The Citi Field Asifa regarding the Internet was held last night, so we though it would be appropriate to repost this article that was originally published on May 30, 2006.
As everyone on this blog is aware, many, if not the majority, of gedolim are speaking out against the Internet. On Sunday, May 14 – Mother’s Day in the secular world – I attended what was advertised as an “historic asifa” on this very subject. My sons’ yeshiva sent home notes about it a month in advance, exhorting the parents about the importance of attending. They followed up with a personal phone call on the day of the asifa, and just in case the community hadn’t gotten the message, a car equipped with a loudspeaker drove around broadcasting: “Save our children! Attend the historic asifa!” Under such pressure, I attended.
I must admit, I was reluctant. In fact, when my ride there was delayed, I was happy to be late. But ultimately, I made it there and was persuaded to do something I never dreamed I had the strength to do: I disabled my browser.
The two speakers at the event were Rabbi Norman Lowenthal, a social worker with expertise in young people and Internet addiction, and Ha Rav Mattisyahu Solomon, Rosh Yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha. Both were extremely scary. Rabbi Lowenthal spoke about the predators on the Internet, who, with their smooth words, lure teens into the most exploitative of relationships. And even without those horrific stories, he described the easy access to porn, and obsessive behaviors like checking email and blog post responses up to twenty times a day. This last is probably the most benign of the things he described, but it fit me to a T, and that frightened me.
HaRav Solomon got me from a different tack. He quoted a man he’d met whose son had gone off the derech.
“I lost my father to Stalin, my brother to Hitler, and my son to the Internet,” said the man. “And the bitterest loss is that of my son because I know that after 120, I will see my father and brother in Olam Habo, but my son, I fear I will never see again.”
As a sigh of pain passed through the audience, Rav Solomon thundered, “Who told that man he would merit Olam Habah? He allowed the Internet into his home! If he saw it was adversely affecting his son and did not stop it, he deserves at least as harsh a punishment, if not a worse one!”
And that, in short, is why I got rid of my browser. I have many, many problems in chinuch. Part of that is a BT thing – it’s hard to pass down Torah ideals to children when you learned them in adulthood – but a big part of it is my own personal weaknesses. Either way, I’ll blame myself if my kids go off the derech, and if I remove this one major stumbling block from their reach, then that is one thing I will not have to reproach myself for later.
But it was not easy. As a matter of fact, I shed tears over it. After all, doing this meant saying goodbye to friends.
At this point, I should describe my Internet use. In the late 90’s, my husband created a kiruv website, beingjewish.com, and in 1998, I joined in with “Kressel’s Korner,” which has gradually grown to include 14 of my original articles, most of which are about Jewish women’s issues. I’ve met quite a few interesting people over the years as a result of the site, and I’ve received many more complimentary letters. Each one of them was a thrill. For an unknown writer like myself, the instant audience available on the Internet is a dream come true.
In 2005, I discovered blogging, which far surpasses the website in dearness to my heart. My personal blog has 74 “subscribing” readers, most of whom are Jewish women of varying levels of observance. We read about each other’s lives, celebrate each other’s simchas, and support each other through the tough times. Baby pictures, daily gripes, Shabbos menus, divrei Torah – we talk about it all. I think of it as my “virtual veiber shul.” I love my Internet friends. And now I was being asked to give them up.
After the asifa, I called my Rav to help me finalize my decision. Even with Rav Solomon’s words ringing in my ears, the matter was not so clear-cut. I use the Internet to do mitzvos, so it seemed like a case of “calculating the cost of a mitzvah against its reward, and the reward of a sin against its cost.”
My Rov is an absolute tzaddik. He gave me at least an hour of his time, probably more. It was in the course of that conversation that the tears began to flow. All the while, he gave me brachos that I should be rewarded for making this great personal sacrifice. He said it was mutar (permitted) for me to keep my email, use the Web in the public library, and compose one final post from my house that night so I could explain my choice to my friends.
It is over two weeks since then, and my Internet friends were almost unilaterally supportive. Three offered to come over for a Shabbos to cheer me up and many others wrote me letters about how much they feel they’ve gained from my writing. Perhaps best of all were the new and almost-there BTs who seemed to say that I’d just given them the best lesson they’d had about living a Torah life: sometimes you have to give up something you like for the sake of kedushah.
I look forward to reading your responses at the public library!
FWIW, Drs Pelcowitz and Jones wrote:
“While parents and teachers should add appropriate filters and turn on the necessary safe search settings, the only real answer is that we must instill in our children a strong value system based on Jewish morals and traditions that allows our children to become their own filters when exploring the Internet. That would be far more powerful than any protective software”
Mark Frankel wrote:
“As I mentioned previously, I contacted Dr. Pelcovitz about that article and he said that he absolutely recommends that if you have children you should have your Internet filtered”
Which article? The most recent article clearly states that people should serve and teach their children to be their own filters.
I agree with Shades of Gray-ultimately, the issue is that of “healing the personality weaknesses that virtually guarantee some individuals will fall victim to Internet temptations. Studies show that those most likely to get into trouble are not deterred by limits on Internet access. Given the net’s ubiquitous presence, they will find a way to get online — at the local public library, if not elsewhere. Therefore, a key challenge to parents and educators is identifying the risk factors and the individuals most at risk”
I applaud your choice. shouldn’t we also try to discuss somewhat the issue itself here as well?
Perhaps part of what Dr. Pelcovits is alluding to in the title of the article(“Teach children to be their own Internet filters”) is what R. Leib Keleman writes here:
“Ultimately, restricting Internet access is a necessary but insufficient solution. But what is needed is healing the personality weaknesses that virtually guarantee some individuals will fall victim to Internet temptations. Studies show that those most likely to get into trouble are not deterred by limits on Internet access. Given the net’s ubiquitous presence, they will find a way to get online — at the local public library, if not elsewhere. Therefore, a key challenge to parents and educators is identifying the risk factors and the individuals most at risk.”
As I mentioned previously, I contacted Dr. Pelcovitz about that article and he said that he absolutely recommends that if you have children you should have your Internet filtered.
See the following linked article by Drs Pelcovitz and Jones re internet access.http://blogs.yu.edu/news/2012/05/21/keeping-our-children-safe-online/
The linked article suggest that our own internal Yiras Shamayim should, could and would be a better sense of filtering out the undesirable elements of the web than a filter,
IMHO, part of the problem is that conduct and sights which the outside world considers to be “G-rated,” that is, so innocent that it would appear in a “Disney movie” or kids’ TV show and no one would protest, is still offensive by our community’s standards. Just the other day, I turned on the Internet and there was an ad for Netflix, the popular movie rental site, showing a scene from a recent R-rated movie. Nobody in the outside world would have blinked twice at that scene, which was suggestive without actually showing anything. Yet it’s not what we want our teenagers and children to see when they open up the Internet. It’s one thing to get a filter to block the obvious sites, but how do we get a filter to block offensive advertising that others deem innocuous?
It seems that there is a difference in the way you speak to different people about the same topic. For example, this is a quote from Rabbi Moshe Weinberger’s article(it engendered letters to the editor in the 5TJT which disagreed with him, which, IIRC, were linked in a different post on this website):
“These various trends and behaviors should cause us to wonder whether or not the latest technology is truly the greatest problem facing Klal Yisroel. Judging by the number of proclamations, as well as their content and tone, one might conclude that our world would simply be perfect but for the Internet and all of the accompanying gadgetry that comes along with it. Life would return to the simpler and more civilized sixties and seventies. It is quite obvious that technology creates a serious threat to all that we’ve worked so hard to achieve, and we must support every effort to combat this malady. Yet, there is something I find profoundly pathetic in the great search for the perfect filter.”
The same JTA article by Drs. Pelcovits and Jones is also posted on the YU website. At the end of the article there, there is a link to the publication “Parent Guide: Children in a Digital Age (2nd Edition)(Filtering/accountability software info is on pg 9 of the PDF):
That doesn’t surprise me. Most people (Jews/Non-Jews) can understand why filters are important.
It’s interesting, in the pdf booklet I received that was published in conjunction with the Asifa, one of the articles highlighted the fact that social media, chatting, IM, texting etc promote impulsive tendencies. I found this to be quite thought provoking and true.
I contacted Dr. Pelcovitz, who is quoted in the link of Shades of Grey, and he made it clear to me, and said I can say in his name, that he absolutely recommends filtering of the Internet at home to protect children.
See also this editorial geared towards the wider community:
Do you think Rabbi Teitelbaum is suggesting that children should have access to unfiltered Internet at home? Does he advertise in his camp that the kids have 100% access to unfiltered Internet, after all filters are not the solution?
Of course not!
Filtering is a part of a solution which includes many of the good ideas of Rabbi Teitelbaum. But even Rabbi Teitelbaum’s ideas are not the last word. And for someone so well versed in technology, I’m surprised he is so dismissive of the costs of technology usage.
For starters, I highly recommend taking a look at Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains”.
And since our Internet usage has significantly decreased the probability that we’ll read a book, here’s an excerpt. He also has a very interesting recent blog post on the Hierarachy of Innovation.
I think this article says it best:
The solution isn’t filters, or even trying to cut yourself off from the Internet. The solution is exactly what the author of the linked article describes.
Kol Hakavod – may you have the strength to endure!
IMHO, the big problem with the Internet is that even the stuff that the outside world calls totally innocent is not really stuff we want our kids to see. Rent a G-rated Disney movie and you will still see pool scenes and beach scenes and romance scenes. The ads on the back of buses, on the Long Island Rail Road and even high up in Times Square put right into our faces the kind of sights that years ago came only in certain magazines. My browser delivered a movie ad that showed a couple together – yes, all covered up, but the insinuation was quite plain. The outside world thinks nothing of this anymore, as the song says, “Anything Goes.” And not in a good way. The culture has gone so far overboard that even the ordinary wallpaper and pop-up ads that appear during normal business-oriented Internet usage are borderline unacceptable.
Let us hope that given the high-tech level of many frum Yidden that we can get ever more sophisticated filters which will allow full business usage of the Internet without all of the shmutz and pritzus.
The Internet is here to stay. Learn how to live with it.
The railways came, and for the first time Jews were able to move long distances, relatively inexpensively. Some left and some stayed.
The car came, and for the first time in centuries Jews were able to regularly travel far away from their homes. Some remained frum, some not.
The phone came, and for the first time in centuries Jews were able to communicate with a lot more people than their immediate community. Some stayed, some left.
The radio came, and for the first time in centuries Jews were able to hear messages other than their rabbi’s drosha. Some listened, and left, some listened and stayed.
The television came, and Jews were able to see a World different to their own. Some saw and left, some saw and stayed.
And now the Internet.
However, why is a human being compared to a tree. Many explanations are offered. Here is another.
A tree depends entirely on the root system and the ability of the soil its in to nourish it. If there is nourishment, the roots are strong and if the soil is good, they are deep. Such a tree will stand a long time. If not, the tree will be blown over in the first Autumn storm.
The most hardy trees are sometimes found in the least hospitable places. Because they had to fight for that nourishment, their roots are tough, and anchored on the stones below the surface. They aren’t the pretty looking trees that have been looked after in the garden, but the trees of the wild, facing the winds and the rain on the open slopes of hills and mountains. This is because they had no choice in where their seed fell and took root. It was HaShem’s choice. Their job is to grow and survive.
Put a Jew in a garden tended daily, and he/she will become soft, and think that their survival comes from the rabbi, or their community, or parents that tend and nurture them. But, we are people of the World, not ostriches with heads in the sand when we choose to. The World was made for me…all of it. EVERYTHING in this World is mostly for the good, if you know there is HaShem in charge.
The Roshei Yeshivot do not advocate we give up rail travel, the cars, the phones, the radio, and many have TV sets at home themselves. The Internet offers an unparalleled opportunity, so look to the positive. Learn to use it, just like you learned to drive a car without killing anyone or somehow ending up in the wrong part of town talking to the wrong people.
The Internet is a tool, just like a hammer. Whether one hits the nail or their thumb is a matter of skill, not intention. Intention is everything. Have the intention to use this tool for the good. Learn to use it safely. More importantly, ensure you are even more ‘anchored’ now than your parents were, because the weather patterns have changed don’t you know, and the new weather is going to test your roots more than theirs.
I’m late to this thread, but I have to comment. Without internet, I would possibly have not become a baalas teshuvah. With Hashem’s help, I might have found another way, or perhaps I’d still be one of the lost ones.
It was through internet conversations on religious websites that my interest was triggered and my journey began, having had no inclincation whatsoever to take that journey in the first place.
This reminds me of the argument for gun ownership. Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. All tools are as good or as harmful as the user chooses them to be.
I would hate to see an avenue for return cut off from the 80 per cent of Jews out there whose only affiliation with Jewish thought or discussion just may be the internet — and sites like this.
People should be taught how to think. To have the strength to separate good from bad.
Perhaps for some people, the internet is too dangerous. But this reminds me of the Catholic church shunning Science. Don’t close yourself to knowledge. The internet has a world of knowledge. Sure, there are dangers. But shouldn’t people be taught how to exist in a world of dangers. I mean, if you want to live in a closed society, fine. People have different paths. I can’t say what is right for me is right for everyone. I just think it is a shame when you shut out a wealth of information. When you run a religion based on fear of the secular world, it can backfire when people discover the good in it. If Yeshiva boys are taught how to think and analyze correctly, they should have no problem with the internet. It’s usually when people want to protect people from uncovering the truth, that they start banning technology (ie. the Catholic Church)
You and I are both saying the same thing basically, at least overall. If one see there is a real problem, then it’s time to cut the cord.
And yes, the internet can prevent lonliness and depression. Think of those that blog. Think of this very blog. The web, for many, is a voice – a place where people know others are reading their thoughts. People read and comment, argue and discuss. It can boost morale and allow one to feel vindicated. The web can be educational, creative and stimulating. It helps people who have developmental disability and autism, among many other disorders or diabilities. I also have a close friend who blogs and becuase of her writing skill and sincerity, has openned up and broadened other people’s way of thinking.
Did I say the web is a place for “companionship and entertainment”? no. Did I say parent controls are the be-all? no. I am saying it is a great thing if used wisely. No need to throw it out if a family can juggle the good and the bad. Is this hard? Absolutely. But no rav should be paskening a ban in such a public way. That is a passive-aggressive way of putting down yidden who can deal with the web – even if the rav who is banning it has the best intentions.
Ilana–The main concern of the Rabbeim seems to be about children and the internet. Adults have much more self-control, and can often manage to use the internet only in healthy ways. Children and teens have a much harder time with this.
IMO, to suggest parental controls as a solution is naive. The majority of controls are extremely easy to circumvent. Think about it this way–would you buy your child a book that contained both beautiful Torah thoughts and hardcore porn? Probably not, even if you could tape the troublesome pages shut. Sometimes when good and bad are mixed together we have to avoid both.
Finally, I find your suggestion that the internet can help prevent loneliness and depression to be disturbing. Socialization is best done face-to-face, for many reasons. People can feel that they’ve found companionship and entertainment online, but it’s nothing compared to living life the old-fashioned way, that is, with actual human interaction. The internet is best used as a helpful addition to normal life, not as a substitute for it.
This post is a little on the naive side, I think.
Judaism supports moderation. There should be no reason why one cannot have the internet if it is used wisely. Parents, put your parent controls or kosher patrols on the internet, but no need to take it away, unless you find a concrete problem.
To ban the internet is a paskining that freaks people out. No need for any rav to consider the internet as a first row center seat to gehenom. If people want to add it to their list of of chumros, gezunteheid, but not everyone should follow.
G-d is not fire and brimston, nor is he weak and a pushover. He reads all of our stories slowly, and gives our lives proper consiederation.
For many, the internet is a way of connecting with the world – it can prevent lonliness, depression, and it can inspire creativity and laughter.
Let those who want it keep it. Let thoses who cannot deal with it or abuse it have it taken away. No rav should cunningly heap a lump of guilt on Jews in a public forum for something like the internet. Save it for the real things.
Let us not confise the forest from the trees, shall we?
“With the help of the Almighty, developments in science and technology are advancing at a phenomenal rate. At the center of this progress stands the Internet, tying the world together. All this is just a tool to reveal the greatness of the Almighty to the world. Therefore, we see fit to use the Internet as a tool to spread the light of the Torah and the belief in G-d, the G-d of Israel. To realize our purpose and that of the People of Israel to teach the wonders of the Almighty in the world, as it is written: “As I created wonders, you shall tell them.”
“From east to west there be no one but me, for I am the Lord there is no other”. (Isaiah 45)
Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed
The Dean of the Yeshiva”
I think This Speaks Very Nicely,
Hope this helps!
Wow! what inspiration.
While I am FFB and admit to the beauty and goodness of living a Torah true life, I feel that FFBs main problem with kids today is kids experiencing parents miserably frustrated over many issues in the frum world that Gedolim seem to have no answer to, such as hardship in finding Shidduchim, need for unlimited amount of money to support Kollel children, need for much more money to satisfy the needs of a frum family, ostentatious lifestyles in many frum communities, the dictate of having unlimited amount of children despite difficulties involved and some people’s personality conflicting with ability to have large families, all of the above raisng stress levels in the home,and on and on. I believe that this is the reason that many of our children are leaving our lifestyle.
Also, if our Yeshivas and Bais Yaakovs would spend a fraction of the time spent on Gemarah and Chumash on discussions of these issues, preparing us to handle them in our adult lives, we’d all be more at ease with what hits us later.
Does anybody agree?
First of all, I want to thank everyone who gave me brachos and chizuk. May Hashem likewise give you nachas from your kids. And special thanks to Rabbi Schwartz for his compliments and divrei Torah. You gave me such a simcha going into yom tov! And to Shayna and any other lady who wants to contact me, I’m firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now I’ll dive right into the fray.
One of the analogies that came up in the comments was a comparison of the Internet to cars. Interestingly enough, Rav Solomon made the very same comparison in his lecture. When he’d given a similar lecture at the Agudah Convention, raised the following objection: “The Internet is here to stay. It’s like the car. It’s an invention that’s changed the world, and we all have to learn to live with it.”
“It’s a perfect analogy,” said Rav Solomon. “Anyone who drives a car has to follow safety rules and these rules prevent accidents. If you use the Internet, it has to be with controls.”
So you see, Rav Solomon did not categorically state that use of the Internet was forbidden. He did say to use controls, and the first speaker, Rabbi Lowenthal, specifically recommended one. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the program, but bli neder, I will find out. He liked that one particularly because it has 24-7 customer support.
Rav Solomon recognizes that businesses need the Internet to be competitive today. But he asked the audience, “Do you need it in your home?”
Upon self-examination, I decided that I don’t need it in my home. I simply like having it, and that’s not enough of a reason. If, for parnossa, I should turn out to need a Web browser again, I will do my research into the shielding programs available and call my Rov with the shailoh. For now, however, we’re living just fine without the browser.
To Yaakov Astor: though we have no browser at home, my husband and I have not dismantled our websites, nor did our Rov tell us to do so. People looking to learn about Judaism can still read our articles and email us with questions. My husband continues his Daily Halacha list via email, updates his website via ftp uploading without the use of a browser at all, and I update my blog about twice a week from outside the house. In short, we are maintaining our web presence, but we’re doing it in such a way that prevents our kids from clicking on that little “e” which can lead to so many dangerous places.
To all the people who argued over the Hitler/Stalin story: I did not write down Rav Solomon’s speech word for word. Perhaps I got the Hitler/Stalin order wrong, or perhaps it was a grandfather and father, not a father and brother. But those details are irrelevant to the point. The point, as Ora put it so eloquently, is that parents have to be responsible about shielding their kids from the things that can harm them.
I have a bunch of little boys. In a few short years, hormones are going to kick in, which will be a challenge even without the Internet. I’ve taken a pre-emptive step to keep them away from the things that might tempt them. The particulars might be readjusted over time, but for now, my eldest (in fourth grade) is proud that we gave up the Web at home. He saw all the fuss his yeshiva made over the asifa; he was the one to carry the notes home. He told me that there are a group of boys in his class who laughed at the whole thing. To show each other that they have the Internet, they ask each other, “Do you know what picture Google has today?”
Now, Google is an excellent tool; I used to use it several times daily. My son might well have seen the Mother’s Day flowers on its home page while I was looking up bus schedules on the day of the asifa, and I don’t think there’s anything dangerous about that. But I do think it is a bad sign when boys disdain the advice of their hanhallah at such early ages. I am sure that in my son’s mind, he has lost face with that particular group of boys, but overall, I think this decision has done something for his self-esteem. His parents are no longer compromising him with respect to the hanhallah. Moreover, he has watched us do something difficult upon the advice of a Rov, and that’s a lesson every Jew needs to learn in order to live a Torah life.
I didn’t read Rabbi Schwartz’ comment as supporting or advocating “cutting ties”. I read it as taking the approach that no decision should be looked at as irrelevant to our relationship with Hashem. As such, in Rabbi Schwartz’ opinion no decision is beyond discussion with one’s Rav. Decidinng when and where to raise those discussions is within the province of each individual (just as, it is hoped, the advice of the Rav will be individualized) but, I think R. Schwartz is saying, to say that internet use is simply an area that one should not discuss with one’s Rav is shortsighted.
R’ Schwartz: The notion that some things “just don’t matter” to HaShem is a comforting conviction as it allows us plenty of wiggle room.
Nobody is saying that some things “just don’t matter” in this case. Rather, the debate is about what you say in your last paragraph: Avodah implies TOTAL all-encompassing mastery by the owner of the slaves’ time and resources. While not venturing an opinion on whether or not everyone should “cut connections”
To interrupt mid-thought… that is exactly the point. Is it better to ‘cut connections’ or not? On an individual basis, perhaps. But on a communal one?!
The more “invasive” we allow the Torah’s dictates to be in our lives the closer we are to transforming our relationship with G-d from that of employer/employee to that of Master/Slave. From there, it is hoped; we can graduate and or diversify to the higher and more uniquely Jewish relationship of Father/children. This is more than parenting. It is, to coin a phrase, childrening!
This is primary question here: Is Avodah accomplished by turning ourselves off from all that is around us, or by molding every aspect of our world into the service of Hashem? How can we possibly ‘graduate and/or diversify to the higher relationship’ if we keep blocking ourselves from doing so? On an individual level, one can argue [albeit weakly, IMHO] that a person may be better off doing so – that it will only block them from reaching the heights they can. But on a communal level, this seems impossible to argue.
My point about the positive need that Hashkafa websites fulfill, was made to express my opinion that blogs such as this one should continue. I don’t think that these benefits should be a factor in affecting important decisions about the internet, such as if it should be used in the home, for example. The need it fulfills(if one agrees it is indeed a need) could–hopefully– be fulfilled one day by the print media, as I mentioned.
On the other hand, there will be people who for whatever reason have some online exposure; if so, why not have a “Hashkafa Blog” such as this one, that fulfills the needs of such people, if there are already other such blogs which target people that have, perhaps, different orientations?
Also a note to Mrs. Housman:
There are tradeoffs for every decision made in life. I grew up before the internet-age. During this time, I had– relatively speaking– somewhat of a minimum level of exposure to the various forms of secular culture and media. Looking back, I am grateful that my parents and family gave me that opportunity, and I think that your children will also feel the same over time. Of course, there are no guarantees, and that is why we speak of Tefilah when it comes to chinuch.
Also more generally, insularity at any level– like cultural integration– brings with it certain risks(at least in my opinion). However, there are ways that these factors may be overcome, or mitigated.
As noted, secular education existed in the written form before the internet, and parents can supplement Yeshiva secular education, with printed materials. Also, children can be motivated to make general learning a life-long habit, and they may therefore be able to pick up certain skills later in life.
A related result of insularity which I am particularly concerned with, is that at times, some people may perhaps not be sufficiently sensitive to the proper way of relating to our neighbors from the Umos H’aolom. Thankfully, this does not apply to many people, but I think that it has recently received enough attention that it has to be dealt with. As some readers may know, this has been discussed both in print and online in various media and communication forums.
It should be noted, that it is precisely the Torah hashkafa of havdala that can result in people having the required sensitivity-and even more- regarding this matter. If anyone is interested, I can e-mail a copy(email@example.com) of a summary I wrote based on a Jewish Observer article on this topic, which shows the incredible sensitivity that people in the Torah World-both leaders and simple people-have had concerning this matter. Certainly, it is the input of parents and teachers that could give children the right Hashkafa on this issue as well.
R’ Schwartz – Thanks for the response. I don’t think you quite understood my points, however. [Shoot, have to run.]
Personally, I consider myself to be an “independent thinker”, and accordingly, I have given much thought to the question of the balance of independent thought versus Daas Torah. From my perspective, I would note on one side of the issue, that there were Gedolim who were well within the general Mesorah of the Yeshiva World, and yet were known at times-on certain issues- for their own individuality and independent thought. I feel a particular affinity(“cheshek”) for this reason to their legacy, when reading about their lives.
On the other side of the equation, the idea that Torah leaders can offer authoritative views on non-Halachic issues(I am not saying that the subject of this post falls into this category) is something that is found in prior sources, and is embraced also by Rabbonim outside the Yeshiva World. Furthermore, my experience is that the more I learn, paradoxically, the more I realize that I don’t know. I therefore accept, at least as a possibility, that my own ideas may be wrong.
The commentator you referred to obviously has strong feelings about the issue, and I don’t blame him. That is why I feel that some people at least, should consult with their own Moreh Derech about how to apply to their own life, a particular message that they heard at a public gathering.
One need not reach the stage of “I am going to rethink my Yiddishkeit!” Certainly, if a person feels that strongly about the issue, a better choice would be to find a Rav, who is a Yerei Shomayim, outside the Yeshiva world! However, as mentioned, there are enough Rabbonim even inside the Yeshiva system that can guide a person according to his or her needs, so that they need not take such a step, which can also be a significant life change for a number of reasons.
Certainly, and kol hakavod to them. I am particularly troubled by that one comment, which, strictly speaking, does not relate to internet usage, but does reflect the mindset of quite a few people.
Nachum, Actually I think most (if not all) of the people here are using their G-d given minds and judgements, as evidenced by the fact that they are discussing and weighing the pluses and minuses of Internet usage and considering what action they should take.
The saddest comment in this very sad thread is the following:
“I hope that the story that harav Solomon Shlitah said was just an allegory!
Because if he is trying to say that a Russian guy who lost his father to Stalin and lost his brother in the Holocaust is going to Gehennim all because he brought the Internet into the house,I am going to rethink my Yiddishkeit!”
Does no one else see where this has gone? If a gadol says something you can’t agree with, you either rationalize it as not literally true (which is fine, although it may not be the truth as to his intent) or you drop Judaism! Never is there the option of thinking for oneself, and saying that one’s Judaism is not the same as that gadol’s, that that gadol is wrong on this point, or anything of the sort.
And yes, this relates directly to the original post as well. Chaval that Jews have willingly surrendered the use of their God-given minds and judgment.
I think that the following passage from Rabenu Yonah in is apropos both as a response to your posts and as a way of preparing for Shavuos. [Parenthetical comments/ elucidations are mine. Please check the text yourself]:
The sages taught (Avos D‘R Noson 22:11) “one who’s deeds are more than his wisdom, his wisdom endures, as it is said ‘we will do and we will hear’ (Exodus 24:7)”. The idea is to be understood as follows: One who wholeheartedly takes it upon himself to perform according to the Torah laws that he is taught and ACCORDING TO THE JUDGEMENT OF THOSE WHO PRESIDE OVER JUDGEMENT (emphasis mine) immediately possesses the reward for all of the Torah and Mitzvos that he yet to hear and yet to comprehend. He has (by so doing) clothed himself in justice/righteousness and acquired the merit for (both) all that is known to him (of Torah and Mitzvos) AND all that is concealed from him. Afterwards he should seek out and pay daily faithful attendance at the doors of his reprovers (critics) and acquire wisdom from all those who teach him (IMO including, but not limited to, Poskim). This persons deeds exceed their wisdom for while still oblivious to a Torah matter, he is rewarded for it, as was the case of Israel @ Sinai, ‘We will do and we will hear’ (Na’aseh V’Nishma) according their acceptance of their performance precedence to hearing what it is that they must perform. IT IS OTHERWISE IMPOSSIBLE THAT A MAN’S DEEDS BE MORE THAN WHAT HE KNOWS! (The necessary prerequisite for wisdom that last as per Avos and Avos D‘R Noson)
– Sha’arei T’shuva Gate 2 pargraph 10
I once heard from Rav Hutner z”l that great Ba’a’lei Avodah considered the concept of Divrei R’shus more off-putting than that of actual Issurim. The notion that some things “just don’t matter” to HaShem is a comforting conviction as it allows us plenty of wiggle room. But IMO it is not a Torah concept. One often see the term Avodah defined as service. Servants serve and then have their own free time. The correct translation of Avodah is slavery. there is even a Jewish surname-GottKnecht= G-d’s slave- that reflects this Hashkafa.
While Chesed and Torah are often extolled in our public discourse, Avodah, the third pillar upon which the world stands, at least in this sense, is not, (or at least not as often nor as vigorously.) Avodah implies TOTAL all-encompassing mastery by the owner of the slaves’ time and resources. While not venturing an opinion on whether or not everyone should “cut connections” IMO what Mrs. Housman has done is not merely a significant self-sacrifice on the altar of better parenting but a manifestation of true Avodas HaShem. The more “invasive” we allow the Torah’s dictates to be in our lives the closer we are to transforming our relationship with G-d from that of employer/employee to that of Master/Slave. From there, it is hoped; we can graduate and or diversify to the higher and more uniquely Jewish relationship of Father/children. This is more than parenting. It is, to coin a phrase, childrening!
Bob (Point 59)
I can’t claim to know the range of modern day psakim on Internet but I’ve heard in the name of Rav Shmuel Wosner shlit’a that access to Internet should be treated like Yichud ie that the screen is like someone from the opposite gender which would require shomrim to be present.
I dont know what context this was said in and in any event it sounds more like a mussar vort than a psak. I would surmise from this comparison however what several points have referred to regarding the the location of the computer in the home – That it should be in a central place frequently occupied by others. But with a little more thought Internet is probably more chamur than yichud.
IMHO, whatever good there is (eg. Beyond BT) is far outweighed by the negative. No-one is going to become a gadol connected to the Internet. Finally, let’s not forget, we can try to mechanech our children but they will never BTs and will therefore different Yetzers to ours.
Today, even a kid can easily figure out on his or her own how to use computers and software, including web browsers. All of these will continue to become more user-friendly. So nothing is lost if people start using these later when they mature and a true need arises.
What we really need to learn at the earliest possible time is to distinguish good from bad and truth from fiction, so as not to be buried in misinformation from the internet and other media.
Ora, great comment (61), especially the points about
– the myth of Internet usage improving computer literacy (outside of programming)
– the myth of the Internet being necessary for training in research in the early school years
– entertaining oneself with books, toys, friends, outside play, etc. as opposed to electronics being much more beneficial to a child
“Yes, but only in *very* recent history has it become the norm for them to set standards within homes.”
There’s a pasuk “Lo Savi Soeva…” Don’t bring detestable things into your house. That’s from the Chumash. Yes, p’shat is about bringing getchkes (idols) into one’s living room but on a drush level it’s applicability is far wider.
Amongst the Rishonim there’s an issue about reading “Sifrei Chitzonim”, for example the Book of Macabees. One could plausibly conclude it was referring to one’s personal library since it was highly unlikely to find such wares in a Beis Medrash.
Point being, “setting standarads within homes” is not a new fad amongst micromanaging rabbeim.
“I have many friends who are baalei teshuvah and it seems that often, they’d rather just assume something to be assur then understand how to navigate through the situation.”
Fingerpointing aside, this remarks sounds unfair and somewhat harsh. Regarding “navigating”, were they given a compass and charts and taught how to use them since visiting a classroom rebbe at their upsherin?
It is of course critical for both the BT’s themselves and their offspring to increase comprehension of halachic complexities and nuances, but to use an analogy, if there’s a neighborhood or street of which one has little familiarity, no maps, and it appears to be of dubious safety, perhaps it makes more sense from a self-preservation precaution to avoid it first and ask questions later.
Also, referring to people who out of ignorance avoid potentially asur things al sha’as d’chak as amharatzus has a mean-spirited aspect.
Boezer Rebbe wrote:
“Where were the asifas by the rabbis warning Jews about the dangers of Europe in the 1930s?”
Not sure what the intent of this question was. Was it a provocative approach to saying that since supposedly there were no asifas about Europe’s dangers in the 1930s it’s hypocritical to have them regarding the internet? If that accusation is true and my take is accurate, perhaps in the view of some, asifas about the dangers of the internet is a response to prevent a spiritual component of devastation as much as there were physical components in the past.
Admittedly the analogy is somewhat extreme, but accusations of hypocrisy because of supposed missings in the past, misses the target.
David (in comment 37)
Adhering to Mark’s recent exhortation to keep things @ BeyondBT high-minded and positive I decline to publicly comment further. But on a basic level I was merly seconding the emotion of the previous comment(ML in 32). If you’d like elaboration I can email you (but it will have to be after Shavuos)
First, to “Lakewood Yeshiva”: I think that what Rav Salomon said was in this case appropriate given the story. It’s not like he’s telling every parent with internet that they’re evil. What he is saying is that parents who bewail their childrens’ spiritual lackings should first look at themselves and what they might have done to cause it. In this case, if the man in the story himself (not the Rav) is choosing to blame the internet for his son’s problems, then, as the Rav points out, he should blame himself for providing it, and not simply assume that he (as opposed to his son) is a tzaddik. Basically, it sounds to me like the guy in the story was being more than a little self-righteous about the whole thing, and the Rav was taking him down a peg by pointing out his own responsibility in the matter.
As for the rest, while I personally have internet and no plans to get rid of it, most of the arguments that I’ve seen here for giving kids access to internet are deeply flawed. First off, while internet can be an important tool, that doesn’t mean that children should be exposed to it. I think someone already made the comparison to cars, and it’s a good one. A driver’s license can be crucial, but we certainly wouldn’t try to teach a young child to drive. Just because something is necessary for adult life does not mean that kids should have it as well.
Also, while computer skills are very helpful in adult life, most kids I know who spend time online have limited computer skills. Basic computer literacy takes very little time to learn; in most schools it’s taught within a week. Unless you’re actually teaching your kids programming (a different matter entirely), they aren’t learning any major computer skills from internet use, and certainly not anything that couldn’t be picked up later.
Many parents also think that the internet is necessary for research or education. It can be helpful, but libraries are a much better resource. Letting kids look up necessary information online can teach sloppy research skills, and is actually not helpful at all for later life, since very few internet sites are accepted as sources in an academic setting.
Finally, a child who doesn’t have internet at home is IMO no more likely to go crazy over it later in life than anyone else. We didn’t have cable TV in my house, and I was hardly ever allowed to watch. When I got older, I found TV boring, and prefered to read or go outside, as I had done as a child. Kids who are forced to entertain themselves without TV or the internet will learn to do so, and later in life they won’t see TV/internet as a vital part of their existence. In fact, I think that the ability to entertain oneself with books, toys, friends, outside play, etc. as opposed to electronics is much more beneficial to a child than the few technical skills that they might learn otherwise.
Overall, I see no major danger in allowing kids some time online, as long as they are being carefully supervised. But we should be realistic about the benefits–there really aren’t that many. And most importantly, most time should be spent offline, learning to actually live life and not just read about it.
“the next generation will not be able to function properly as part of society”
“We shouldn’t adapt our outlook to the outside world’s view. Rather, we (klal Yisroel) should try to fullfil our responsibility as leaders. In general, a Jew is not required to take into account whether his children will be able to function as part of goyishe society, because we are ultimately not part of their society, B”H.”
This is not just an “outlook” and has nothing to do with the “goyishe” society. (A term which you should strike from your vocabulary if you want to bring your kids up to be menschen.) It’s a technical issue.
A few years down the road people will no more be able to function without the internet than they can now without a telephone. (In fact the entire telephone system is in the process of converting to IP which will, in effect, bring the internet into every home.) Our kids will need the internet to pay bills, bank, vote, and who knows what else. I think along with that will come a technical sophistication that may make the internet less “dangerous”.
I think that Mrs. Housman’s move is fine and admirable for her. It’s important for people to know their weaknesses and impresive when they actively deal with them. However, I don’t think her response is the ideal. The ideal, IMO, is for us to get beyond the novelty of the internet and learn to use it as the amazing tool it can be. Hopefully, that’s what the future will hold for our children.
What is the range of opinions the major present-day Poskim hold on family internet use at home?
Miri-RMF , RSZA and Yivadleinue LChaim R Elyashiv and RHS are Poskim. A Mashgiach in a yeshivah’s purpose is to instill midos tovos in Talmidim and Klal Yisrael via mussar shmuessen,vaadim. That is an entirely different skill set than a Poaek whose responsibility is to respond to all sorts of halachic inquiries-both of a cutting edge and routine nature. RMS may be a Gadol, a phenomenal Mashgiach, Darshan and Baal Chesed, but unless I am grossly mistaken, RMS is neither the RY nor the Posek of BMG.
You assume that most Rabbonim don’t have internet. Maybe in Lakewood most Rabbonim don’t have, but in plenty of places most do, or at least many.
Just having the Internet does not mean they have a well-enough understanding of it. My charedi cousin in EY is the Rosh Yeshiva in a charedi yeshiva, but has DSL. But while he uses it every day, his understanding of it is very limited, as I saw when he made a stop here last week.
We shouldn’t adapt our outlook to the outside world’s view. Rather, we (klal Yisroel) should try to fullfil our responsibility as leaders. In general, a Jew is not required to take into account whether his children will be able to function as part of goyishe society, because we are ultimately not part of their society, B”H.
With all due respect, that’s a naive approach. In all the past centuries, Jews only survived and thrived by leading the world and being ahead of the rest of the world. It is not a matter of functioning in “goyish society”, but of functioning in a 21st century society. This is not a question of beliefs, where perhaps the Internet will become ‘passe’. We live in an interconnected world, period. We need to know how to deal with that, not pretend it doesn’t exist.
There is always a place for asking advice from wise people, which is what a rav may be in this case.
Plenty of people who remove or severely limit their internet use and/or their families’ internet use doen’t see it as an issur, but rather as a dangerous problem which is to be avoided if at all possible.
Perhaps you don’t, but many people do.
(see the article on this site by R’ Horowitz about the difference between a brachah, an eitzah, and a shailoh)
I think that was one of the best pieces to appear on this site, and I think highly of much that goes on here.
I guess that depends on how you define standards within homes. They have always set kashrus standards in terms of food, no? This is kashrus on a different level.
Actually, they have not, but that’s a different discussion. I don’t see the Internet, a hashkafic issue, is at all comparable to kashrus, which is about halachic standards.
“R’ Matisyahu Solomon not a posek?! What makes you think he’s not a posek?”
he’s a mashgiach in a yeshiva.
Where were the asifas by the rabbis warning Jews about the dangers of Europe in the 1930s?
“not a Posek”
R’ Matisyahu Solomon not a posek?! What makes you think he’s not a posek?
“I do *not* think that most Rabbonim, even if they are close with you, have a full appreciation of the Internet; I also do not think that a Rav can have a full understanding of how an individual truly uses the Internet.”
You assume that most Rabbonim don’t have internet. Maybe in Lakewood most Rabbonim don’t have, but in plenty of places most do, or at least many.
“We Baalei Teshuva tend to go to extremes. Is cutting off all internet access another example of this?”
I’m pretty sure the majority of frum people who don’t have internet in their homes are FFBs. Certainly R’ Solomon is not a baal teshuvah.
“the next generation will not be able to function properly as part of society”
We shouldn’t adapt our outlook to the outside world’s view. Rather, we (klal Yisroel) should try to fullfil our responsibility as leaders. In general, a Jew is not required to take into account whether his children will be able to function as part of goyishe society, because we are ultimately not part of their society, B”H.
“These are not halachic decisions about kashrus or the like, and while there is a place for asking a rav a hashkafic question, this is not one of them.”
There is always a place for asking advice from wise people, which is what a rav may be in this case. Plenty of people who remove or severely limit their internet use and/or their families’ internet use doen’t see it as an issur, but rather as a dangerous problem which is to be avoided if at all possible. (see the article on this site by R’ Horowitz about the difference between a brachah, an eitzah, and a shailoh)
“Yes, but only in *very* recent history has it become the norm for them to set standards within homes.”
I guess that depends on how you define standards within homes. They have always set kashrus standards in terms of food, no? This is kashrus on a different level.
Kol Hakavod to Michoel and Mrs. Housman and all others who have the koach to take a step like this and are lucky enough to have the oppurtunity.
Yoel, I kind of agree with you, but doesn’t
G-d sometimes speak through the prophets, through the Gedolim, How many times G-d has warned us on certain things , and we staid like blind ?
Maybe it is Hashem speaking, not the Gedolim themself ?!
that’s the question I am often asking myself. we are called the stiffed-neck people, maybe the reason we are in still in exile is because we have always rejected the warnings, because, we know better ?!
what do you think ?
This is very troubling, but not for the reasons you share with us!
I never had a television in my home, but I readily have both a telephone and a computer (connected to the Internet). Is there garbage etc online? Of course! There are predators in the classroom, the streets and the buses. I don’t home-school my children, forbid them to play with classmates or insist on driving them everywhere in order to protect them from these very concrete and real dangers! Instead I “innoculate” them! I discuss with them what “inappropriate touching” is; I try to help pre-teens understand that the G-d given “attraction” embedded in each of G-d’s creatures can sometimes become distorted and peverted.
It is not the tool, but the users. Just as the telephone can be the source of damnation, so too can any other man-made G-d-given device.
IMHO : If anything is going to endanger your chidren, it isn’t educating them to use the resources that can enrich them and that there are dangers they must learn to avoid — it is suffocating them into small cloistered worlds where everything “outside” is forbidden.
BTW – our family Internet workstation is common to everyone and in a common area where all of us are constantly entering and working/reading/studying. In my humble opinion this minimizes the likelihood of inappropriate use.
I am not sure why you mention Cross-Currents, which is accused by some of censorship, but which actually allows a wide range of views within their purview. See here http://www.cross-currents.com/about-us/
That forum was exactly what I was thinking of in my two previous posts, when I wrote about online publications that fulfill a need that I felt had not yet been met by the print media.
There is a time and place for everything. V’al t’hei maflig l’chol davar..v’ein lecha davar shein lo makom…
Ezzie, I think the obligation of Rebbeim to set standards in their schools, shuls and communities is widely accepted across most/all of the Torah Observant spectrum.
Yes, but only in *very* recent history has it become the norm for them to set standards within homes. Even within those areas you mentioned, they had influence and their opinions were sought, but never was it as controlling as it has recently become. This is, however, a separate issue; I am more concerned with people rushing to ask Q’s on every situation of their rabbonim. As a non-religious visitor noted to us 2 nights ago, those who are doing so when common sense should prevail are turning off others from Judaism, making it seem (as Yaakov Astor said) that people are “advocating giving up thought control to another human being”.
In response to Yaakov, I do appreciate the issue and I am very much in favor of having a rav that knows you very well on a personal level help you with major decisions. I do *not* think that most Rabbonim, even if they are close with you, have a full appreciation of the Internet; I also do not think that a Rav can have a full understanding of how an individual truly uses the Internet. Only the person himself can know that for certain, which is why I think the person must make the decision for himself.
If Rabbonim want to speak out about the dangers of the Internet, that is perfectly fine and obviously even encouraged, much as it would be with anything that can be used improperly. But advocating for people to simply shunt themselves off from something that is such a growing necessity in today’s society rather than encouraging people to teach their children how to use it properly is simply bad guidance on a communal level. For some individuals, perhaps it makes sense; but not as a community.
That Kressel has decided to not use the Internet herself is not the issue – she has to make the best decision for herself, and even if I don’t understand/agree with it, that’s my problem.
But quotes like this: As a sigh of pain passed through the audience, Rav Solomon thundered, “Who told that man he would merit Olam Habah? He allowed the Internet into his home! If he saw it was adversely affecting his son and did not stop it, he deserves at least as harsh a punishment, if not a worse one!” simply don’t make sense. The problem is not that the father allowed the Internet in his home, but that he didn’t teach his son how to use it properly. And if he did teach him properly… well, that happens sometimes. But blaming the Internet is simply avoiding the core problems.
Thanks, Steve, for your recognition of my idea concerning the need that the Internet fulfills. My thoughts about the subject were actually formulated way before Al Gore(?) invented the internet, after many Shabbosim of reading different Jewish newspapers.
Rav Herschel Shacter has said(based on the Tanya) that Hashem, as it were, likes diversity as far as Minhagim are concerned. Extending this idea, would be a source for including- within reason- the widest range of acceptable opinions in discussions of Torah subjects.
I also remember attending an Agudah convention a few years ago , and hearing the Noverminsker Rebbe speak about the internet, when it was just becoming popular. He implied that it is a function of Yiras Shomayim to recognize that the internet is “sakanos nefoshos”.
Rav Matisyahu Solomon, as well, has compared the issue to driving a car, where one must have some type of system of rules and guidelines. It is understandable that no one is immune, and that people need to be aware of the real dangers involved in internet use.
The exact means of protecting one’s self, I think, is something that should be discussed with whomever one’s mentor is for making important decisions; for example, everyone on this blog may have their own different situation and circumstances. I therefore thought it made a lot of sense that Kressel received input from her own Rav before finalizing her decision.
I hope that the story that harav Solomon Shlitah said was just an allegory!
Because if he is trying to say that a Russian guy who lost his father to Stalin and lost his brother in the Holocaust is going to Gehennim all because he brought the Internet into the house,I am going to rethink my Yiddishkeit!
Can someone please introduce the Cross-currents crowd to Rabbi Norman Lowenthal and Ha Rav Mattisyahu Solomon? I’m just lloking about for their ruchnius!
WADR to R Solomon , who is a superb Mashgiach, Baal Mussar and Baal Chesed,but not a Posek, can one assume that the absence of the Net will result in better parenting, better schools and less of an effort to impose unnecessary means of communal and individual conformity-which were problems in all of our communities way before the onset of the Internet? It is easy to blame the proverbial outside world yet many of our problems are self-created.
Obviously , the views on the net in the Torah world range from a complete sakanah to a business and educational necessity to a force for exchange of knowledge and ideas which is not served by our print media, as indicated by Boruch Horowitz.
I was born in 1950 …
I lost 2 brothers in the Holocaust …
So this guy is my age!But I was born here in the USA!
His Father died when? Before 1953 (The year Stalin Died) … Where was he born? In Russia!
Who brought him out of Russia? His Mother? When and in what year? 1985?
So here is a Russian 58 year old …who lost his Russian son to the Internet?
How old is his son? Let’s say 31?
Did he go to Yeshivah? When?
Hey! Guys … too many questions
there are too many stories that are true that one can choose
the above story has too many holes!
Rabbi Solomon … this Russian Guy is not going to Gehinnim!
Aside from yeshivanet/yeshivamail, another (cheaper) option is to simply use internet-timer software that will alert you after you spend a specified amount of time online and/or actually disconnect you from the net after a certain amount of time.
There are a number of programs to do this, including shareware as well as completely free software, such as TimeUpSoft: http://www.timeupsoft.com/English/timeup/feature.htm
As far as obsessively checking email and blog comments, you may be able to set your email client to get incoming email at less frequent intervals. And, in any case, you can train yourself to push yourself away from the table, so to speak.
I’m not sure where you went wrong with your caluclations. You are also making certain assumptions which are not necessarily true.
First, nowhere does it say that he himself is a survivor, his brother could have been killed before he himself was even born. Second, while it may be true (I don’t know)that most children survivors were 14, I have personal relatives who were younger and there are living survivors who were born in the camps.
That being said, let’s say our man was born in 1948, after the war. Today he would be 58. When my father was 58, my younger brother was 18.
There are many, many other actual plausible ways for this to be true.
With all due respect to Harav Solomon Shlitah, the story did not likely happen.
Stalin Y”MS died in 1953 …
Hitler Y”MS died in 1945
Lets say that Stalin killed his father in 1950,
His brother was killed by Hitler in 1945
This guy who lost both his father and brother could only have been born between 1945 – 1950
otherwise he would have been a child, hardly any children survived. Those that did survive had to have been at least 14 years old average.
If he in fact was 14 years old in 1945, he would be 75 years old now …
When did he have his child? In 1950 …?
Where in Siberia?
The internet became popular in 2000, which means that he lost his son to the internet, when his son (now a grandfather)was 50 years old ???
Lets say that he was born after the war
(Please note: that those who survived Hitler started having children in 1947)
Who brought him up? When did he get to the states? In the Late 1970’s?
All this is possible …
But if Harav Solomon Shlitah told a story, that turns out to be a lie ….
then what is worse?
A prominent Masgiach who lied?
Or a kid on the internet?
Think about it!
Congratulations to Kressel and to Michoel for taking the big leap(I hope Michoel checks back to see this in three month’s time-I think any form of hiatus is an excellent idea)!
It may very well be that for internet users on a whole, the inherent risks do not justify the benefits. On the other hand, as was pointed out, there is great benefit in discussing the issue with someone who knows an individual’s situation, and can therefore advise someone personally.
I have followed this blog since its inception. While my background may be different from many readers here, I find the posts to be thoughtful and stimulating, and I occasionally add something of my own in the comment section(I like to write!). I think that blogs such as “Beyond BT” fulfill an important function–for both BT and FFB– and I certainly hope that you continue with this project.
As anyone familiar with the JBlogosphere is aware of, hashkafah is an item which is often discussed on blogs. I myself have convictions on everything from following sports, the Disengagement, and Science and Torah. My personal views are often in between the Hamodia/Jewish Observer/Mishpocha and the Jewish Press/Jewish Action. I appreciate hearing multiple and sometimes contradictory viewpoints. While all of the above-mentioned publications contain valuable information and have strong points, I have not, as of yet, found a non-online newspaper or other publication that totally fulfills my interests and needs.
The fact that hashkafa blogs are so popular shows that there is a need for such discussion, although one might argue that these mediums create and feed upon their own popularity. While it is true that there are people on blogs who have “an ax to grind” with the establishment, there are also people who are expressing genuine feelings and well thought- out opinions. What I like about blogs such as this one, is that they are moderated, and although they allow for the honest expression of a wide range of opinions, it is done in a respectful way.
Should mediums such as this one not continue, I think that certain people would be left with the following choices:
(1) Start one’s own weekly newspaper/magazine(perhaps this is an idea)?
(2) Create a “Hashkafa club” or support group moderated by someone such as a Rav who himself entertains a broad range of opinions.
(3) Find a chavrusa or a Rebbe for just discussing Hashkafa and current events.
(4) Cease and desist from discussing such ideas, and take up a different hobby(although one’s convictions on Torah-related matters are probably more than merely a hobby).
I should note that there are already online Torah mailing/groups(non-blogs) which are moderated, and which partially fulfill this need.
Any thoughts on this? Should anyone wish to e-mail me, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kressel: You are an inspiration and deserve nachas from your children for your courage to swim against the tide. We can only benefit from the wisdom of our leaders if we are willing to submit to their advice, and don’t always consider ourselves experts. After reading the posts I am guessing that the majority of writers here do not have the hindsight of having raised teenagers in the internet age–if only the answers were as simple as having a screen in an open place, etc…
Indeed, there are many influences on the Internet that are problematic, even dangerous to a halachik Jew, but dropping the whole thing is such an elementary way of dealing with the problem. I have many friends who are baalei teshuvah and it seems that often, they’d rather just assume something to be assur then understand how to navigate through the situation. That’s not halacha, it’s ignorance. Any am haaretz can deem something assur. Good parenting teaches kids to find greys in life, not relegate experiences to absolute blacks and whites. Our Rav suggest keeping the computer in an open area in the house, with the screen in plain view for everyone to see. Access to various sites and time on the computer can easily be monitored with various software, such as Net Nanny . Such an arrangement teaches everyone in the house that a wonderful tool such as the Internet can be used in all sorts of muttur and edifying ways, just like a newspaper, a good book or an enlightening documentary. The Internet and other related media are not only critical to today’s world (business and otherwise), but part and parcel. Isn’t it better to know how to navigate through this complex web as opposed to risking a more dangerous reaction when your children are confronted with it for the first time or when you’re left alone in the library?
about the father/son story thing – it did bother me but i also realize that many times people (even great people) might say things that they don’t expect to be analyzed (esp. to the extent that we’re doing it here!) maybe it was just a comment as part of a speech, used by the speaker to show that he believes parents have a strong influence on the choices their children make. it’s not like it’s a story in the gemarra or anything.
Still, (not to blame the speaker) i wonder about the (maybe hypothetical) issues such a situation raises.
Sounds like you are also someone who has the courage of his convictions. Could you share with us what it was that prompted you to walk out?
Kressel, I will miss you! Now we’ll have to meet in person…. I do respect your decision, and I hope you’ll install some sort of block, instead, and come back to continue doing all the good you’re achieving here.
Regarding Jacob Haller’s question regarding email only servers,yeshivamail and yeshivanet do just that Yeshivamail is email only and yeshivanet gives you access only to the websites that you specify
see http://www.yeshivanet.com/ for more info
When my youngest daughter was interviewed @ the Yeshiva HS she’s going to in September, she asked if the school had computer (internet) access. We were told, no, just computers with offline content. As the dean said, there’s the good internet, the bad internet, and the evil (or ugly, I forgot what term he used exactly) internet. And he’s 100% right. As I see it, and my oldest daughter would agree, it’s a Nisiyan (test). True, if you can’t pass it in Hashem’s eyes, maybe it’s better for you not to have it in your home.
When it was given @ Chinka in B.P. about 18 months ago I did
I also found Rabbi Solomon’s story quite disturbing. For all the reasons already mentioned plus the assumption that the reason the son went of the derech was because of the internet. Abuse of the internet is a symptom, not a cause.
Also, the harshly judgemental criticism of the father was quite calous. When a parent is in the midst of dealing with a situation like that it’s often difficult for them to know what the correct action is. Is Rabbi Solomon really saying that a parent who makes a poor judgement call in such a case really loses their cheilek in Olam Habaa?
I would have walked out of the lecture.
Ezzie, I think the obligation of Rebbeim to set standards in their schools, shuls and communities is widely accepted across most/all of the Torah Observant spectrum. In fact in some areas of halacha (such as Tzinus), the community standards are an integral part of the halacha.
How they choose, word and enforce such standards is a different story which is highly community dependent.
I know this is completely completely off the topic – but i was also a bit disturbed by that story as well. Don’t we say that “kol yisroel yesh lahem chelek leolam haba” and that gehinom is only for 11-12 months? (or something like that i’m not sure).
Back on the topic, in my home we tried using a browser with a program that let you only access specific sites that you set up in advance. We had about 5-6 “kosher” sites (learning, download shiurim) and you couldn’t go anywhere else at all. It worked very well – the kids (some of whom used to spend hours online) complained once or twice and then just wandered off to do other things.
I don’t think the post advocated a ban. I think that it gave one person’s individual decision on a weighty matter. I respect her decision and don’t know if I would have the courage of my convictions if I felt the way she does.
I also tend to agree with Yaakov Astor that this is “not a small question.” IMHO, this is a very, very big question as it involves so many different aspects of our lives (as Michoel pointed out). It seems to me that people (thankfully not on this site) are often quick to accuse others of having cognative dissonance when it comes to religious matters but fail to see that we often have major cognitive dissonance when it comes to matters such as internet use.
I’m not an advocate of the ban and I’m here and helping to run a blog. At the same time, I think that all of the issues that Michoel listed deserve thought and even if that doesn’t lead us to take the step that Kressel took, maybe it will lead us to reevaluate our respective internet usage.
“As a sigh of pain passed through the audience, Rav Solomon thundered, “Who told that man he would merit Olam Habah? He allowed the Internet into his home! If he saw it was adversely affecting his son and did not stop it, he deserves at least as harsh a punishment, if not a worse one!””
Accepting all RMS’ premises, can’t the man do teshuva (and it sounds as though he has)?
I respect your personal decision to not use the internet or even the tv or any other form of technology or newspaper that you feel you can’t control your yetzer harah in that framework. However for you or even the Gadol to put this on the community is wrong. There is good and bad in all of Hashem’s creations. I agree that the internet can be used for extemely bad things, but on the flipside it can be used to bring such kedusha into this world. On the internet there is an extreme amount of pornography but there is also an extreme amount of Torah learning. This is the challenge in life, to subdue our yetzer harah and to let our yetzer hatov flourish. Taking the internet away from your children will hinder them to be mature adults that can function and be successful in our society. Children must be trained to deal with these issues before they leave your house and go out into the world, if not when they get to the real world they won’t know how to operate and won’t have self control. A Jew is to combine the spiritual world with the physical world. What makes wine holy?, when we use it to make kiddush on shabbat. Wine can be used for many unholy things. What makes the internet holy?, using the internet to learn torah, for business, and so many more things.
“HaRav Solomon got me from a different tack. He quoted a man he’d met whose son had gone off the derech.
“I lost my father to Stalin, my brother to Hitler, and my son to the Internet,” said the man. “And the bitterest loss is that of my son because I know that after 120, I will see my father and brother in Olam Habo, but my son, I fear I will never see again.””
This story is a little odd – how old is this man’s son (and if he’s an adult, how is the father responsible for the son’s net use?)
“My wife only has the password to that program and see all the website I went on. This can be used also to see where the children go . The program can also send all the website visited to the email of your rav of your friend.”
Without commenting on your personal arrangement (I’m not sure I even understand it) I want to caution people not to take for granted that it’s a good idea to have one’s wife monitor one’s internet usage, esp. if porn or similar is an issue. Many women (even ones who agree!) will take the husband’s request for help in monitoring net useage badly and will not just shrug their shoulders and say “men will be men” (if indeed the latter is a thought consistent with Jewish outlook, itself highly debatable, considering that chazal thought women were weaker on such matters than men). This really can be an issue of ona’ah. Despite the common advice to include one’s wife in the process – or even lines like “if you can be open with your wife, and she will monitor your useage, you must have a really strong marriage” – the reality is most often not that way (and involving one’s wife can be a way of acting out all sorts of self-esteem issues on the part of both partners).
Again, nothing particular intended by tacking this on to the above comment.
Ezzie, I agree with you that people can and do go overboard asking their Rav every little question. However, having access to the internet in the home is not a small question, IMO. Furthermore, there are differing opinions on the matter. All the more so to seek higher guidance. Many rabbeim have opinions based not merely on how many Rishonim and Acharonim they know but firsthand experience from people who have come to them with their problems related to the internet. Their experience alone is worth a visit and a question, IMO.
Again, I am not and I don’t think anyone is advocating giving up thought control to another human being. That’s a problem unto itself. However, seeking advice from a Rav who knows you personally and who has a lot of Torah wisdom and experience seems to me to be a very sensible thing to do — especially for a question as big as having internet in the home.
“Ha Rav Mattisyahu Solomon, Rosh Yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha”
R Soloman is mashgiach of BMG and not a rosh yeshiva.
Interesting post, and I’m not all that surprised that most people here have basically agreed with it. Nevertheless, despite all the good points made both in the post and the comments (particularly Michoel’s list), I have to disagree.
There are a number of different points to make, and everyone’s heard all of them before (value of the Internet for good, terrible things happen as often without the Internet, bans are a bad idea in general, the next generation will not be able to function properly as part of society, etc.). But I think the aspect of this I’m most troubled by is that people feel this is something that should be controlled by the rabbonim of the community. These are not halachic decisions about kashrus or the like, and while there is a place for asking a rav a hashkafic question, this is not one of them. A person must be able to know themselves well enough to determine whether something such as the Interner is proper for them to have in their home. Of course, people are biased, people have yetzer haras, etc. – so make your cheshbonos and figure it out. My brother learns here in Chofetz Chaim, and the guys there are notorious for asking every minute question there is about topics that really should be solved with common sense. They are “overaskers”. But even there, they have a line that says something like, “A person needs to learn to make decisions on their own.” [*much better in Hebrew] The constant indecisiveness and inability of people to determine what makes sense for them within a halachic framework is a troubling trend in today’s Judaism. This happens to manifest itself in this case in the decision to “ban” the Internet in some communities, with people having the situation decided for them.
Some random thoughts:
a) We Baalei Teshuva tend to go to extremes. Is cutting off all internet access another example of this?
b) Kressel, I noticed your husband still has his website up and running. Does that mean he doesn’t necessarily feel the same?
c) Is it possible that some individuals/homes have more “anti-bodies” (e.g. BTs) and the person referred to Rav Solomon was not such a person; i.e. to a child raised in a very insular home internet access (especially without savvy parents implementing controls) poses more of threat that one in a home less insular? (This is not to say that BTs are immune; nor that FFBs are not exposed to the world. But just that for some people it is more of a problem than others, even though all have to realize they are not immune to the dangers.)
d) I heard that included at the Asifa was a speaker offering the name of software that tracks internet usage, implying that even at the Asifa the opinion was expressed that it can be introduced and included in the house with controls and in acceptable ways. Did anyone else hear that?
Bob- BYU isn’t referring to Gedolim. He’s referring to the internet and its mindnumbing hold over masses who waste so much of their precious time hooked to its Holy Grail.
We have frequent discussions with our advisors on the particular issues that come up on Beyond BT and on the Internet in general.
The general feeling is that this site provides an important support and chizuk function. That is not to say that we are advising people to install the Internet in their home to access Beyond BT, but for those already on, please continue to stop on by to learn and contribute.
BYU is way out of line if he meant to describe Torah leaders.
Cults are groups that often exploit members psychologically and/or financially, typically by making members comply with leadership’s demands through certain types of psychological manipulation, popularly called mind control, and through the inculcation of deep-seated anxious dependency on the group and its leaders.
I did not say all Gedolim agreed. I basically asked if the asifa provided any action items for Beyond BT.
What can you tell us about recommendations by other Gedolim on this subject?
“Based on what the Gedolim addressing the Internet issue have said, is any action now needed to modify the content or operation of this site?”
I think it would be a mistake to accept R. Matisyahu Salomon’s word as a final pesak that is agreed upon by all Gedolim. Ask your rav for a pesak.
The Holy One ,Blessed be He, created the evil inclination, but He also created the Torah as its antidote.Torah is the preventive medecine, Mussar is the cure.
Sorry I erased by mistake what rav Salater says:>
I support your decision. Thank you ever so much for all the writing and help you have offered over the net. May you be the receipient of brachas and nachas from your children. Thank you again.
Kol ha kavod to you Kressel for taking this step. May HaShem continue to reward you with much yiddishe nachas from your children.
Jacob — they sell surfing software which forces you to opt IN not opt OUT of websites. So you can block your computer from downloading from any website except gmail, etc.
I personally agree with you and the Gedolim,
They know the ways of the Yetzer Hara and how he gets to us, he is actually much smarter than us, he knows us since we were born !
But , I would like to add a point that I think people are missing. The removing of the internet is only a Protection , but not a cure.
Rabbi Ysroel Salanter says :>
Removing the internet is not going to teach our children how to deal with the internet when they are going to be by a friend who has it or in places where they have free internet.
Therefore it is of major importance that in the same time that you remove internet , you teach yourself and your children to achieve greater Yras Shomayim . Yras shomayim is the true cure for internet. The only problem is that very little of us really apply the Mussar we learn. Therefore I encourage everyone who does or does not remove internet to study Mussar daily (It’s a Halacha in the Schulchan Aruch) and apply it. One of the best book for this is “the path of the just”.
Now for those who are not going to remove internet , or who have access to internet in other places, there are programs for only 30$ which you can download , those programs are going to record every site you are going to visit. My wife only has the password to that program and see all the website I went on. This can be used also to see where the children go . The program can also send all the website visited to the email of your rav of your friend. This way you know they can see everywhere you went.
This is what I have used for the past few weeks and it is a great tool.
If you need to know the web site to download the program and have questions on how to use it you can write me an email at email@example.com.
May Hashem give us Yrat Shomayim and cur us from all temptations!
Cidco and later Earthlink offered a home email-only machine called Mailstation. It appears that they no longer make/sell these, but they still service existing dial-up accounts.
Maybe you can make some sort of deal with Earthlink to market this to frum Jews. They wrote down their inventory and may no longer have machines on hand.
Note: Disabling a browser (whatever that means) does not mean your kids can’t get onto the internet. Most kids know that if you type a URL into the Explorer’s file directory you will connect to the web… and you can’t disable Explorer…
I’ve been thinking about buidling an email server (worked in technology for 10+ years) out of my house that can accept connections via phone dial up. The target audience are frum households who would like to relieve themselves of the ‘Net but the reliance on email prevents them from following through.
This is so people can continue this now ubiquitous and yes convenient form of communication without being subject to an internet subscription and its presence in one’s house.
Does anyone know if
1. Such a plan already exists either through a frum or nonsectarian source?
2. Would people be willing to pay a nominal fee for time, material and maintenance?
A question for this web site’s Advisors and Project Coordinators:
Based on what the Gedolim addressing the Internet issue have said, is any action now needed to modify the content or operation of this site?
and perhaps the two biggest issues al pi din…
13. Using company time to be on the web for personal use which can be a very grave issur. Also, having a hand in causing others to be over on bitul m’lacha. Even if I can control myself, how do I know whether yenem can?
14. The big LH.
I am, bli neder, going to take a haitus from personal web use. If anyone sees me on this site in the next 3 months, please tell me to get off immediately. I am going to list here some problems with web use as I see it. Understood, many don’t see these things as problems or manage to deal with the problems easily. So please don’t post to upshlug all my kashes. If you have advice as to how to deal with the kashes, please post them. Thank you to Mark and Dave for hosting a site where I have learned a lot and hopefully shared a few ideas that others have benefitted from.
1. Bitul z’man. A very big subject with lots of implications.
2. Feelings of depression or mental sluggishness resulting from the media of interent use, regardless of content.
3. Weakening of gidrei tzinus in male – female communicaitons.
4. Reading apikorsis which weakens emunah
5. Seeing things that are imodest, even at sites like jpost, cnn etc.
6. Feeding compulsiveness
7. “Rewiring” of one’s eye-brain connections, training the eye to look where it wants to.
8. Fueling of midas hamachlokes and the need to have the last word
9. Feeding the need to know the latest which relates to weakening of the ability to defer pleasure.
10. Relating to “e-people” instead of real people in all there complexity and greatness.
11. Physical health issues. Sitting for hours slupted over the computer, failure to excercise.
12. Differing the need to share good or original thoughts. “Letting it bake”.
Wow. What a story from R’ Matisyahu.
Interestingly (for me, that is), just last night I was considering the state of ruchnius in our household and concluded that part of the reason for my dissatisfaction with it stems from the amount of time I waste on web-surfing. I decided to disable my internet browser starting today. This story is going to strengthen me in my decision (I hope.)
And kol hakavod to you, Kressel
I hear you %100. I do not have a computer in my home. I use it at work during down time, and that is too much also. There are so many leitzanim that have ridiculed Rav Solomon. It is good that you did a concrete peulah right away to cement you’r inspiration. Hashem should pay you back kaful u’mkufil with nachas from your children. If you find that using email at home and Internet in the library is still too much, please run back to your rav quickly and re-evaluate.
I big consideration in this entire subect is that for many, internet use is really not a problem at all. But for many it is worse than death. Those that do not have a problem with it, should not advise those that do.
I plan to share this with others as you said it so eloquently.
Navi (Amos 8, 11)- Behold days are coming when I will send a famine in the land; not a famine of bread, nor thirst for water, but of learning the words of the Lord.
The rabbi said this doesn’t sound as good as you think. When people are thirsty and hungry they’ll grab what ever they can. This is how intelligent people can fall pray to the most absurd spiritual predators which includes the intelligentsia and blogger.
After reading your letter I see even the frum world you can get thirsty.