Calling 311 And Its Halachic Ties


Originally posted on WIS on Nov 9th, 2008

[VIN] It is known as the Citizen’s Service Center in the halls of New York City government. It is a quick and anonymous way to report anyone who is ostensibly doing something illegal. Is someone running an illegal business next door to you? No problem. Dial 311. The problem is that, from a Torah perspective dialing these three harmless-looking digits can also be an instant way in which to lose one’s Olam HaBah [See Shulchan Aruch Choshain Mishpat 388:9].

Indeed the Gemorah in Rosh HaShana describes the horrifying Gehenam-filled fate of someone who engages in Mesirah. The Shach (Yore Deah 388:53) cites a number of authorities (Tosfos and Hagaos Ashri) that someone who actually converted to another religion is better off than someone who engaged in Mesirah.

Is it ever permitted to dial the three digits? Yes, but being that the repercussions are so fraught with danger, it is better not to make that judgment call oneself and only do so after consulting heavily with a qualified Posaik. So when is it permitted?

The Shulchan Aruch (as amended by the Shach in 388:12 and 10) rules that if a person is causing significant distress to an individual it is, nonetheless, completely forbidden to perform a Mesirah. If, however, the entire community is suffering then, after the person is warned (see Vilna Gaon and Sanhedrin 72b), they may report the offender.

There are a number of questions. What is to be considered “significant distress?” The example cited by the Ramah is that the person is engaging in counterfeiting and will thus endanger the community.

It would seem that the “significant distress” should be similarly significant. Issues of violence and sexual abuse, of course, are significant. Indeed, even if it is just to one individual, the issue of Pikuach Nefesh may be involved and a call would be required under such circumstances.

What about threatening Mesirah? There is a story going around (we all certainly hope that it is not true) that a woman wanted a day care center to take in her child and was told that there was no more room.

She then told the operator that if they did not take in her child, she would promptly report them to the authorities. Rav Dovid Morgenstern Shlita, a Rav and Posaik in Yerushalayim and the right-hand man of Rav Elyashiv Shlita ruled that there is absolutely no heter to cause someone such an anxiety even by threatening to do a Mesirah. Indeed, the Maharik (Shoresh 126) rules that someone important who threatens to do a Mesirah is forbidden to give testimony and is considered Pasul Le’Aidus.

How about jailing an ex-spouse who has not kept her agreement for visitations? Or how about jailing a non-paying ex who is behind in alimony or child support? It is difficult to see how any of these can be justified Halachically and it is also difficult to imagine if either of them will see any Olam HaBah.

Can these people do Teshuvah? In the HaGaos Ashri (Chapter Zeh Borrer) there is an indication that if someone does the requisite Teshuvah and also obtains the forgiveness of the person who he or she informed upon, then their Olam HaBah can be restored. It seems clear, however, that one without the other would not be sufficient.

In conclusion, the issue is one that is fraught with danger and if anyone values his or her portion in the world-to-come, such a drastic step should only be taken after consultation with leading Poskim, and after the person has been sufficiently warned. If there is no time for a warning, the leading Poskim should be consulted as to what to do.

The Ramah rules that in such circumstances the report may, nonetheless, be made.


6 Responses to “Calling 311 And Its Halachic Ties”

  1. john doe Says:

    URGENT: Please say Tehillim
    As you all already know 7 crown heights residents were victims of a vicious messira by Israeli messianist
    Moshe Gurevich – משה גורביץ
    Israel Tzikvashville – ישראל צ’יקושוילי
    Schneur Rotem – שניאור רוטם
    Moshe Gurfunkel – משה גורפינקל
    Yaakov Shatz – יעקב שץ
    Zalman Brownstein- זלמן ברונשטיין
    the many others (that will be found about),
    and orchestrated by the shmira
    yossi stern
    leib skoblo
    yanky prager
    paul huebener with the assistance of many of their “members”

    This coming Thursday [November 13-tes-vov Mar-Chesvon] the 7 residents, 6 of them from the crown heights shomrim, 3 are single, 1 is newly married and 3 have more then two children each have to go to court, as it is already known a resident of our shchuna Reb Moshe Rubashkin was recently sentenced to 16 months in prison and a 450.000 dollar fine in an unrelated case.
    This case is no laughing matter as it is going to trial. it’s a know fact that the justice system is a lot less then perfect and if somehow these 7 residents are found guilty they could g-d forbid face jail time.
    So please take a moment of your time and say some Tehillim that the moissrem should should either regret what they have done themselves, if not that their lies be exposed when they perjure themselves on the witness stand at the trial. for informers there shall be no hope!.

  2. the real Mcoy Says:

    Wonderful drusha, however considering the contents of this (admittedly hysterical) blog are you really one to talk?
    while it is true that i am sinning by ever reading this blog and i am not one to preach halacha i feel it necessary to point out that you will probably rot in hell for putting up such a site.
    Having said that, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK, I need the laughs.

  3. Mesira:Reporting Jews to the Police Says:

    It’s the late 1990s. You are a teen and are totally stressed out. You are ‘getting hit’ from every side…. parents …teachers …peers… You need a release. What to do…?

    Well there is always the drug solution. An altered state of mind can do wonders for stress. But as a religious Jew, you are totally out of the orbit of the drug world. Where are you going to find the drugs you need? No way are you going to go the ‘normal route’ in the ‘wrong neighborhoods’ to find drug dealers.

    Not to worry. There are Frum drug dealers. And they have some youthful Orthodox Jews distributing for them. Here is a description of how it worked back then:

    Orthodox kids were selling significant quantities of drugs to other frum children. Here’s basically the way it worked: If you were an adult or teen who wanted to purchase drugs, you would go to designated pay phones in the Boro Park/Flatbush sections of Brooklyn and pretend to make a phone call. Then, using prearranged signals, you would indicate the type of the drug you wanted to buy. For example, placing a hand in your left pocket meant that you wanted to purchase ecstasy pills, while a hand in your right pocket signaled that you were looking for marijuana. Then, after you would flash hand signals informing the pusher of the exact quantity you requested, someone would approach you and close the deal.

    And who was the ringleader? A 50 year old Charedi man. He was caught selling drugs in the basement of a Boro Park Shul!

    The dealer and his youthful distributors, all Orthodox, were arrested. How were they caught? Good citizens, upon being told about it and then verifying it, went to the authorities and told them what they knew.

    How can this be? Isn’t one liable to the laws of Mesira… reporting a fellow Jew to secular authorites… by doing so? What about the Chilul HaShem that exposure of such an event causes? Isn’t repeating this story here Lashon Hara?

    The answer is to all three questions is no.

    It is not Mesira to report people to the authorities who have a din of a Rodef. These people were considered by Halacha tantamount to murderers out to kill innocent human beings. And yes reporting these people to the authorities does lead to a public Chilul HaShem. But reporting them was a Kiddush HaShem. The Chilul HaShem was caused by the Frum kids and their Charedi ringleader.

    What about Lashon Hara. That too is not a problem here. It is certainly permitted when there is a Toeles… a purpose greater than the Issur of gossiping. What is the Toeles here? Rabbi Yakov Horowitz explains it masterfully in his weekly Mishpacha Magazine column – republished at his website from where the above excerpt was taken. It is a must read!

    He tells us this story because he wants to show that when it comes to the welfare of Klal Yisroel, not only is it permitted. It is required. And there is no greater need to teach this message than right now.

    The issue today is sexual abuse. I don’t know if the drug problem in the Torah world is solved, but the one thing that we should learn from the above episode is that there should be no hesitation in reporting a sexual offender to the authorities. They are Rodfim! If one is certain that someone they know is molesting children, they should not hesitate and report him to the police. This has been made clear by virtually all Halachic authorities of all stripes. Just as Rav Avroham Pam did when he told that good citizen to report the above incident to the police.

    Why bring it up here? Because the Orthodox public must be made aware… again and again… until all cognitive dissonance disappears from our collective minds.

    At this point I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to Agudath Israel. While some of their leadership may have dropped the ball on this issue in the past, I think it is worth noting that they have on their roster a man like Rabbi Yakov Horowitz. He is one of their biggest assets. I salute them for supporting him.

    I have said it before but it bears repeating. Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is a genuine hero. He tells it like it is without fear of repercussions for himself. God bless him.

  4. Regarding Mesirah Says:

    he prohibition of mesirah is well known among religious Jews. The severity of this issur becomes ever so clear when we read in Shulchan Aruch that a mosser is dino ke’akum with respect to writing a sefer Torah (Yoreh Deah 281:3) and with respect to shechitah ( Remah ibid 2:9). Even if the mosser is otherwise an observant individual, and is meticulous in fulfilling his religious duties, because he demonstrates his rejection of the unity of all of Klal Yisroel (by his act of mesirah), he is treated as an akum (see Rambam, Hilchos Teshuva 3:11 and Nefesh Horav pg. 235).

    If, however, one is guilty of a crime, and according to the law of the land deserves a prison sentence, or will be put to death, even though according to Jewish law his punishment would not be as severe, this is not mesirah (see Ritva to Bava Metsia 83b; Dvar Avraham vol. I pg. 8). One would still not be allowed to hand this individual over to the civil authorities because this is the equivalent of returning aveidas akum, which is usually not allowed. In an instance of avoiding a chilul Hashem, just like we would be obligated to return the aveidas akum, so too we would be obligated to hand over this individual (see Rama, Choshen Mishpat 388:12).

    If the non-Jewish governmental authorities know that one Jew is concealing information about another Jew in order to save him from punishment, the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 28:3) considers this a situation of chilul Hashem. Similarly, for many generations it was the practice that if a gneiva had occurred, and suspicion had fallen on the Jewish community, rather than allow that suspicion to hover over the entire community, the roshei hakehol, with the permission of the rabbonim, would inform the non-Jewish authorities who might possibly be the real ganav (Be’er Hagola, Choshen Mishpat 388:12).

    Even if one is guilty of a crime and deserves a punishment according to the laws of the land, but due to anti-semetic attitudes he will probably suffer more than if he were a non-Jew; or, the (state) prison conditions are such that he will suffer at the hands of the other inmates (or at the hands of the guards) in a manner that is not proscribed by law, then turning the offender in would constitute mesirah, since his added suffering will be shelo kadin. However, mesirah is permitted in situations where one is a public menace (see Shach to Choshen Mishpat 388, 59), or if one is physically or psychologically harming another individual (for example, in instances of sexual abuse of children, students, campers etc., or spousal abuse) (see Shach to Choshen Mishpat ibid, 45).

    The Jewish community does not have the ability to investigate these types of cases. Wherever there are raglayim ladavar that there seems to be a problem, the proper government agencies should be contacted to investigate.

    Just as in other areas of halachah, one should consult a competent moreh horaah when faced with such a shayla. Just because one is knowledgeable in Yoreh Deah vol. I or one delivers a good pilpul shiur on sugyos in Nashim or Nezikin, it does not necessarily follow that that individual will be qualified to pasken on hilchos mesirah – lehakel or lehachmir.

  5. john doe Says:


    Zalman Brownstein- זלמן ברונשטיין ym’s, one of the evil mossrim was engaged to be married last month and now the girl has broken off the engagement. who would want to marry a moisser?

    His family and relatives tried pleading with him to stop mossering, some of his friends tried, even his kallah tried but it was all useless Zalman Brownstein- זלמן ברונשטיין ym’s refused to drop the false charges he made against several of the seven crown heights residents, six who are crown heights shomrim volunteers, the evil in his heart was so great that he couldn’t let go of his hate, that his kallah left him!

    Who is this Zalman Brownstein- זלמן ברונשטיין ym’s?? hell i don’t know and I’m sure a whole lot of other people don’t know he’s a nobody! and he’ll always be a nobody! he’s a scum moisser! he’s a messianist terrorist! I don’t even know what he looks like! yet he went and jumped on the bandwagon along with shmira terrorist moissrem may they rot in hell and got 7 crown heights residents arrested and he thought that g-d would forget. i pray that this unholy scum moisser along with his scum moissrem buddies Moshe Gurevich, Israel Tzikvashville, Schneur Rotem, Moshe Gurfunkle, Yaakov Shatz,(and the many other moissrem that are on court documents) grow old alone and lonely until they die.

    Every man is a common man, and every common man has his plan, the greedy man seeks only appetite, the wicked, oh the wicked man shall fall.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    what is a moisser? wat’s the etymology of the word?from what language

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