torah education, compares the inquisitive "mosdos chinuch" to evil government officials that have to be tricked, and assures us that in any case, some say that "a written lie is not asur"? It would have been more honest and forthright, if far less funny, if the responder had followed up his admirable rejection of a complete ban on Internet use by simply condemning these schools for intruding into people's private affairs, and by advising the questioner to send his or her children to a school that does not force parents to lie.

  2. The responsum assumes that all schools in the area demand to fill out these questioners. See it as a teshuva to a person living in Chasidic enclaves as Williamsburg or Boro Park.

  3. You know, it's not often that something yells "I'm full of crap" as loudly as this. Because of course there's no difference between having anonymous, private access to all the filth in the world and walking down a street and passing a brothel. Clearly, anyone who can pass a brothel and not walk in can open up Explorer and not look at porn. Yes.

    The only question is: are they so stupid that they don't see the difference, or are they so obsessed that they can't hear it? Of course, the third option is that they don't give a damn, much like they might not actually give a damn about other things.

    Anyone who's going to have a house with an Internet connection that has neither safeguards nor filters for at least the children, not to mention the adults, is not someone I, personally, want sitting next to me at PTA. Whether or not it's right to actually deny those kids a place in school is a longer discussion, and one where I'm out of my ken, but only a fool would ignore the both the incredible ease and frightening range of access that the Internet provides.

    It is true that the Internet is just a tool. So are guns. Would you keep either in your house without the necessary precautions?

  4. Exactly. There is a reason this is in Shabbos Blettel and not Tradition. Dan, you and I don't know what it's like to be squeezed. So I don't judge.

  5. Well, the fact is that you do sit next to these people at PTA.

  6. I'm certainly not judging the parents. It's just too bad that no one else in these communities is willing or able to end the insanity. And the hypocrisy -- note that the teshuvah assumes that no one really expects the truth on these questionnaires anyway.

  7. When i registered my daughter to her school, they didn't ask us all those questions. When i asked the principal : "why?". He answered because people lie and i don't want to put a person in a situation where he's going to lie, so i don't ask. Immediately i loved this principal.

  8. This sounds suspiciously like its by the same anonymous teshuva writer who condoned masturbation and homosexual sex. Uses very similar sources, and has no intellectual honesty.



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