In a landmark ruling that is sure to attract attention from the warring attorneys of Apple and Samsung, one of the premier Jewish ultra-Orthodox authorities has made it known that owners of Apple’s iPhone are not merely forbidden from owning the device, but are required by Jewish law to destroy it.
In Israel, as in many other countries, the moniker “iPhone” has come to represent all smartphones. The ruling is the latest volley in an uphill battle that rabbis in the ultra-Orthodox community have in recent years been waging against internet usage — and especially Web-connected phone ownership — in their communities.
In a responsum to a reader published on Sunday in the ultra-Orthodox daily newspaper Yated Ne’eman, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky said that “it is forbidden to be in possession of [an iPhone], and one must burn it”; this despite the fact that the reader, a business-owner, said it was “crucial for [his] dealings.”
And lest a contrite Jewish smartphone owner think to hawk his device on eBay and pocket the cash, Kanievsky also warned that it is forbidden to sell the phone to a non-Jew, “just as it is forbidden to sell a weapon to a non-Jew.”
In May, 60,000 ultra-Orthodox American Jews gathered at the Citi Field baseball stadium in New York, where they were told by leading rabbis that home internet usage was forbidden, and that even those who thought they needed Web access at work should try to avoid using it, as the urge to go online was likely the nagging of the “evil inclination.”