I work for a web marketing company and I know that they work with casinos, which I don't love, but can live with. However, I just learned that they have taken on a porn site as a client. My job is to build links and it doesn't require me viewing the material. But is it forbidden for me to in any way aid this industry? Or is it just part of my job?
The underlying question here is what responsibility we have to refrain from supporting or even participating in acts we oppose, and the answer depends on both what kind of support and/or participation is involved, as well as how offensive the act is. In your case, it sounds like you think gambling is wrong, but not immoral, whereas pornography goes a step further.
From a Jewish perspective, the Talmud tells us not to be mesayea ovrei averah, to be helpful to sinners, but the definition of help is not so clear. In one formulation, the Talmud allows that if a nazir-- a person who has taken an oath that prohibits him or her from ingesting wine, among other things-- is on the same side of the river as the wine, your reaching it for him is not a legally proscribed form of assistance, since he could easily reach it him or herself. If the wine is on the other side of the river and you have the only boat to get there, the situation is different and you're less likely permitted to help him.
In this case, your company has a client that is a porn site, and you would be helping the company help the client. So, first, let us consider what is wrong with the porn site, from a Jewish perspective. The site offers those who come there an immodest experience, stimulating them to immodest thoughts and, quite possibly, lewd acts. All those are violations of various aspects of Jewish law, so the site is providing a prohibited service. It does seem relevant that, by being a Website, it only provides it to those who decide to go there (unless it makes itself into a pop-up, or deposits a Trojan that forces one's computer there); it's, in that sense, a little bit better than your old-fashioned porn store, where people walking by are somewhat forced to confront distasteful items and elements.
Be that as it may: these people are fostering Jewishly wrong things, but are they themselves Jewish? Jewish law does have much to say about a well-lived non-Jewish life, including their sexuality, but it mostly, to my knowledge, applies to acts of such sexuality, not watching or thinking about it. If the site is owned by non-Jews, for whom such viewings might not be prohibited, the rules of helping them are much different.
But let's assume they are Jewish, or that these aspects of Jewish law do apply to them. Your company is helping their webmarketing, and your job, as you say, is to provide links to these sites. If, by links, you mean ads that you can then click and get there, you are certainly helping whatever sites for which you are building these links (although, again, only for those who choose to click on them). On the other hand, your skill at building these links is not inherently or qualitatively better than the skill of the guy they'd hire were you to quit this job.
So, it seems to me, that you find yourself in a position where your job is to offer assistance in encouraging people to use a site that is certainly problematic for Jews and might be so for non-Jews. But you should note that there are two steps, at least, between you and the sinner-- the site offers the sinner a place to commit his or her sins, and your company offers the site assistance in finding those people. Your assistance does not include an implication of agreement (it is "just your job"), nor is it assistance these companies could not easily replace were you to refuse to participate.
With all that, then, I don't think it urgent that you leave your job; I think, if this is the only way you can make a living currently, there is room to ratify staying. On the other hand, you might consult your company as to whether you could be assigned other clients with whom to work (I don't think this rises to the level where you have to divest from the company, even if you yourself aren't working with the site). If that's not possible, you might start searching for other employment, relying on the technical permissibility of working there, but seeking the time when you could free yourself of this morally odious activity.
We learn in the Torah, “Don’t stand idly by the blood of one’s brother.” (Leviticus 19:16) We have a responsibility to keep ourselves and others both safe and free of immoral actions. If something is wrong (or dangerous), than it is wrong (and dangerous) whether one commits the act oneself or one stands by allowing others to commit this act. Enabling others to commit immoral acts falls somewhere between committing the act and turning a blind eye to it.. Personally, I don’t believe that one can make a distinction between engaging in immoral behavior oneself and enabling others to do so from a Jewish point of view.
We learn this lesson from Biblical history. One of the most infamous characters in the Bible was Jeroboam. He was the first leader of the Northern Kingdom of Israel after the ten northern tribes broke ranks with Jerusalem. Although it was predicted by a prophet of God that Jeroboam would lead this rebellion, he was never criticized for establishing a renegade kingdom opposed to the Davidic monarchy. Yet Jeroboam was later criticized for encouraging his countrymen to worship a calf at temples in Beth El and in Dan. Jeroboam did this for purely pragmatic reason – he wanted to discourage his people from returning to Jerusalem to worship God once the northern kingdom separated from Judah. Later Jeroboam was condemned as a mah’tee, as one who caused others to sin.
In the book of Leviticus we are commanded: “Do not place a stumbling block before the blind.” (Leviticus 19:14) The Sages interpreted this expression in a non-literal sense; it applies not only to those who are physically blind but those who are blind to the dangers before them. A Midrashic work called the Sifre Leviticus explains: "Thou shall not put a stumbling block before the blind" Not just the physically blind, but one who is "blind" in a particular matter. Thus, suppose such a one came to you and asked, "Is the daughter of So-and-so fit to marry into a priestly family?" Do not say to him, "She is fit," if in fact she is disqualified. If a man seeks your counsel, do not give him counsel that is not right for him. Do not say to him, "Leave early in the morning," so that brigands will rob him. Do not say to him, "Leave at noon," so that the sun will strike him. Do not say to him, "Sell your field and buy a donkey," so that you may circumvent him and take the field away from him. If you protest, "But it is sensible counsel I am giving him," remember that the matter is turned over to a man's heart…” No matter how sensible one’s advice or assistance me be, if it leads the person to sin or misery, one is as guilty as the one who actually performed the act.
The bigger question is how we view pornography. What’s so bad about pornography? Isn’t it a victimless crime? After all, one might argue that the people who allow themselves to be recorded are doing so freely and the person who chooses to look at such material does so of his or her own free will. I believe that this is untrue. First, pornography demeans the human being and turns our bodies into objects rather than miracle created in the image of God. At the heart of Judaism is the mandate to treat other people, body and soul, with dignity (kavod) and respect. Second, pornography is hardly victimless, either from the standpoint of those who create it or those who become viewers of it. Pornography, for some, is no less addictive and destructive to human life than drugs or alcohol. And one might also argue that there is connection between pornography, prostitution and pedophilia, and other ills of society; these are crimes which do victimize people in our society.
We might argue about how we define pornography but I think you are correct to think twice about supporting an industry which enables others to participate in such activities. While one might argue that gambling in moderation is acceptable (another issue we may chose to discuss at another time) even a little pornography is morally indefensible.
I work for a web marketing company and I know that they work with casinos, which I don’t love, but can live with. However, I just learned that they have taken on a porn site as a client. My job is to build links and it doesn’t require me viewing the material. But is it forbidden for me to in any way aid this industry? Or is it just part of my job?
I believe that this question is more a question of one’s own moral views. Judaism does not prohibit gambling ( at least one famous rabbi was a creator of playing cards) nor does it prohibit pornography per se. It does view these activities of wasteful of one’s time and energy. Child pornography would be an entirely different matter as well as showing explicit pornography to minors. The verse from Leviticus 19 states “ Do not put a stumbling block before the blind”. Young people need to be protected. If it bothers you to paricipate in any way with this work, you should resign rather than feel resentment that you are required to be a part of something of which you do not approve.
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