Understanding the Internet Ban

Let’s be honest, if you’re reading this site you’re probably not a proponent of the Internet Ban. You might be believe in cautious usage and place heavy restrictions on what your children do on the ‘Net, but a ban fan you’re not.

Let’s take a second and give the other side the benefit of the doubt. I know it’s hard, but I think it is consistent with Torah principals. Let’s assume that the people who think a ban makes sense are intelligent, well meaning people, who dedicate a great part of their lives to getting closer to Hashem and helping others do the same. If we can accept that, then we would probably could assume that there are probably some good Torah-true reasons that a ban makes sense.

Yes I know to many, a ban never makes sense, but where’s the other side holding? Let’s look at the Internet Ban as a sugya that we’re trying to really, really understand – and we can’t get away with just saying it’s schver (difficult).

So how do you understand that well meaning, intelligent, G-d fearing Jews are in favor of an Internet ban? What are the good reasons for a ban? What do ban proponents see as their alternatives? How would you enforce a policy such as no Internet, if you believed it was the right thing to do?

(As always – please phrase your comments in a respectful tone.)

104 comments on “Understanding the Internet Ban

  1. i dont think the internet should be banned but heavy restrictions on sites that gain access to porn and gore and death ect after many years of brouseing i have found good and bad points from speaking to family accros continents to mindless crue beheading videos. internet addiction i can`t see as a realistic view for a ban with ciggeretts and alchol ect being widely avalible from an informational stand point i love how the internet is just a database of every thing you could ever want to know but it is plain that there needs something to be done obviously a ban is impossible due to econemy would likely crash across the word with the revenue that it genrates but i espessually think childrens minds will be scared with some of the things that are easly acsessable from the press of a few keys but can we really blame this on the internet of the need for pearnts to throw tech at there children with out knowing fully understanding the capabuiltys of what they are useing to quiet there children instead of being attentive towards the need of fulfilling activitys alltirnatively make a more child friendsly internet parlell with regular or something along them lines ( no expert here ) or insted of chaseing people from piret bay because the media industry say so chase the gore and child porn handlers instead with heavyer penaltys i apolguise to any one reading this im a simple dixlesic man on a mission horrified by some of the things that are avalible on the internet

  2. ZURICH, Switerzland (Reuters) — Switzerland’s financial capital of Zurich warned Internet users on Tuesday about the dangers of addiction to chat rooms and sex sites.

    The canton’s Department for the Prevention of Addiction has launched a poster campaign and offers a self-assessment questionnaire for potential addicts on its Web site.

    “Spending lots of time in virtual worlds, especially chat rooms, online games and sex sites, can lead to a dependence comparable to other addictions,” the department said in a statement.

    Around 50,000 Swiss are addicted to the Internet or at risk of becoming addicted, the department said. Young people are particularly vulnerable although adults are increasingly succumbing to the lure of the Web.

    “They are at risk of facing problems in their social surroundings or at the workplace,” the department said. Internet addicts suffer from psychological withdrawal symptoms, it said.

    The above comes from a cnn report.

  3. Agudath Israel of America is distributing a letter to its constituent schools today, presumably to be sent home with all the students (my kids’ will end up in the knapsack black hole…), urging support of legislation that would result in educational funding. The letter urges us **to go to a particular website** and follow the directions.


  4. BS”D
    “I am glad that we agree re the curriculum issue in boys schools and oppressive nature of rules in girls schools.”
    Maybe the rules of some schools sound oppressive to a girl who isn’t meant to go to that kind of school or to a parent who’s child isn’t meant to go to that kind of school, but I personally know many parents and GIRLS who are happy with the supposedly “oppressive” rules at their schoool(s).

    “I am not so computer savvy, and there are times where I have had to look for something online and ended up totally accidentally WHERE I DIDN’T WANT TO END UP. I have stumbled innocently on to sites, images, advertisements, etc. that I had never seen before. IT IS SCARY.”
    It IS scary. I am computer savvy and that happens to me too unfortunately.

    “However if you send your son or daughter to a “Frum” yeshiva, but allow them to go to the library, and study english subjects, and do research for term papers, than why are you afraid of the Internet. I watch many frum parents drop their children off at the library and pick them up 2 hours later. There is no supervision of what books they are reading. Why is the internet any different.
    The same Rabonnim who allow their talmidim to go to the library, are suddenly afraid of the Internet”

    There are plenty of schools, especially in a place like Lakewood, which don’t allow the students to go to the public library.

    This is a fascinating discussion. I’m so glad the topic was brought up. Thanks so much Mr. Frankel.

  5. Belle: I have seen a progression from intermittent, experimental use, to continuous, addictive use that extends outside of the home PC to portable forms of internet use. I have seen cautious, modest use of IM become a free for all with “buddy lists” that include not only friends, but acquaintances met under all kinds of circumstances. I have seen a respect for modesty in conversations with the opposite gender disappear. I have seen secrecy, all-night internet use, vulgarity and porn. I have seen the internet absorb huge amounts of time, sought after immediately upon arising, instead of a minyan. After constant exposure to the trashy values imparted in so many ways, I have seen a diminished attachment to yiddishkeit. And I understand; that unless teenagers are exceptionally circumspect with the world at their fingertips(and I believe this is possible only in very rare humans) they will undoubtedly taint their neshamas in a way that cannot coexist with kedusha.

    Sara: Thank you for sharing your experience at the aseifa. It is frightening to me how the Gedolim seem to understand this and try to convey it, but the laity do not take it seriously. And what about us? I use the internet for so many things, without the temptations of teenagers, but still very addicted. Banking, Correspondence, Research, Applications, Information & News about Israel and the Klal in general, Traveling (maps, etc), BT support groups, purchasing and so much more. It is hard to imagine functioning with out it anymore. But with such a sakanah, and the knowledge that there really is no way to protect kids (I’m glad they finally said publicly that filters are useless, and even getting rid of your own internet is useless if a kid is determined), What should we do?

  6. I have seen detrimental effects on both adults and kids. Students my husband has known, friends families and adult relatives. Although I live in Queens, I drove to Monsey last Sunday to attend the Asifa. Besides being extremely informative as to the various ways people can access the Internet, way beyond having it available in the house, phones, palms, libraries, friends homes, what instant messaging is and does, all kinds of technological ways of exposure and connecting with others, I was most overwhelmed by Rav Matisyahu Salomon from Lakewood, driving to Monsey for the third time in a week, this time to address women, not a youngster, not getting around so easily, and I’m sure a very busy man to say the least, (got to be busier than I am, I found it difficult to make time for that one Asifa), with tears in his eyes (real tears) beseeching the mothers to protect their children and their families from the outside influences, the lack of holiness. I have not stopped thinking about it since last Sunday, have definitely been made aware of all kinds of things I was not aware of before, and most of all am deeply touched by experiencing being in that room with so many Chosuve women, mothers, and the Rav’s heartfelt plea to us.

  7. Just wanted to draw attention to this week’s “HAMODIA” newspaper where an article appears describing the recent community aseifa in Monsey where the current state of the internet danger to our families was discussed. To quote Hamodia “HaRav Moshe Green……warned that the electronic media robs its users of any connection with kedushah and turns them into spiritual zombies, totally insensitive to ruchniyus or strivings for higher levels of holiness”.
    His warnings were for the entire community but particularly for youth. Also, IMHO, there is a real difference in how much impact we can make on children below and above a certain age. Although the message was clearly not to even bring the internet in our homes, believe it or not, even that will not deter a young teenager since internet is available in many forms (and growing).
    I am an eyewitness to the truth of this statement, and lately wonder if the only antidote is the sort of “deprogramming” that is done with young people who join cults.

  8. outoftown,
    to you it may be obvious that the internet is no different. but to many very great Torah sages, it is different. Not to reitterate the entire long discussion… There have been many instances from Biblical time forward, where Torah leaders made enactments against things that could have been used for good or bad.

  9. I have always told people the same thing when it came to things such as the internet, which clearly and obviously has its good and bad uses. Moshe was shown the Machtzis Hashekel (Half-Shekel coin used in census) in a vision of fire. Commentators explain that the reason H’ showed Moshe fire was so he could make the comparison between fire and money. Just like fire is one of the most valuble things known to man, and can also be the most destructive, money is the same way. It can be used for great things, and it can be used for destruction. The truth is, everything in the world can be used in a good or bad way. Even the Torah. The Gm’ in Brachos says that someone who learns Torah for the sake of argument is better off not living.

    The Internet is obviously no different. It is a tool, and we can use it for either building or destruction. This blog is a great thing, and it spreads through the Internet. The internet is a test like any other test. Is it right to ban money? Should we ban all speech, because people use it for Lashon Hora? Of course not! The internet is absolutely the same thing.

  10. If this blog gets too addictive, we may need professional help from the moderators.

  11. Menachem,
    I you’re refering to fishing for talking fish that spout apikorses, than I would agree with you!:-}}

  12. Ayala,
    The issur is for adults and children and the consequences are for adults and children.

  13. “they are backing up their words with stiff consequences. Kind of like when the Torah says that if a person breaks shabbos, he’ll get stoned to death. Many might keep shabbos anyway, as we see in our times. Others need extra motivation. No different with the Lakewood ban.”

    the issur is for adults, the consequences are for their children. It’s a way of using children to socialize adults not to use the net.

  14. If nothing else, this whole matter has brought an awareness and thoughtfulness to a very important matter which can affect Kedushas Yisroel amongst other things, and may not have been formerly thought through or shailos asked until now.

  15. Michoel – Regarding the letter to Esther Mann.

    You can pretty much replace the word “blog” in that letter with anything someone can get obsessively interested in; fishing, poker, stamp collecting. The couple in the letter have problems that having nothing to do with the internet.

  16. Meaning, allowign children into the general marketplace of ideas where they will here some things that don’t shtim perfectly with what their parents say, is a good thing. With proper controls. But I still fully understand the Lakewook ban.

  17. No. BeyondBT is not yotzei min haclal. A certain amount of undermining is a positive thing. IMO.

  18. “Blogs undermine parental authority.”

    Was Beyond BT “Yoetzi from the Clal” (excluded from the general rule) on that one? I surely hope so as you’ll find no undermining of parental authority here.

  19. SL,
    I am sincerely at lost to understand the disinctions you are making. There is no loss of parental authority. Parents have a choice to pick themselves up and move to another community. Blogs undermine parental authority. Listening to rabbis does not. Is the fact that I must keep shabbos undermining my authority? That is Torah.

  20. I am not asking you rehash. I am asking you to hash, which you haven’t done yet. Is there not a mitzvah in the Torah to guard one’s health? So if rabbanim would have confidence in the individual’s yiras shamayim they way that you want them too, let me make my own decision about smoking.

    The question is not whether banning the web cures. The question is whether banning the web keeps some from getting sick, spiritually and otherwise. And for that we have lots of evidence.

  21. Michoel-I don’t dislike bans as a rule. In fact, I loved the takana “Simcha Guidelines” that was not even followed by the signators and I would love to see a ban on smoking, at least smoking in community institutions (as the Reform instituted years ago using our own poskim, incidently).

    What I don’t like is bans that override and threaten parental authority and that affect people’s parnassah.

    I don’t like the newest ban on MOAG anymore than I liked the first ban on MOAG. I don’t like the internet takana because I think that adults should be able to use their own discretion and determine what is best for themselves.

    I don’t want my children using the net without limits or even at all until they have a concrete need for it. But, I do work online that can’t be don’t anywhere else and I know that many families (especially women), even in Lakewood, benefit from being able to shop and bank after working hours from the comfort of their own living room.

    So, let adults use their own discretion and don’t threaten to kick their children out of school.

  22. Michoel-I am not going to rehash the issue.In one word-cigarettes cause cancer to smokers and non-smokers. Banning the net has been demonstrated to be even a potential cure for dysfunctional families or kids at risk.We simply don’t have any data or information except the rawest kind of anecdotal data to reach such a conclusion.

  23. Sephardi Lady,
    I am trying to find out why you and others that dislike bans, feel that it is appropriate to ban cigarettes? I am asking a serious question.

    Thank you

  24. When cigarettes are banned from Yeshivot on Purim and parents don’t have to contend with public smoking of many a Rabbi, than I will believe that we have made progress in this area. Until then, I will just think about the battles I know a certain family has fought with their own children regarding smoking at *Bar Mitzvah Parties*. Cigarettes provided by the Bar Mitzvah boy’s parents.

  25. I was playing the sitra achra’s advocate. It is clear that there is a very strong correlation between cigarette smoking and lunge cancer. It is equally clear that there are many people that smoke without developing lund cancer. So I ask again. Let’s say I want to smoke. Why can’t those rabbis just leave me alone and let me think for myself?

  26. Michoel-Smoking should be banned because it (1) clearly causes lung cancer, even to non-smokers and (2) therefore cannot be considered “shaveh lchol nefesh.” Look at the ads that Mishpacha profiled the next time that you think that “only one” cigarette can’t hurt you.Your arguments sound like the social drinker/alcholic’s plea for the next drink.

  27. Bob Miller is a voice of reason. This issue has much to do with Yetzer Hara, not just people’s strength or trust, etc. We all have a Yetzer Hara. And even if someone has been strong in a certain area, does not mean he will not fall sometime. Also, there are accidental exposures, just as dangerous.

    And the point about our own communities and leaders is a good one. Do we all ask the Shailoh of internet use or internet in our homes to our Rav? Do we abide by the psak?

    That’s what we should focus on, rather than other communities. We have to follow our own Rav and respect others.

  28. Below is letter to Esther Mann of the 5 Towns Jewish Times. I confirmed that the story is authentic and that the family is getting help. The Internet can be very dangerous.

    Dear Esther,
    Without too much fanfare, here is my problem. Around a year or so ago, my husband discovered “blogs.” I think some of his friends were into them, and he started checking out the computer and becoming, in my opinion, addicted to these websites. He can spend hours just sitting there, staring at the computer screen. Several things bother me about his pastime. First of all, I feel very neglected. Before blogs came into our lives, we would spend time together in the evening talking, or even sitting side by side watching a TV show or a video. Now, I feel as though we are hardly together anymore, and we don’t talk and connect as much as we used to. It’s like I’m jealous of the blogs—they seem to offer him something that I can’t. They are my competition, which I realize is kind of unhealthy. Probably just as disturbing, and in some ways more so, is that he reads blogs that relate to Judaism. People post blogs about the credibility of everything that has always been the foundation of our lives, our upbringing, and our Torah. Just last week, I walked by him as he was reading something on the computer, and it was talking about whether or not… ever actually happened. I have to say that this scared the dickens out of me. I feel like he’s entered a world that I know nothing about and want to know nothing about, and it’s putting a barrier between us. I have tried talking to him about how insecure I feel because of it and also how I’m afraid, G-d forbid, that it could change his attitude toward Yiddishkeit. He tells me that I’m overreacting, and it’s all just for kicks; that I’m taking it all too seriously and that I shouldn’t worry. But I am worried. Should I be?

  29. Isn’t the underlying cause for the potential danger of the internet the fact that we all have a yetzer hara? What barriers one must put up to impede the functioning of the yetzer or to redirect one’s attention to the right things will vary with the person, time, and place. Responsible Jewish leaders have always tried to guide their communities and community members appropriately in this matter.

    America is a free country, and orthodox Jewish communities come in all sizes and flavors. Rather than obsess about what other orthodox groups are doing among themselves, we should each try to improve our own group.

  30. Why should they ban smoking? Say I like to smoke one cigarette a day. I get regular aerobic exercise, eat properly etc so there is not a great risk to my health. I have the independence of thought and self-discipline to keep it from getting out of hand. Endangering one’s health is an issur d’oraysa and I am a big yarei shamayim so certainly it won’t become more than one a day. So why can’t those fundamentalist rabbis just let me think for myself?

    (BTW, I think any Rav would tell you that it is assur to start smoking)

  31. >>>> But for the internet a vulnerable child may have stayed “straight.” Therefore, they are taking the position akin to banning smoking. Stay away from the dangerous activity. It will protect the kehilla.

    Now, if our Rabbanim could just get around to banning smoking, I think we could all cheer loudly. :) :)

  32. Dina Mentsch-You implied that the net was the trigger and /or exacerbated the underlying problems. I am glad that you understand that it is one cause. Let’s see whether the ban leads to a significant reduction of both problems.Let’s see what the mental health professionals have to report on their clinical observations. Then we can determine whether the ban was successful.

    In the meantime, we should address the other causes that I mentioned and which are all too present in too many families, schools and communities.

    The comment that I suggested was made by a Gadol in the course of a Kinnus Teshuvah.Rambam in Shemoneh Prakim also states that cholei hanefesh require different treatments than cholei haguf. Obviously, any oncologist would tell a patient to stop smoking. Yet,would the oncologist prescribe care to go to the cause such as chemo, etc or just a pain reliever because the patient cannot tolerate the pain of the chemo? Unless and untill we address the root causes that long preceded the existence of the net, I think that banning the net is quite akin to prescribing palliative care without inquiring into the causes of the ailment

  33. Did I say the net was the *sole* causative factor to societal problems??!! When I described the “vulnerable child” or “weak marriage” I thought it was clear that there were pre-existing problems which had complex causative factors. You are not addressing my argument which is that the internet can exacerbate a pre-existing problem in a way that other media don’t or can’t. No one is saying the world is simple and that to simply get rid of the internet will make all problems go away.

    And I don’t understand your sarcastic comment about curing cancer by giving pain medication. Is my moshel really beyond your comprehension or are you just into bashing others who disagree with you? I think it is obvious that the first recommendation of the oncologist would be to stop smoking.

  34. Dina Mentsch- Without commenting further on the Lakewood ban, I respectfully disagree on the relationship of or the sole causative factor of kids at risk or marital breakups being attributed to the net.I am not saying that it doesn’t exist, but rather that these factors have many causes that predated the net.

    It is nice and convenient to blame the net and other “outside influences” for kids at risk and an increasing divorce rate but there are so many other factors at play that all stem from a dysfunctional family, suppression of hashkafic inquiry in school and an overemphasis on conformity in our communities that all had their presence and originated long before the net became a reality.If you want to understand the multiple causes of kids at risk, then read “Off The Derech.” I highly reccomend it.

    Just curious-did your guest offer you an opinion as to whether you treat cancer by treating the cause of by offering palliative relief and pain killers?

  35. I see the Lakewood ban (I am not talking about issues regarding its enforcement) with the help of a moshel:
    This past Shabbos we had a guest who does analysis of cancerous cells. In talking about the shocking degree of incidence of cancer, she mentioned that many of us carry genetic “tendencies” toward cancer, but only certain behaviors or exposure to certain toxins will “trigger” that genetic predisposition. Such as promiscuous behavior or smoking. Tho one doesn’t know if he or she carries the “cancer” gene, it is certainly advisable given the risk, to avoid those behaviors. Of course, not everyone who indulges in those behaviors gets cancer, but some will.

    LeMoshel: there is a shocking rise in the incidence of at risk behavior by children, and in the incidence of breakups of marraiges due to getting involved in unsavory activity due to internet abuse. While not everyone has a weak spot for arayos, or not everyone will be convinced to do unkosher things just by going on the internet, there certainly are some people who but for the internet would not have done these things.

    Perhaps R.Solomon and others are saying that the internet is the “trigger” activity. But for the internet a weak marriage may have been preserved. But for the internet a vulnerable child may have stayed “straight.” Therefore, they are taking the position akin to banning smoking. Stay away from the dangerous activity. It will protect the kehilla.

    Now, I believe, if there are ways to protect oneself and one’s family from the unsavory aspects of the web, with a good internet filter, and the family members are basically trustworthy and are not going to go out of their way to subvert the filter, then I think that’s sufficient to address the danger. If I lived in Lakewood I would have to reassess this. But there is no doubt that they reacted to widespread tragedies.

  36. I agree that TV is beyond the capacity of a filter. Look at the content and the commercials. Even sports have been exposed as the refuge for drug injected monsters who seek individual acomplishments at the expense of their teamnmates. I suppose that some old movies, TVland and Discovery/Histor/Weather might be unobjectionable, but the risk and sheer passivity of TV is just too much a risk for anyone these days. The only controls are the removal of the TV or keeping it off except for a relative who watches.

  37. 104.3FM-the home of a “Baal Mussar” known for the following pithy comment-“you can’t always get what you want, but you can try..” and another with the wrong Stairway to Heaven!

  38. Steve,

    “The issue is not what Chazal would say , but rather what the Chachmei HaMesorah in each community would say based upon their evaluation of all the evidence.That means that each of the different options that you outlined might be equally valid, depending on the community and its level of observance, etc.”

    Baruch Hashem we are getting closer to mutual understanding of this issue. Close enough that any differences can be hocked out after davening one night.

    “I am advocating Category 3 for the net, as opposed to TV.”

    It’s interesting that on this tape, Rebbetzin Heller also made a stronger case for allowing filtered Internet than TV, although she made a clear disclaimer that she was not advocating filtered Internet either. She felt that TV could not be adequately filtered.

  39. Steve,

    What radio station is the one that you are referring to?

    We have a TV, and as far as I am concerned, I only use it for news and sports…we don’t do that much TV watching of new shows (practically none).

  40. Mark- I am advocating Category 3 for the net, as opposed to TV. (Full confession time-we still have a TV but we are all too busy to even think of watching it.)We use the tape player and CD deck in the cars for Torah tapes-shiurim , drashos or music. Interestingly, one station that plays only 60s and 70s rock almost invariably avoids playing anything by a woman! You can avoid kol isha, but you still get the lyrics that extoll a not exactly Torah lifestyle!Only in America!

    We all have great insurance policies, risk management programs and garbage removal mechanisms of all kinds-good marriages, great relationships with our kids, supplementing their chinuch,learning Torah, chesed, a meaningful Shabbos and YT, garbage cans, garbage bags , delete buttons, filters, if necessary.

    If you walk thru the local library, you will see that the amount or quality of books that you want just isn’t there. Ditto for the large chains which have a short shelf life for their books. The seforim and books that I like are either available via the net or a seforim store.

    I think that the Gemara re R Shimon Bar Yochai is subject to a variety of interpretations, especially since it is Aggadic and not Halachic in nature. I think that a legitimate case can be made that it means one shouldn’t leave a place of pure spirituality and condemn those whose lives appear on a lower level until you have been in their places. I used it as an illustration of a community that wants as little interaction with the secular world as possible, as opposed to a proof that Chazal would oppose a ban.

    The issue is not what Chazal would say , but rather what the Chachmei HaMesorah in each community would say based upon their evaluation of all the evidence.That means that each of the different options that you outlined might be equally valid, depending on the community and its level of observance, etc.

  41. Mark,

    At my youngest daughter’s interview @ the Yeshiva last December, The Dean said that there is NO surfing the Net @ the school (understandable), but they do have computers for learning purposes. He said that there’s the “Good” internet, the “Bad” Internet, and the “ugly” internet. How true….

  42. Steve

    You insist on linking limited the use of the Internet to banning all secular material. This is my last try. Rebbetzin Heller made the following distinctions and perhaps you can “hear” what she was saying. She said there are three types of communities.

    1) Ban all secular material.

    2) Filter/Prohibit some/much secular material. (Which might include no TV, always-filtered Internet or prohibited Internet).

    3) Allow everything in and try to throw out the garbage after in comes in.

    Lakewood is in category 1.
    Most of us here are in the comments seem to be in category 2.
    You seem to be advocating category 3, let everything in, and your entitled to your opinion, I’m just trying to point out that it is not all or nothing in regard to secular material.

    Also – I think you’re missing the Nimshal of the Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai gemorra. Hashem was not telling Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai that everything should be partaken, just not to obstain from the physical world. To use that as a proof that Chazal support no Internet ban is just plain…..

  43. Michoel-I am mochel you for your comment. I think that there are a few Yidden whose lives were ruined by the net. However, to claim that the Net is the sole cause or a primary cause of family breakdown or at risk behavior is overly simplistic and as black and white and reductionistic logic as saying “Averah x caused this catastrophe.” When we know that dysfunctional families, poor schools and communities cause a great deal of these problems, then a ban on the net is the equivalent of treating a patient who has a tumor with aspirin.

    Bob and Michoel-any community that wants to live in isolation from the secular world can do so.My point was that Lakewood was not the respository for all of the Torah in the Western Hemisphere. It is a womderful Makom Torah but i is a davar pashut uborer meod that it is not the only Makom Torah in the US. Just remember-Chazal did not look kindly on living in a cave and disaproving of others who tried to make a living, which is why R Shimon Bar Yochai went back into his cave after his encounter with the farmer. That is the pshat in that Gemara, not my superimposed drush.

    Of course, every community has members who abuse the net. My point was that was appropriate for Lakewood cannot be viewed as the only model for more heterogeneous communities. In those communities, education and awareness are the beginning and self-restraint are the only answers.

    I think that Chazal trusted man and implanted a degree of Yiras Shamayim within all of us. That’s precisely why Chazal voted down bans on Esther, etc. Nevertheles, those communities that deem themselves in need of a ban to reinforce their Yiras Shamayim can ban whatever they choose.

  44. Steve,

    You said earlier:

    “In addition, how does R Salomon understand the fact that potential bans on Megilas Esther, Shir HaShirim and Yechezkel were all voted down? Apparently, Chazal had a lot of faith in the level of Yiras Shamayim among Klal Yisrael- a factor that ironically is absent in the city that bills itself as the home of Torah in North America.”

    I asked:

    “The internet is judged to pose a danger, while Megilas Esther, Shir HaShirim, or Yechezkel are judged to be safe (now, not only in ancient times!). Wouldn’t you agree that this position is defensible, Steve?”

    But you didn’t answer.

    Meanwhile, and maybe unexpectedly, the innuendo in your “cave” reference and other asides about Lakewood was exposed. You are now reshaping your argument each time you respond to comments, to try to salvage it.

    So now, for example, you concede that it’s OK for Lakewood to make its own rules:

    “If the RY in Lakewood deem a ban appropriate, then that is their prerogative as the Poskim and gdolim for the perceived needs and deficiencies of that community”

    But you still have some harsh words for Lakewood anyway:

    “Lakewood claims to be the capital or a capital of Torah in the US. Yet, it doesn’t trust people that who live there that they have the maturity, etc to refrain from improper portions of the net.”

    Does your own community have members with “deficiencies” related to vulnerability to internet abuse? What are its leaders doing about this?

  45. Steve,
    I should have said “that sounds smug to me”, not “that IS smug”. Please be mochel.


  46. Steve,
    I still fail to see the irony. Lakewood “claims”. That is smug. Do you know of a community with a great percentage of talmidei chachamim? They are a citadel of Torah. Period. Why shouldn’t they say so.

    “it doesn’t trust…”
    Maybe they don’t know every single individual there well enough to know their level of maturity and self discipline. If Yankel sees Reuven the shtark ben Torah (who has the requisite self discipline) using the web, he may see that as a hechsher of web use. Maybe Yankel does not have the same self-discipine and maybe he doesn’t realize that he lacks it. Do you believe that every single frum Jew that is using the web is doing so appropriately? Do you beleive that there are 0 Jews who have had their spiritual lives ruined by web use? The validity of the Lakewood approach is self evident. I think it is us that need to explain ourselves.

  47. Michoel-My point re Lakewood was ironic. Lakewood claims to be the capital or a capital of Torah in the US. Yet, it doesn’t trust people that who live there that they have the maturity, etc to refrain from improper portions of the net. It is an example of Yiras HaShem taking precedence over Ahavas HaShem, when all the sources, especially Rambam in Hilcos Yesodie HaTorah and the end of Hilcos Teshuvah emphasize that true Ahavas HaShem is the purest and highest Avodas HaShem.

    The Chasam Sofer was referring to setting up kedimos in who received an aliyah. He opposed such kedimos that did not have a Mesorah.

  48. Mark-You missed my point. If the RY in Lakewood deem a ban appropriate, then that is their prerogative as the Poskim and gdolim for the perceived needs and deficiencies of that community.

    There have been posters who support the ban and have suggested that such a ban is not novel for those families that ban all secular media, etc. I think that the “living in a cave” analogy is not Chas Ve Shalom, a canard and is based upon the Talmud’s own description of why R Shimon Bar Yochai returned to his hiding place-an inability to appreciate HaShem’s world. Such a description is indeeed appropriate for those who want to live in a society that is devoid of all secular media. It almost borders on Orwellian newspeak to categorize someone as “fundamentalist” because he opposes a ban on an issue that reflects on a haskkafic debate that has been ongoing since Chazal.

    I don’t think that is beneficial or worthwhile for anyone to decide what is forbidden or worthwhile on this issue because Yiras Shamayim cannot be dictated in that manner. Chazal say HaKol Bedie Shamayim Chutz MeYiras Shamayim because Yiras Shamayim is by definition an internally realized midah that is built upon large and non-stop doses of Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim.

    More fundamentally, what one person deems Mutar is viewed as categorically Assur by someone else.What one views as an absolute essential is viewed as an absolute luxury by someone else. That is essentially a personal decision for those of us who live in communities of mixed kehilos, as opposed to a completely yeshivishe or chassidishe community.

    Bob-Of course, the net presents dangers and oppurtunities. I also object to your mischaracterization of my posts and your claim that I “using (or abusing) this issue.” I hope that you are not claiming that since a local ban is in effect, it is beyond dispute as to its application elsewhere. If certain communities wish to ban the net, etc, that is their prerorgative. However, the fact that such a ban is necessary there or in other similar communities is hardly a proof that bans are desirable or efficacious. I stand by all of the examples of prior bans that caused much disiveness and destruction to Klal Yisrael, with the exception of the Takanos of R Gershom and other similar takanos of Chazal.

  49. Steve,
    I still do not understand your point. “First of all, the RY in Lakewood have decided that the internet is a danger for that community, despite its reputation as one of the capitals of Torah in the US..” Why do you use the word “despite”? Because of its status as a citadel of Torah, the norms there are more restrictive and more intensly focused on limud and kiyum haTorah, and avoiding influences that may negatively impact that focus. You mention a Chasam Sofer. It is necessary to see it inside or quoted acurately in order to comment.

    “One can argue that these takanos reinforced Torah prohibitions.” and that is exactly what the Lakewood Roshei Yeshiva feel they are doing..

  50. Steve,

    Please answer my question to you in
    my March 21st, 2006 08:55 comment.

    The internet presents dangers (as well as some opportunities) to all communities. Don’t you agree?

    What I see is that you basically object to the leadership and direction of the Lakewood community and all others like it, and you are using (or abusing) this issue to express that.

  51. Steve

    We’re trying to find the grey here and you are still seeing everything as black and white.

    Nobody is advocating banning everything, but that does not mean everything should be permitted. So the question is what things should be permitted and what things shouldn’t. Please don’t take a fundamentalist position by trotting out the old “living in a cave” canard.

    I’m not sure I hear your point on the arayos issues. If the Rabbanim in Lakewood see this as an issue of arayos, then what is the problem with them issuing a takanah. As you pointed out, certainly there is a basis for arayos based takanahs.

    The relevance of Rebbeinu Gershom’s takanos was brought down because you made a blanket statement above that ban’s never work. Rabbi Goldson was just pointing out some bans/takanos that seemed effective.

  52. I think that both Bob and Michoel missed my point. First of all, the RY in Lakewood have decided that the internet is a danger for that community, despite its reputation as one of the capitals of Torah in the US.. As I have said and noone else has disagreed yet, that is their assessment for their community, regardless of the source for the basis, which I understand was based on a verse that is the source for Pikuach Nefesh, as opposed to the verse cited by Michoel.

    Of course, we have Issurei Drabanon that supplement the force of Issurei Torah. Yet, every Issur Drabanan has to be patterned on an Issur Torah, as opposed to being invented out of whole cloth. The Chasam Sofer has harsh comments on this in a discussion in one of his teshuvos over a certain kehillah that wanted to devise a takana or chumra that had no basis.

    It is by no means a psak or judgment for all of Klal Yisrael. The level of shmirah from arayos is an issue that also lends itself to various halachic responses. That is why there are numerous minhagim re separate seating at chasunahs which have an ample halachic basis. That is why many Gdolim ( RYK and RAS) had televisions.

    I think that it is a simple issue-If you want to live in the 21st Century equivalent of a cave, then you should ban anything and everything secular, unless your spouse is paying the bills so that you can sit and learn and needs secular info for a job and career. On the other hand, if you believe that Torah has a message that is relevant and deep and can transform the world that you live in, then use the technology to spread Torah. I think that it is fair to say that the issue of how a Torah Jew interacts , if at all, with his or her surrounding society was debated by Chazal and remains unresolved as of this date, with two opposing viewpoints.I see the issue of bans on net use as yet another illustration of this debate at work.

    I also don’t see the relevance of Rabbeinu Gershom’s takanos. One can argue that these takanos reinforced Torah prohibitions.

  53. Steve,
    He did not say that the “Net was the equivalent of yichud”. According to my understanding, he equated the way in which both arayos and internet need extra shmira.

    “Yichud may be an issur Torah” True. And here is another nice issur Torah: “v’lo sasuro achrei l’vavchem v’achrei eineichem”

    I’m having great trouble understanding your question about potential bans. What is the need for an issur d’rabbanon to not eat meat and milk together even when they are not cooked togehter? Klal Yisrael has yiras shomayim! Most of our Torah is rabbinic enactments.

  54. The internet is judged to pose a danger, while Megilas Esther, Shir HaShirim, or Yechezkel are judged to be safe (now, not only in ancient times!). Wouldn’t you agree that this position is defensible, Steve?

    You haven’t demonstrated that Chazal would have allowed all or even any use of the internet had it somehow been available in ancient times.

  55. I think that “bans” are far more emotionally loaded than “rules” but then again-it is very easy to disguise a ban by calling it a rule. In addition, it depends on the subject matter. The more extreme that the rule appears, the easier it is to understand that even if you call it a set of rules, it is a ban for all effective purposes. One poster has suggested that if you ban the net, you have to ban all other secular media. If you live in a 21st Century equivalent of a cave, such a ban or rule is desirable or feasible. For those of us who don’t, such a decree would fail for all of the reasons that I have posted.

    R Salomon’s post re the Net being the equivalent of Yichud is fascinating. First of all, Yichud may be an Issur Torah. In addition, how does R Salomon understand the fact that potential bans on Megilas Esther, Shir HaShirim and Yechezkel were all voted down? Apparently, Chazal had a lot of faith in the level of Yiras Shamayim among Klal Yisrael- a factor that ironically is absent in the city that bills itself as the home of Torah in North America.

  56. SL

    I think you’ve focused more on the consequences of violating the ban, rather than the essence of what makes it a ban.

    I’m not sure that the consequences are what make a ban objectionable to people. Certainly regarding book bans, the consequences of violation are not what makes it troublesome.

  57. We use a filter “suite” package called “ContentProtect” which has 1)internet blocks based on content; email spam filter; and pop-up block. Cost is about $35-40/year. It was also found to be the best filter available by a committee appointed by a certain rav in our town to investigate the best way to protect one’s family if the reality was that you were going to have internet access. I am the “administrator” which means that I set the degree of the content block (from mild to 100%)(obviously with the agreement of my husband), and only someone on my log-in name with my password can override the content block (useful when doing medical research, for example, and the filter excludes a site because it mentions body parts). It saves me as well as everyone else from the kinds of mistakes that Sarah Newcomb described. I would highly recommend it.

    **PS- It is interesting to note that I consistently have to override this block when reading news about Israel, and really any Jewish non-Torah blog, because of the presence of “Hate and/or Violence”. Sad but true.

  58. The Lakewood internet proclamation was not one of just rules, it is a “ban” where families who do not adhere to it are ostracized as their children are kicked out of school.

    I don’t see any reason to replace the word rules with ban. I personally prefer precise language.

  59. David

    Are you agreeing with Michoel that the word carries a lot of emotional baggage and just expressing why you think there is such an emotional reaction?

    Let’s say that Shevach High School passed a rule that girls couldn’t discuss/bring in Harry Potter books in school. If we/they phrased that rule as the Harry Potter Ban, don’t you think they would draw a much stronger reaction?

  60. I’m rather astonished that in the “all bans are bad” debate no one has mentioned the most famous bans — those of Rabbeinu Gershom.

    Is there anyone today who doesn’t recognize the wisdom of the prohibitions against polygamy, divorcing one’s wife without her consent, or shaming those who converted to Christianity but now seek to return (perhaps read: ba’alei tshuva)?

    Personally, my wife and I attempt to teach our children to live lives of moderation and self-restraint, engaging the physical world so that it serves their spirituality without overindulging to the point where it becomes an impediment to spiritual growth. It’s quite a tightrope walk, and we certainly don’t always get it right. But the world has become such a complex place to live that we question whether any other approach is realistic. There’s a reason why we don’t live in Lakewood.

    That being said, I can definately appreciate why many rabbeim have staked out an all-or-nothing approach to the internet and similar activities. The unfortunate truth is that many people are incapable of moderation and self-restraint, and the potential for harm, particularly among inadequately supervised teenagers, is arguably on the level of pikuach nefesh — life threatening.

    For those of us who continue to use the net, perhaps the best attitude to adopt is one of taking the spirit of the ban to heart and maintaining constant vigilance over our children and ourselves, lest we find ourselves slipping from balanced useage toward the precipice of abuse.

  61. Mark –

    I think that the word “ban” signifies (to most people) an extreme position which indicates a failure to appreciate a more measured approach. “Rules”, on the other hand, indicate that the use of the internet is ok if it conforms to certain limitations.

  62. What if we changed the word “ban” to “rules” and we made that statement that all /communities schools have a series of rules.

    If you violate some rules you might get a warning from a Rabbi/Principal, violating others would get you a suspension and there are some rules which if repeatedly violated would get you expelled from the school or personna-non-grata-tized in the community.

    Would we say that rules don’t work? Or that rules insult the intelligence of the students/community? Or that since rules are hard to enforce, we shouldn’t make them?

    Why do we enter another sphere when we use the word “ban”? Why can’t we just think of it as an important and serious rule?

  63. Jerry,
    “Perhaps some of them need to be educated on what it is,” I think they understand very well what it is. Do library books have un-tznius pop-ups with links? Do library books contain actual live weirdos that want to enter into chats with our children? Yes, putting the PC in a communal room is a start, but to say that the web is no different from other media is delusional.

  64. I find it incrediable that people are having such difficulty understanding the Internet Ban. Why is the Internet any different than any other form of communication from outside of a community. If you already Ban television, if you do not allow “English” books in your home, than the ban on the internet is only natural. It is just another form of communication, that may not be appropriate to ones beliefs.

    However if you send your son or daughter to a “Frum” yeshiva, but allow them to go to the library, and study english subjects, and do research for term papers, than why are you afraid of the Internet. I watch many frum parents drop their children off at the library and pick them up 2 hours later. There is no supervision of what books they are reading. Why is the internet any different.

    The same Rabonnim who allow their talmidim to go to the library, are suddenly afraid of the Internet. Perhaps some of them need to be educated on what it is, and how it works. Placing a PC in ones dinning room with parental controls, is no different than looking at the books that you child brings home from school or the Library. Perhaps along with the TV and the Internet we should ban all newspapers and non saforim.

    If a Yeshiva bans all forms of outside material, than it makes sense. If however othher media are allowed, than it appears that the banning of the Internet is done out of ignorance, and fear of anything new.

  65. Steve and David,
    I think that we need to be more careful about the arayos of interent than we do about actual arayos. With actual arayos, their is a daas acheres. Meaning, if Yankel has a taavah for a woman that is assur to him, her daas can keep him from over-stepping gidrei tzinus and certainly from being nichshol in an aveira. He is embarassed and fearful of attempting to do an aveirah and that is a big motivator. However, with the web, there is no daas acheres. Rav Solomon actually said (I’m told) that if Chazal were alive today they would be gozer and issur yichud against using the internet. I can understand why. Steve, as you suggested, it is a good idea to keep the computer in a central space. That is only a start.

  66. David Linn-Of course, we all are aware of Ain aputropos larayos. Yet, aren’t we dealing with avizurayu larayos ( second degree) as opposed to actual ayaos?

  67. ayala,
    they are backing up their words with stiff consequences. Kind of like when the Torah says that if a person breaks shabbos, he’ll get stoned to death. Many might keep shabbos anyway, as we see in our times. Others need extra motivation. No different with the Lakewood ban.

  68. “I always respect any community that is not only able to make a ban, but enforce it as well. That must mean that in this day and age there are still communities where people listen to their leaders, whether they agree or not, and where leaders are not afraid to lead. That is admirable in itself. Rarity nowadays.”

    The schools are threatening to expel kids whose parents have unapproved net access. This indicates the opposite of your conclusion: they believe parents wouldn’t pay attention to the leaders if not for the threat their kids would not be accepted in the local schools!

  69. Aside from this issues of shmutz, lashon hara, and apikores, I’d like to point out that intensive (maybe addictive is a better word) internet use, can be really bad for a person’s physical and mental health. Also, if someone tries to speak to me while I am involved in a blog, it is very hard for me to focus on what they are saying. nnnnnnnnnnn -that is the sound of my brain humming…. nnnnnnnnnn

  70. Dave,
    It is a subscription. I think one user license is 7.95 / month but they are somewhat flexible about it if there is legitimate finacial need. It is run by some idealistic religious gentiles. http://www.covenanteyes.com You can have up to 3 partners who recieve a log of your URLs once a weeks via email. Certain questionable sites will be marked in red. I’d recomend having a rav and / or one’s wife as a shomer. It helps but it a lot but ultimately one still has to have self discipline.

  71. Steve-

    Personally, I’m not sure one can draw the line at “trusting himself or herself as to content”. In that regard, we are treading close to the concept, if not the actual application, of ein apitropos l’arayos (loose translation: there is no internal/personal protection from sexual immorality).


    How does Covenant Eyes work, is it a subscription service or a one time program purchase?

  72. This is sure an interesting discussion. I have several thoughts about all of this.
    1- I always respect any community that is not only able to make a ban, but enforce it as well. That must mean that in this day and age there are still communities where people listen to their leaders, whether they agree or not, and where leaders are not afraid to lead. That is admirable in itself. Rarity nowadays.

    2- Aside from the positive things which can be gained from Internet and the obvious business use, my business is largely reliant on Internet, there are MANY dangers, not only for children. I have seen adults, male and female, even within the Yeshivish, Rabbonish, etc.. communities, stumble in this regard. Homes can be broken up, teens can get lost, too many instances to mention.

    I have a block on the computer and I am the only one with Internet access. Not my husband, not my children. EVER. I am not so computer savvy, and there are times where I have had to look for something online and ended up totally accidentally WHERE I DIDN’T WANT TO END UP. I have stumbled innocently on to sites, images, advertisements, etc. that I had never seen before. IT IS SCARY. And I am a forty year old mother, with no TV, no secular music, no secular books, no movies. I never browse or explore anything on the Internet. It can happen to anyone, the risks are very real. Even those sights that I unfortunately witnessed, I always wonder what kind of a Roshem that leaves. I could imagine what kind of a domino effect could take place if another person experienced that and were just a little curious……….Please take this matter seriously, kedushas Yisroel is at stake. That of course is the real reason for the “bans”.

  73. The following ideas are fairly simple to implement in any family.One should keep the computer in an open family room. If one cannot trust himself or herself as to content, perhaps, one should refrain from using it absent anyone else’s presence in the room. Don’t buy yourself a cell phone with access for any family member. Don’t buy a laptop unless it is absolutely essential for business.Keep yourself and kids out of myspace or any similar list.

    As far as blogs are concerned, I view the Torah orientedblogs as a way of harbatzas Torah, kiruv and sharing ideas. If one blogs, one should be prepared to back up one’s ideas in a proper manner and not engage in comments that show a lack of preparation, empathy or sympathy for others who may have very fundamental questions and doubts re emunah.

  74. I use a piece of software called Covenant Eyes. It sends a log of every URL I visit to a shomer. Highly recomended.

  75. Since all of us here are obviously employing the internet, we are either not in support of or don’t feel bound by the ban. At the same time, it seems that none of us are naieve enough to believe that there aren’t real possible dangers that come with internet use.

    What practical things are we doing to deal with these potential pitfalls. I’m interested to see those ideas that address the use of children and of adults. What’s your angle?

  76. “Example, do you think a boy in a yeshiva dorm would be suspended if he brought in a magazine on…car racing? I think not.”

    He might not be suspended, but in many yeshivas he would get into real trouble.

  77. The question isn’t why they issue the ban; the reasons are obvious and many opponents of the ban understand them and might agree with them. The question is to what degree the ban is enforceable even in the short-term and whether it will be a potential long-term solution without effectively going Amish. I don’t know many people who think this is anything more than a stopgap measure. They *will* have to come up with something other than a unilateral ban to deal with the net.

    The short-term problem with the ban is that it’s being implemented through schools; that the permit system is prone to abuse (protektziya, lying etc) and other related problems. Many people who are opposed to having internet in their home so long as they have young children are unhappy with the implementation, and the outright ban, and also see no long-term viability for this policy.

  78. Mark-Thanks for your response. The arguments against all television today are much more compelling today than back in the 60s and 70s. As R E Buchwald states, it is akin to bringing garbage back into one’s house.

    WADR, I don’t see technology as a threat to Kedushas Yisrael or Bchiras Am Yisrael unless it is used improperly. OTOH,one would have to be completely blind to reality and deny that the Net has as much tumah as taharah on it. Obviously, a ban may work for certain insular communities that have no compunction about banning books, etc. However,we also know that many practices that start out solely as a “Lakewood chumra” or a “Bnei Brak chumra” have much impact beyond those communities. I can see a ban working in certain Chasidishe communities also.

    I mentioned the concept of Gzerah because any rabbinic ordinance has to be based upon some overriding Torah law. RHS always quotes RYBS who quoted the Talmud that states “Kol Tikun Drabanan kein Dorasissatikun”I can understand the Gzereah as reflecting the Torah law of Pikuach Nefesh, etc for that community.

    As far as the no-ban communities, I think that we have to maximize Torah content wherever possible and emphasize both the positive side and warn against the negative side of the web. It is a combination of aseh tov and sur merah.

    My commments re bans were based upon the historical evidence. It is always easy to issue a ban, it is a lot tougher to enforce it without significant unintended consequences arising therefrom.

  79. I think that it is fairly easy to defend the idea of limiting children’s and teenager’s internet usage. But, I think that it is more than difficult to defend removing all children from all schools in one city because their parents choose to have the internet in their home.

    Let’s remember that the internet ban includes clauses that state that Rabbinic approval is needed to have the internet in the home for business purposes. Who knows what purposes have been approved, if any. But, I’m sure that there are many families that use the internet for non-business purposes to shop and bank after they work long hours outside of the phone. And, let’s also remmeber that the internet ban also includes a clause that states that children are never to see their parents USE the internet.

    Therefore, if I lived in Lakewood, and managed to secure a heter to use the internet for legitimate business purposes (which I have and cannot fulfil without the internet), I would be unable to work from home because a kid is going to see me work. Quite honestly, this defeats the entire purpose of working from home.

  80. Steve

    I don’t think anybody in their right mind would predict that this ban will take effect across the breadth and width of the Torah Community.

    However as Dina pointed out, and to which you agree, many of us see the wisdom of a TV-less environments and the benefits (or potential benefits) of living in a community which is not influenced by the Sex-Violence-Materialism and Anti-Torah values that the Entertainment Industry promotes. Do you remember the old argument about the value of Channel 13/Public Television – well I don’t think anbody trots that one out any more.

    So why is the Internet better? Well you could argue that there is a lot more benefit in terms of the ease of publishing and access to a wealth of information – ie the new Channel 13.

    But is there a point where the same anti-Torah values that make us reject TV leads us to decide that the downside of the Internet outweighs the upside? Could we seriously argue that an Internet ban does not make sense in that light.

    A Gezerah Shein Hatzibut Ycolin Laamod Bah is a different animal for a different time period. We don’t have the Communal Structure where one Rabbinical Body can make a Gezerah for everybody. Rabbi Welcher has stated clearly that bans in Israel are not applicable in the US. The Lakewood Internet ban is clearly targetted towards Lakewood residents so I don’t agree that the this is the core of this dispute.

    I think the core is coming to terms with a Torah world which is increasingly more integrated (to a great degree because of technology) with the non-Torah world. And the realization that this increasing integration creates real communal issues of negative influences that are not healthy and productive for us and our children.

    So what are the effective ways of dealing with these negative influences? Do we just let them all in and take a “see no evil” approach. Or do we take proactive steps to remedy the situation to whatever degree possible.

    Waving our hands and proclaiming “bans are bad” does not solve the real problems we face. For some community bans seem to be a potential solution at this point of time. For others it will never happen. It is the no-ban communities where we really need to do some hard thinking to figure out what can and should be done.

  81. Mark-Chazal and Rishonim discuss the concept of a “gezerah shein hatzibur ycolin laamod bah”- a decree that a community cannot abide by.

    Time will tell whether the Lakewood ban takes its place as a legitimate stringency for that community alone and which merits implementation across all sectors of Torah Jewry or a decree that cannot be implemented across the breadth and width of a Torah community that has different approaches as to its need and appreciation of the best parts of secular culture. IMO, that is the core of the dispute ( in lomdishe terms- “hanekudas hamachlokes”).

  82. To Dina Mentsch:

    I am glad that we agree re the curriculum issue in boys schools and oppressive nature of rules in girls schools. Once upon a time, TV was just bitul zman, no more, no less, for most of us. Today’s TV programming is antithetical to our values. Even sports, which should teach kid about achdus, have become infected with a “me first” problem.

    On the net, I respectfully disagree that a ban will work except in the communities that i described in my first post on this issue.

  83. To Steve Brizel:

    I actually agree with you that the typical curriculum in boys high schools is seriously deficient. I am not really a cheerleader for the way things are, although sometimes I come across like that. I was just arguing that certain bans serve the purpose that I support — that is, keeping the junk out of my son’s (and others’) path.

    I regard this internet ban like the gedolim of the last generation saying we should get rid of the TV. Arguably, they were ahead of their time (although I am not so familiar with the time frame) when shows like the Brady Bunch were on, but they saw how the outside values that were soon becoming ugly did not belong in our homes.

    The problem that perhaps we both agree on is the tendency for certain Bais Yaakov/Yeshivish communities to make *so many* things forbidden or frowned upon, that the kids feel squashed. I live out of town, but I am aware that rules in the NY area schools can be oppressive to many teens. Bans such as on platform shoes or dangling earrings are what turn kids off; however I would have to argue that the internet is in a different league (for kids, at least).

  84. Michoel- The ban on Yechezkel was a proposed view of Chazal, as was the identical view on Shir HaShirim and similar seforim that never took effect and which allowed these seforim to become part of Tanach. I am not sure that I see the comparison betweeen a proposed ban that Chazal voted down and post Talmudic bans that became effective in one or more sector of Klal Yisrael and which caused great damage thereby.

    One cannot comment on the efficacy of a ban without looking at the historical and hashkafic roots of the ban. I dissagree with your contentions that we don’t know what would have happened in the absence of a ban because we have solid historical evidence of the aftermath of every ban.

    Look at the ban on the Moreh-the controversy over studying Aristotelian philosophy and Rambam’s response to this challenge in the Moreh lead to the burning of the Talmud, which in turn led R Yonah to write Shaarei Teshuvah. The Eibsheutz-Emden controversy created an impact in many different areas of halacha and hashkafah. The Gra viewed Chasidus as an antimomian movement that ignored halacha. The Misnagdim and the many Gdolim who opposed the introduction of Mussar thought that learning Talmud alone was sufficient protection against Haskalah, etc. The bans on secular study , Zionism and the works of those Gdolim whose works were not “approved by the Gdolim” continue to resonate within our communities today.

    On the other hand, the notion that we cannot and do not know what would have happened in the absence of the bans is an argument that cannot be supported by history or the evidence leading to the bans. The Maimondean controversy, the roles of Kabbalah, Mussar, and the reaction of the Torah world to secular study, Zionism and those Gdolim whose views and works are “different” all are issues that resonate today.

  85. Steve, I know from your various posts on different blogs that you are a very intelligent and thought-out person. Therefore I am somewhat disappointed by your sweeping generalizions above. In order to know that the bans were counter-productive, we would have to know what would have happened had there not been those bans. We CAN NOT know that. As you certainly know, the Chachamim wanted to put sefer Yechezkel in genizah. The reason the didn’t was only because they were able to be m’yashev there kashos. If not, they would have put a certified work of nevius in genizah.
    The “bans are always bad crowd” needs to know who it is that they are arguing with. That is not to say that there aren’t good arguments to be made, but they should be made with some humility.

  86. Getting back to the issue of bans, there have been bans in Jewish history. Yet, the bans always proved counterproductve and suppressed legitimate hashkafic inquiry. This is evident from any study of the bans and their subject matter. Start with the ban on the Moreh Nevuchim, then go to the infamous controversy between R Y Eibshutz and R Y Emden that caused a major rift among the Gdolei Acharonim.The curious student should then look at the bans against the Meor Enayim,Chasidus and Musar. Then look at the bans on secular study, Zionism, and any Gadol’s works which are not “approved” by his contemporaries which continue unabated as oftoday.Accordingly,there is a long history of bans, which the Lakewood internet ban is just the latest example.

    The real issue is whether any of them had a constructive purpose or result. One can argue that the above bans served zero constructive purpose.

  87. Dina- I don’t argue that secular culture as defined in your post is mysognistic, shmutzy or just a waste of time.My point was that banning the net is consistent with that point of view, regardless of the fact that many other fine yeshivos do not subscribe to that perspective.

    Whether or now boys high schools succeed in the majority of cases based upon the current curriculum and hashkafic attitudes is an issue that has been debated hotly for a long time. (Take a look at the Maharal wherein he criticizes the curriculum as contrary to an explicit Mishnah that mandates an age appropriate curriculum as opposed to a Midrash based one wherein 1,000 enter a Beis Medrash but only one leaves worthy of being a Baal Horah. I think that one can question the virtues of the latter curriculum when in fact it has produced revolutionaries and at risk teens who engage in anti social and worse types of behavior . How many more cases should we endure as a community before we seriously view curriculum as another cause of the kids at risk crisis?)

    One can point to the practices that I mentioned as being one of the causes that cause adolescents go off the derech , as opposed to the all too stereotypic claims that secular culture as defined by you as adolescent taavah is the sole or primary cause.

    I would like to think that a prototypical Ben Torah in training in a high school or Beis Medrash setting “walks the walk and talks the talk” in addition to just dressing the part. Yet, that is no guaranty of success-especially if there are issues at home,school or in the community that are undermining the same.

    On the other hand, R Horowitz’s point that the notion of a totally sheltered child is a dream that cannot be accomplished because of the highly technological age that we live in. Therefore, our best hope is that our kids will view their parents and teachers as their role models and view all of tehnology with the view of knowing that it it can be very helpful and very damaging if one is not careful.

  88. Tzvee,
    “There are no good reasons for such a ban. There is no basis in Judaism for such a ban. It is beyond rationality. ”

    Perhaps you would like to provide some evidence for your rather extreme statement? Are you familiar with Rabbi Moshe Feinsten? Do you consider yourself more rational or better equipped to judge what has a basis in Judaism?

  89. Who says all bans are bad? That seems a very American way of thinking, but not a Jewish one. Granted, I believe that tremendous good can be accomplished online, but so can tremendous bad.

  90. “want to ensure that nothing re outside culture, media invades their homes in any form. It is pefectly understandable if you are familiar with yeshivos that don’t allow outside media in dorms, keep bachurim in dorms and dictate hashkafa in every other conceivable manner.”

    I do not think the *totality* of the outside world is what these communities are addressing, rather the omnipresent schmutz. Example, do you think a boy in a yeshiva dorm would be suspended if he brought in a magazine on…car racing? I think not. Is it bitul Torah? Of course. That’s not the issue. The issue in high school dorms is the obvious tayvah that teenage boys have that is fed by outside messages even as they walk down the street. Radios are banned because news is schumtzy, music is low, animalistic and mysoginistic, and basically there is nothing elevating about it anymore. Boys’ high schools are trying to mold a person into an elevated, focused & refined individual who has a passion for Torah. And I maintain, they are doing a pretty good job of achieving their goals. Ever compare one of our boys to the average high school public school boy – perhaps one of our non-frum cousins?

    The same comparison can be made to any of our children of any age. The refinment and maturity that comes from our values AND from sheltering them from the street is obvious.

  91. I can play devil’s advocate on this one easily. Up front I’ll say that I don’t believe in outright bans. I think they are counterproductive and belittle the banners in many people’s eyes. I think a better approach is to make recommendations and to educate people as to dangers and how to avoid them. That said I also accept the right of a homogeneous community to take upon itself whatever restrictions it sees fit to maintain its integrity.

    A couple of months ago there was a meeting for parents about the internet at my son’s yeshiva high school. Being that this is a right-wing Yeshiva I was impressed that the general tone was one of begrudging acceptance, an identification of the problems and a search for solutions. One of the speakers brought out a very interesting point.

    He said that man has much less “busha” (embarrassment) before G-d than before his fellow man. On a practical level this makes sense, as it would be hard to live our lives otherwise. We couldn’t take care of our bodily needs or act as husband and wife if it was the same. One thing that the internet does is remove the potential man to man busha which generally keeps our more base proclivities in check. It allows us to be anonymous and isolated in our little world. Thus leaving only man-G-d busha. As a result there is a much greater to temptation to follow our yetzer hora. As a concrete example (mine not the rabbi who gave the lecture), it is much more difficult for a person to go into a store and buy a Playboy magazine than to enter www .playboy .whatever in the privacy of his room or office.

    This insight is no secret, as the number 1 suggestion in the secular world to minimize the dangers of the internet is to place any internet-enabled computer in a central, well-trafficked location in one’s home.

    Let’s say that we found a way to eliminate the illicit side of the internet and we were left with just good wholesome information and Torah sites. We’d still have an enormous problem of bitul z’man. Unless one is using the internet solely to listen to shiurim or otherwise learn Torah there’s a huge chance that he’s wasting an incredible amount of time on the internet with e-mail, blogs, chat, IM, e-lists, etc. Let’s say you’re a discerning blogger and you only visit Beyond Teshuva, Hirhurim, and Cross-currents. Between reading and posting, that alone could be 1-2 hours a day! As wonderful as these blogs are, wouldn’t that time be better spent learning, or doing chessed? Throw in the other internet activities I mentioned and you can see how a huge amount of time can be sucked out of one’s life.

    This insight is also backed up in the secular world by numerous studies showing the amount of lost productivity businesses experience from those employees that have internet access.

    There’s a lot more I could say (and I’m pro-internet use!) but this is long enough and I should go learn something. :)

  92. Please forgive my ignorance, bt could you provide more details about this ban itself. I had heard nothing of it before this post and I’m a bit lost trying to follow the conversation.

  93. I am not a resident of Lakewood, and I do not follow the Rabbonim who issued the ban, so it has no relevance to my life, except as a passing interest.

    Out of interest I would like to know if there is any hard evidence to support if the ban is actually effective in reaching its goals. Anyone know?

  94. Even though my Roshei Yeshivah write their own web friendly Divrei Torah ( Torahweb)and my own view lies with R Horowitz as to the effacy of the ban, I can see the virtues of certain communities banning the web.

    Here are two rationales- Torah based and political-sociologically based:

    1) Rav Soloveitchik ZTL discussed the secreting of the Kohen Gadol for seven days before Yom KaKippurim. All of the rules of giving the benefit of the dount were suspended because the Kohen Gadol and his tefilos were supposed to be the keys to a healthy and happy year. The Kohen Gadol had to be free from any blemish of a spiritual nature. Obviously, those communities whose Mesorah of Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim is based on the notion that they represent the future of Klal Yisrael in a completelty pure and unblemished way and with as little interaction with the outside world want to ensure that nothing re outside culture, media invades their homes in any form. It is pefectly understandable if you are familiar with yeshivos that don’t allow outside media in dorms, keep bachurim in dorms and dictate hashkafa in every other conceivable manner.

    2)All societies that demand complete control over their members of all ages cannot function without controlling the means of communications with the outside world. Internet shmutz is obviously available and is a pretext for forbidding discussions with other Bnei and Bnos Torah who have equally valid Mesorahs that are just not discussed or accorded respect within the walls of certain yeshivos. This is a well know fact. Banning the net is just a way of increasing control and fear of the outsider with different and legitimate points of view.

  95. This past Thanksgiving, my (non-frum) brother pretty much asked me “What’s the deal with the internet ban?” He had, apparently, read about it in the papers.

    Truth be told, I was tempted to simply tell him that that has nothing to do with me and move on to football or the consistency of the cranberry sauce. But, I didn’t.

    My brother is pretty openminded and he has, over the years, come to understand why I personally don’t have a television in the house. He knows, at the same time, that this is not because of a ban or because I am being told not to have one. It is a personal choice.

    Since I knew that he can understand the “television thing”and he knows that a Torah home is based upon imbuing the home with certain standards and mores and keeping out influences which contradict, if not attack, those standards, I asked him which medium, television or the internet, he thought had more potential to bring in the things a Torah home is trying to keep out. He answered, unequivocally, the internet.

    I also explained that the people living in the areas where the ban is most prevalant have chosen to live there because they seek to be in an environment that fosters a certain religious viewpoint guided by particular Torah sages.

    We discussed, in a non-specific manner, some of the horror stories related to internet use and though we both know that these stories are more the rule than the exception, we agreed that there are inherent dangers in internet use.

    We also discussed the tremendous potential the internet holds in general and for the dissemination of Torah.

    As such, we see that the net simultaneously contains awesome potential for good and for bad. The ban (at least as far as its initial stage) was only for those homes with children. I think it is understandable that children do not have the capacity or the fortitude to always steer clear of the clearly non-torah aspects of the net.

    I don’t think that Thanksgiving day discussion solved any major issues or broke any new ground. We didn’t even discuss the question of why the extreme measure of a ban was undertaken. At the same time,I think the both of us gained by trying to look at things from the other perspective. And, as far as I’m concerned, that’s not a bad first step.

  96. There are no good reasons for such a ban. There is no basis in Judaism for such a ban. It is beyond rationality.

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