Is Surveillance Recording Prohibited On The Sabbath For Orthodox Jews?

Question is actually:

Is Surveillence Recording Prohibited On The Sabbath For Orthodox Jews?

Serious question.

Many 'normal' activities for Orthodox Jews are restricted on the Sabbath, i.e., from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. In addition, in certain cases one can not even begin a process before Sabbath that will continue thru Sabbath, even if it is not administered to during the interval. The most famous case of this is that it is prohibited to leave an oven on during Sabbath (so as to have warm food ready after fasting), even if you don't check it the whole time. (This is what I believe is the 'law', please correct). Many otherwise standard devices have been outfitted with special Sabbath modes, maybe DVR's are next.

Anyone who has tried to order from B&H's website during Sabbath will find that although search works, adding an order brings up a message saying you have to wait til after sundown Saturday to order. Whether the distinction is made because of reading vs. writing, or something else, I would be curious to know.

Finally, in trying to find 'precedent', I stumbled upon this Yeshiva link regarding unattended recording (non-cctv) on the Sabbath, which seems to take a negative view of such activities. Regardless of your opinion of such restrictions, customer facing people will do well to have at a cursory understanding of possible restrictions, (automatic doors?), that some customers may have.

Lest anyone think this is Ari-bait, of course it is, but I would think that there would be a few others that have had some issues, if not with cameras, then with access control devices, due to Sabbath laws. Anybody?


I was involved in a cctv system design that had to factor this in. As I recall the system could not provide any electronic assistance or feedback (including blinken lights or alerts) during Sabbath, but could otherwise continue in operation during that time.

Disclaimer: I am not a rabbi.

Opinions differ, of course. Some forbid it, some permit it. Some forbid motion based recording but permit constant recording.

Access control and burglar alarms are difficult as well. Many permit PIRs (with the LEDs removed) but forbid magnetic contacts on the Sabbath.

And you can keep an oven on during the Sabbat, you just can't turn it on or off or change the tempurature. Most ovens have a safety feature that turns it off after four hours or so. Sabbath mode is an override that extends the automatic shut-off to 12 hours, so you can leave food in the oven on low heat and eat it for lunch and it's still hot.

And you can keep an oven on during the Sabbat, you just can't turn it on or off or change the tempurature.

Right, my bad, although the food has to be fully cooked before sundown, I think?

Some forbid motion based recording but permit constant recording.

I was about to make a mild statement of disbelief about limiting security functions, but I just read that apparently you can't use a fire extinguisher to put out a fire on Sabbat unless lives are at stake, so I'm actually speechless....

Ok, I'm back... So do technical rabbis actually evaluate VMSes and things and then issue rulings on whether their use is approved? ("We do not approve of Milestone's server side motion detection.")

These 'authorizers' sound a lot like your kashrut certifying agencies from the other day, no?

If so maybe you were on to something, if they just add the ONVIF spec to Leviticus they could certify the whole shebang at once, doing everyone a favor!

Well, you aren't allowed to flip a switch and turn on the light. But there's lots of ways to turn on a light. You could be yawning and stretching your arms and hit a light switch (allowed retroactively), or accidentally-on-purpose hit a light switch, oops, may as well enjoy my lights (not allowed), indirectly cause the light switch to be turned on (by throwing something at it, say- you didn't flip the switch but you did something that would inevitably cause the switch to be flipped, which is not allowed).

Those who consider constant recording permissible but motion based recording forbiden figure that walking in front of the camera while motion is enabled is doing an action that will certainly lead to a forbidden action to happen that you will be benefitting from. Of course, MPEG and H.264 compresses based on motion, too, but this type of compression was ruled to be insignificant as far as the rules of Sabbath goes.

And technically, you cannot put out a fire unless the fire is a danger to humans, but in actual practice you can't really predict wether or not the fire is going to spread and become a danger to humans any second now, and thus you are allowed (required, in fact) to call the fire department or put it out yourself if necessary.

And, yes, there are technical rabbis who rule on issues like this. And since there isn't a centralized religious authority in Judaism, there are a variety of competing rulings and different communities just follow their own leaders on different issues.

Lasty, if John decides this topic is getting out of hand, my personal email address can be found on my LinkedIn profile.

"If John decides this topic is getting out of hand, my personal email address can be found on my LinkedIn profile."

This discussion is fine.

Typically when I have objections is when a discussion on topic A gets sidetracked on unrelated topic B. For example, if we are having a discussion on airplane surveillance and then it gets diverted into Talmudic law, or vice versa...