Rabbi: Torah Mandates to Return Phone Calls, Text Messages


israeli-cell-phoneThere is a Jewish religious imperative to return the call of someone who called you and left a message, Rabbi Yisroel Rosen, head of the Zomet Institute and one of the leading rabbis of religious Zionism, decreed. Not doing so constitutes the same behavior as the students of Rabi Akiva, he said, who “did not behave with respect toward each other,” a behavior whose punishment was death by the Ribono Shel Olam.Rabbi Rosen added that in today’s day and age, it is proper also to address text messages, beeper pages and e-mails, but that this merely reflects a higher “level of adherence.”

In an article for his institution’s weekly, Shabbat b’Shivto, Rosen wrote that: “Although this behavior, constant attentiveness, is not a legal requisite, and it is possible to escape from annoying communications, nonetheless, someone who receives a message in an voicemail inbox that instructs others to ‘please leave a message’ must behave respectfully and respond.”

“It is excellent and good manners if he also responds to text messages and e-mails, in which the person leaving a message initiated this action without the receiver willingly having left an open ‘box’, especially if the message contains specific questions or requests,” he specified.

“Additionally, if one should answer any caller whom he knows personally, even if he did not leave a precise request, he is among the high,” said Rabbi Rosen, adding that, “those who respond to all messages, anonymous as they may be, is most righteous.

“There is a mitzvah to ‘answer, respond, grant attention,” Rabbi Rosen wrote, while admitting to and castigating himself for sometimes slipping up in answering all of his messages.

To justify his interpretation, Rabi Rosen turned to the story of the 24,000 talmidim of Rabi Akiva, who died from a plague because they did not behave respectfully toward each other, despite being great talmidei chachomim.

“The wise son will ask: ‘What is the deal? So they ‘didn’t behave respectfully.’ They didn’t hurt someone, loot, slander, rob or destroy.’ And the wicked son will add: ‘So what if they didn’t behave respectfully? Where’s your sense of proportionality? And were laws broken? Does impolite behavior warrant the death penalty?” Rabbi Rosen queried hypothetically before explaining.

According to the Rabbi Rosen, while in today’s culture not returning a message is not a particularly severe behavior, the punishment remains the same because “sometimes it’s possible to hurt your wife, family, neighbor, colleague or someone else by ignoring them, by not speaking, by turning a blind eye or a deaf ear.”

In conclusion, Rosen noted that, in the age of electronic technology, in which “people don’t spontaneously knock on each other’s doors or have random stairwell conversations with friends,” it is important to improve communication using the technology at hand.

{Ynet/Yair Alpert-Matzav.com Israel}


  1. Well said. Kavod haBrios – respect for other people is the basis of society,of self-respect and of all the mitvos bein adam l’chaveroh. We are all b’zelem Elokim. Derech eretz kadmah la”Torah

  2. Excellent! I’ve been saying this for years. Now let’s get a p’sak on consistently using turn signals while driving and changing lanes, making turns, leaving a parking spot to enter traffic, or taking a parking spot. Is not doing so consistently (1) against state law, (2)dangerous [to yourself and others], (3) a lack of kavod ha-b’riyos, and (4) [above all] a major chilul HaShem [even when you don’t hear or see the reaction of others to your stupidity]?


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