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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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< Q7.14 TOC Q7.16 >

Question 7.15:
Can an observant Jew use a camera on Shabbat?


A camera may not be used on Shabbat or holidays. Creating the photographic image would raise problems with two of the 39 categories of melechah prohibited on Shabbat: coloring/dying, and writing/drawing. Additionally, most cameras use electronics, which heat up filaments and a flashbulb (cooking or kindling), motors spark internally (kindling), closing a circuit is completing it (a "final hammer blow", as the concept is called in the Talmud). Lastly, posing for the picture intentionally raises the issues of coloring or drawing. So, if the picture is for your benefit you can't intentionally walk into the field in front of the lens.

Anything a Jew can't do for himself, he can't ask a non-Jew to do for him; however, he can enjoy it if a non-Jew did it for him without his asking. There are exceptions, such as for communal need (such as the synagogue janitor), or to prevent massive loss. How does this apply to taking a picture? Consider a security camera. One doesn't gain by having your own picture taken in such a case, and such pictures serve to prevent massive loss. After all, the camera doesn't protect you from yourself. Thus, walking by an apartment building's security camera is permissable (in nearly all contemporary Orthoodox opinions).

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

[Got Questions?]Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at

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