Erasing Torah from computer software or screens
Yoel Strimling of St. Louis wrote:
Is one allowed halachically to delete e-mail that includes Divrei Torah [Words of Torah]? Can one rely on the fact that since is has no physical being, it is not the same as a piece of paper that has [Words of] Torah written on it?
Also, Shammai Linsky of Brooklyn wrote:
What is the halacha concerning Torah which is stored on devices such as disk drives, etc.? Is it permissible to erase at will?
Dear Yoel and Shammai,
The Talmud lists seven names of G-d that may not, under any circumstances be erased -- even if a scribe makes an error when writing a Sefer Torah. The Shulchan Aruch states that even *one letter* from these names may not be erased. Other Kitvei Kodesh [Holy Writings] have less stringent rules, but are generally forbidden to erase.
An apparently similar question was posed to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zt'l, regarding erasing blessings and Torah from audio cassettes. He wrote that since the words are not stored in the form of 'letters', he can find no clear prohibition against 'erasing' them. One might reason, however, that 'letters' are in fact present on a computer monitor.
On the other hand, the letters are not directly written by human hand, and in fact are not written at all in the conventional sense. They are not a continuous form; rather they are comprised of flashing pixels of light as the screen is "refreshed" many times per second.
We presented these questions about erasing and deleting Divrei Torah from computer screens and software to Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita. He ruled it is permitted to erase them and delete them in the normal manner.
- Talmud - Tractate Shavuot, page 35a.
- Shulchan Aruch - Yoreh Deah 276:9.
- Pitchei Teshuva - Yoreh Deah 283, note Bet.