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Are Electronic Signatures Valid According to Halacha?

Rabbi Shmuel Honigwachs

Question: In today’s digital world, much commerce is done digitally, with signatures signed via computerized documents. What standing do such signatures have halachically? 

Answer: There is a halachic concept known as “Situmta”, which generally means that common business practice has the halachic standing of a kinyan. The Rema discusses a case where members of a shul would write their names on their chairs to mark their spot. He rules that since this is a generally accepted practice, the names written on the chairs can be used as a proof of ownership. The Vilna Gaon explains that this ruling is based on the principle of Situmta, and says that just as Situmta works for a kinyan, it also works for a proof

Having said this, we can state that a halachic signature has as much halachic validity as it does legal validity. 

 

Question: What if someone would send a contract via email, and the other party sends back the word “confirmed”? 

Answer: Once again, if such a response is legally binding, it would also fall under the category of Situmta and would be halachically binding. If the shtar that was sent has an agreement validation clause in it, then by responding “confirmed”, the receiver is accepting whatever terms are in the agreement.

We previously mentioned that only an original document may be used by a lender to collect a loan if the borrower claims he already repaid the debt. Since the email is a copy and not an original signed document, it could not be used for this purpose; however, it would be valid for many other types of contracts, such as a partnership agreement, contract of sale or contract of employment. 

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