Publishing Someone Else’s Teachings

Ask the Rov: Can I publish a mashpia’s teachings without his consent?

By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah

One is permitted to repeat someone’s Torah teachings without their permission as long as he credits the source.1 Additionally, we find multiple times in the history of Am Yisroel that Torah was printed without the consent of the one who said it.2 The Netziv stresses the importance to preserve Torah in print and a Torah teacher does not have the authority to prevent others from publishing his teachings entirely.

Contemporary poskim write that a maggid shiur can prohibit the recording and publication of his Torah lectures out of concern that people may misconstrue his words or misinterpret their halachic implications. Additionally, he may have said things that he wishes to look into further, and may retract what he said. However, students can always transcribe it for their own private use to review the shiur.3

When a talmid chacham leaves handwritten manuscripts after his passing and didn’t specify they are fit to print, there is concern he may have changed his mind or had written them for himself. Yet, if another talmid chacham reviews them and deems them fit to print, they may be printed. It should then be noted that it wasn’t reviewed by the author for printing, so that it isn’t viewed as the author’s authoritative teachings.4 For these reasons, one has the right to designate his children or other specific individuals to be the sole printers of his Torah teachings, relying that they will have the sensitivity to decide what should be printed.5

According to some, Torah teachings that a person actually wrote down have monetary rights (tovas hana’a) that are transferred to his heirs.6 Some poskim add that one has the ability to prohibit his written Torah teachings to be “used” by anyone else, while others hold that he doesn’t have the right to restrict the publication of his Torah writings.7

What about quoting a person in an essay? Some poskim hold that if one isn’t publishing that person’s words distinctly and is merely quoting an idea from so-and-so, it’s permitted. In this case, one isn’t using that person’s fame or a distinct teaching that can be owned, and it is evident that this hearsay quote isn’t necessarily precise.8

In practice, it seems that one may print a person’s oral chidushei torah after their passing without their consent, though the transcripts must be reviewed by someone reliable to ensure they are fit for publication and in accordance with halacha. Additionally, it must be noted that these transcripts where not reviewed and approved by the teacher.

See Sources (open PDF)

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