What Are You #Disappointed About Regarding the Internet Usage Discussion?

We saw a Tweet from our referal logs that someone was #disappointed because we reposted Kressel’s decision to take on a more stringent standard of Internet usage.

Perhaps others are #disappointed.

Are you #disappointed that people are uncomfortable when someone decides to take on a more stringent standard then them?

Are you #disappointed that people in the moderate middle frame the issue as either pro or anti-Internet, and don’t articulate the obvious middle position that the Internet has both tremendous benefits and dangers, and we would be wise to make all attempts to mitigate the dangers?

Are you #disappointed that Torah observant people think it’s a good idea to allow their children unfiltered Internet access despite the dangers?

What are you #disappointed about regarding the Internet discussion?

26 comments on “What Are You #Disappointed About Regarding the Internet Usage Discussion?

  1. In presenting filtering alternatives, great care must be taken to avoid steering potential users to one or more “politically” favored vendors. There should be objective sources of information about the alternative software packages and services.

  2. That balancing act is critical. Does it also apply to the “psak” of HaRav Wosner, shlita? I assume most will say that he isn’t their Rav or Poseik. And I would agree with that. But, then what was the reason for presenting such a well know Poseik at the Asifa in the first place?

  3. Rabbi Sitorsky of Bayswater spoke about the internet near the end of his shiur on Bamidbar. In a nutshell, he stated that in truth the internet was created for kedusha not for Tumah. It was created to spread the words of Hashem and that all the technology can be harnessed in Avodas Hashem.


    If anyone is interested, there will be a Crown Heights Asifa on the Internet at 8:00 tonight and there will be a live feed on


  4. Chabad in Cyberspace, which has been up and running since about 1996, has had a tremendous impact on literally thousands of Jews. I wish that the director of http://www.chabad.org (I believe that’s Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, but please correct me) could have been invited to the Asifa to talk about the enormous positive potential of the Internet.

    We don’t ban all alcoholic beverages because some Jews sadly enough overuse and abuse them. We do advocate drinking responsibly and moderately and banning “Kiddush clubs,” underage drinking and getting drunk on Purim.

    IMHO, it is far more important to address the urgent issues of pedophilia, domestic violence, the soaring divorce rate, alienated kids: all tearing apart what used to be the holy and secure walls of the Jewish family, phenomena that started becoming acutely visible in our community well before the Internet, and within homes that have never had the Internet. The Internet did not cause these problems, and banning the Internet will not solve these problems.

  5. Every Jew has or should try to have a direct personal connection with rabbis capable of advising about individual and family situations with wisdom and discretion. Their input would probably be more to the point and useful in context than anything even the best public forum could generate.

  6. “The filter approach, where you ask yourself beforehand if the usage you are considering is going to help bring you closer to Hashem.”

    Sounds good.

    “That means no buying things on Amazon”


    “…no using the incredible resources of hebrewbooks.org”

    Never heard of it until now.

    “…no emailing family members”

    So use a telephone. (“You never call me!”) And you can’t have email without the internet?!

    “… no divrei Torah via email or website.”

    So you’ll grow less? What did you do before? It’s just a matter of convenience, all of these.

    I’m not advocating anything. The internet has caused a churban, the Mashgiach shlita is fed up and wanted to do something for klal Yisroel, but there’s really no overall solution (you can’t ban it), so he called an aseifah. That’s great! What a show of support for him! We are united that something needs to be done. Thats the first step.

    The REAL problem is what is stated in the Klal Perspectives about having no soul. The articles from Rav Lopiansky and the final one by Rabbi Goldman say it all. We’re missing soul, and kids aren’t taught it in school, except for the occasional inspirational story which is later forgotten. Any more than that is seen as a nice chassisusha vort. But it’s not true. We’re missing a real connection.

    Before I became frum, I remembered praying twice, kneeling and hands up, because that’s what I saw on TV. But it was sincere. Oh, was it sincere. Oh, to have that back again (not the TV).

    Our learning is missing soul. I like what was written in the articles about the sin of bitul Torah…it’s not about a whip over us and Gehennom underneath…the problem with bitul Torah is that its a bitul of us…we lost an opportunity to come even closer to Ha-Shem.

    Teaching a connection…teaching soul…you don’t need a seder in Tanya to do this…there are ways, even to kids in yeshivas that are long lasting. Then people would be even more sensitive to things like the internet.

  7. “WADR, the comments by R Wachsman… really don’t sound very constructive”

    I think “constructive” is subjective, depending on how the listener takes it. Some(many?) people find this type of mussar motivating, which is why he said it.

    “especially when viewed in the context of the comments of RYK as to what hastens or delays Bias HaMoshiach”

    Where is the source for this statement of R. Yaakov?

    Regarding “losing one’s Olam Habaah”, one could say that many aveiros, whether bein adam lchaveiro, or bein adam lmakom, are detremental to one’s eternity. One might also extrapolate from the Asifah that anyone who owns a TV(a large population of people) also “loses one’s olam haba”. Whether this is motivating for people to make any positive changes in their life, I think, is dependent on the person.

    I would add that R. Wachsman said “it’s not all or nothing”, which strikes me as an encouraging statement.

  8. Steve, at a gathering like the Asifa, you have to be wise enough to hear what will help you and investigate and possibly reject that which is inconsistent with your understanding and practice of Torah.

    It’s easy to find something you don’t agree with and reject the whole thing. Luckily my Rav taught me by example to take the good and put aside that which is inconsistent with your hashkafa. That has opened me up to the tremendous Torah of Rabbi Soloveitchik and many other Torah giants, even though my Rav might disagree with them on some key issues.

    Rabbi Wachsman had some important messages and I’m glad that I heard them even though I may not accept everything he said.

  9. Mark-WADR, the comments by R Wachsman re losing one’s Olam Habaah and the suggestion that children of families either be rejected or expelled from schools by R Wosner really don’t sound very constructive, especially when viewed in the context of the comments of RYK as to what hastens or delays Bias HaMoshiach, and the documented views of the SR and the CI against expelling students with very problematic behavior from yeshivos.

  10. Here’s 3 paragraphs from the best write up I’ve seen about the event on On the Main Line.
    It’s also the message 3 friends and myself took away.
    I think it’s a very different picture then that painted by Rabbi Fink.

    He continued that the internet is about the superficial, the lack of focus, the instant, and that even secular sources are bemoaning this, decrying that children are becoming “click-vegetables.” He then delivered what was a truly conciliatory message: even these “brazen” people, the people the internet ruined, are still acheinu benei yisrael, our brothers, and Hashem loves “you.” Yes, he said this. If no one else reports it, he still said it. He then spoke about how this is simply the biggest challenge the Jews have ever faced, and we are weaker than all our predecessors. Yet, he said, even one step forward can make a difference. Even though “the webbed mind has to struggle to understand Torah,” what if a person is determined to have “an internet massechta,” instead of wasting X amount of time online, he takes that time and completes a Talmudic tractate? He said that someone told him that he was passing some kind of obscene billboard on the way to work every day, and he determined that every time he chose not to look, he would give himself $1. In no time at all – (if you do the math it would have had to have been a considerable amount of time) – he accumulate $2000, and bought himself an awesome silver menorah. Transforming tumah to taharah. He referred to the internet as a “kli mashchis,” a “destructive vessel.” He bemoaned the “billions of hours and dollars” which went into producing and maintaining the internet. Then he made a most interesting comment: Even if, he said, we have lost the 25 – 35 year olds! – and maybe we haven’t – that doesn’t mean we have to lose the 0 – 20s. He feels that the Chareidim have been retreating (!) and there can be no more retreating. It is time to arise like a lioness. This garnered, for the first time, applause.

    Then he said (claimed? hoped?) that “there are thousands here tonight who have no shaychas to internet. Don’t think that only a black hatter in Lakewood, or a man in a shtreimel in Williamsburg can do without. Even a Yid in a blue shirt can!” (This prompted me to count blue shirts once more, and also collected kippot of various sorts as well). Then he began to say something which I was starting to get excited about, but I didn’t realize what he was going to mean. He said there are other forms of entertainment. Was he about to acknowledge that people need leisure and entertainment? Was he going to suggest walks with children? But then he continued – and we eschew these entertainments. Which Yid hunts? Do you have or want a moose head in your living room? No, you hang pictures of gedolim! In other words, don’t think you need Netflix – you already don’t partake in many alternative things which you have no desire for. You can do it with the internet too. You can scale back.

    The fact is, Rabbi Wachsman provided the most realistic approach. I no longer recall if he also reiterated that the internet is only permitted for business and with a filter, but even if he did, it was pretty clear that he was under no illusion about what people do, and was really trying to promote a lessening of use and dependence on the internet. At point he had also mentioned that people who give their 11 or 12 year old kids internet access, or an ipod, are crazy. He wisely and realistically pointed out that if someone had given him an ipod when he was 11 years old he would immediately have hacked that thing.

  11. The following is one rav’s reaction to the addresses at the Asifa:

    “Let’s make this short and sweet.

    The askanim I spoke with assured me that the Asifa would not ban the Internet. I explained that there is plenty of reason for skepticism regarding the opinion of the great rabbis when it comes to Internet. After all, every single public statement on the Internet was that the Internet must be banned. Then they tried to coerce the schools to disallow any child who had Internet in the home to attend any of the yeshivas and Beis Yaakovs. So I said, forgive me for being skeptical.

    I was led down a path of fantasy and imagination. I was told that the rabbis won’t be banning the Internet at this event. After all, the slogan was “We can’t live with it, we can’t live without it”! There are going to be vendors teaching people about Internet filters at the event! So I believed in this myth. I believed that the new approach was going to be different. I believed they were going to advocate responsible Internet use. I believed that the standards would be subjective. I bought a bridge.

    Three out of context quotes are all you need to know about the event.

    R’ Wachsman said that since all of Klal Yisrael is gathering together for an event, notwithstanding the fact that only a small sliver of the Jewish population was present at the Asifa, whatever edicts were initiated at the event would be binding on all Jews and if someone was not present at the Asifa, they were bound as well. Anyone who would not listen to the edicts was to be considered a defector and would lose their portion in the next world.

    R’ Wosner said that the Internet is only permissible at one’s place of business and with a filter. It was not to be used in the home with or without a filter under any circumstances. Further, no school should accept any student who had Internet access, even with a filter, in their home.

    R’ Segal said that people think they need it for work, but it’s really just the evil inclination convincing them that they need it because they really don’t need it and they should not have it at all.

    Sure, there were plenty of inspirational moments. R’ Wachsman tried to walk back from these more extreme statements. He also made some intelligent remarks about the harms of too much Internet usage (and some erroneous ones as well). R’ Matisyahu Salamon avoided objective rulings in his brief talk. But the damage was done.

    The askanim were fooled, or foolish. And so was I.

    I apologize for my [tepid] support of the event. It did not make the Internet somewhat kosher for those who want to listen to the rabbis. Nothing positive about the Internet was discussed. Websites with Torah and the ability to communicate with friends and family was ignored. In short, this event set the clock back to zero. I was wrong. Things are more bleak than I presumed.

    The current status:

    If someone wishes to listen to the “Gedolim” who spoke on the issue, they are forced to leave the Internet behind, for all purposes other than what is absolutely necessary for work. That means no buying things on Amazon, no using the incredible resources of hebrewbooks.org, no emailing family members, no divrei Torah via email or website. Nothing. Over.

    The majority of people will take some nice lessons and inspiration from the event but will ignore the edicts and risk losing their portion in the world to come if R’ Wachsman is to be trusted on these matters.

    The smart people will continue to educate their children with wisdom and prudence. They didn’t need any Asifa to begin with.

    We can mourn or celebrate the end of rabbinic proclamations on the Internet as there is no one who will take them seriously anymore.

    The one glimmer of hope is that people will stop relying on rabbis and edicts to make all their decisions and do their thinking for them. It would be great if people started to realize that they need to take responsibility for themselves and their children. They can’t expect to get bailed out of all cognition by rabbis thinking on their behalf. It just doesn’t work. But more importantly, I don’t believe it is what God wants from us.”


  12. We Jews are confronted by numerous problems; I do not believe that the internet deserves to be singled out as the #1 problem.

    Six times each month, my web site distributes quick Divrei Torah and quick health advice, but the internet-bashers do not care about that.

  13. The speakers at the Asifa said that you can use the Internet if needed for business, so I think using a “Ban the Internet” rhetoric is both incorrect and greatly distorts this discussion.

    Rabbi Wachsman said that the Internet presents dangers in the areas of inappropriate material, assimilating into non-Jewish culture and the negative effect it has on our thinking and middos. Because of these dangers, he is very strongly suggesting that a spiritually oriented Observant Jew eliminate (or severely reduce) their Internet usage. That was the message that four of us from Queens heard.

    Some of us were hoping for guidelines for “Responsible Internet Usage”, and were a little disappointed when that model was not really considered.

    Rebbetzin Heller in a tape on Community presents three models of non-business Internet Usage.
    1) High walls with little or no usage
    2) No-walls, but try to throw out the bad stuff when you encounter it
    3) The filter approach, where you ask yourself beforehand if the usage you are considering is going to help bring you closer to Hashem.

    The Asifa was promoting 1), many observant Jews are in mode 2) and Rebbetzin Heller was suggesting 3) as a better alternative.

  14. The real question is whether the speakers at the Asifa offered constructive solutions. Drashos that spoke about losing one’s place in Olam Habaah ( which RYK years ago stated were set forth by Chazal and could not be expanded),purporting to represent all of Klal Yisrael regardless of their or their Baalei Mesorah being present, expelling kids from school, and viewing the Net as a challenge equivalent to secular Zionism, Haskalah and Communism , don’t sound awfully constructive.

  15. mark, thanks for your eloquent and insightful response. as usual, your answer is very helpful. one additional note which I would make is that I feel we have not framed the issue fully in the right manner. this is partially related to the point which I made earlier. overall, I feel that our discussion of this should look at the problems inherent in thinking that we can adequately address an issue, any issue, by banning something.

    I’m not opposing the idea itself of banning the internet. what I’m saying is that any idea, decision, or effort which we make here will only reach a fraction of the whole frum community anyway, as well as only a fraction of the whole Jewish community, by definition.

    so banning the internet is fine for those who choose to do so. but it tends to cut off the whole discourse with those who are outside of this community circle, since it may somewhat inhibit a further nuanced debate on this whole issue.

    some problem areas in my opinion are (a) the people who do see some problems, and needs some philosophical guidance other than a simple total ban. (b) people who are perfectly capable of using the internet the right way, but who will be forced to bar it from their home due to the weight of community propriety. (c) people who are not part of our community itself, and who will not be reached by this asifa, and who may find it difficult to receive guidance on this in general from another source, since this whole asifa will sort of dominate the whole discourse on this topic.

    in short, i’d like our discussion here to focus on the ramifications on how a drastic ban can tend to skew the community’s whole approach to this issue, and the dangers of propriety demanding a stringency on something which people should have at least some ability to get differing views on; and something which they should be able to hear a lively and active discourse upon.

    in short, and just to complete the thought, the whole point is that there is some virtue to some things on the internet. I agree that banning it may be a good move for some people. I’m concerned though if that becomes the only option, due to what might be accepted as community propriety. I appreciate you having this discussion here. thanks.

  16. ShakedandAwe, the effect a particular post can have on someone new to yiddishkeit has been raised a number of times in the past. It’s a valid question and we have discussed it in the past with our Rabbinic advisors. We’ve come to the conclusion that the benefits outweigh those dangers and we continue to focus primarily on providing already observant BTs a place to share their thoughts, ideas, stories and support for their fellow BTs.

    In addition, our experience and thinking is that interested Jews read multiple articles and they come away with a realistic and generally positive picture of the challenges and triumphs that they will meet on the path to observance. We’ve seen that painting a rosy positive no-thorns picture often leads to disillusionment when the inevitable bumps are encountered. Often this disillusionment leads to people abandoning observance altogether, usually never to return.

  17. hmm. i almost didn’t want to bring up my own concerns, but ShakedandAwe did a great job of saying them for me. the problem is not someone who decides to turn off the internet in their home. that choice can be quite commendable when done to achieve greater spirituality. the problem is presenting that choice as if it is the only valid way to uphold one’s Jewish identity. Presenting it here as one of the main postings might be slightly problematic, as it might create the impression that this is what one does in order to be part of the community. I’m not saying that everyone here will think that. but there might be some who might sort of get that impression somehow.

    [NOTE: this is a revision of my earlier comment; please delete my earlier version of this comment.] thanks.

  18. Mark,

    Thank you, I agree that everyone should make the decision that is right for them. While I had many issues with the content, which in retrospect, are irrelevant to Mrs. Housman’s personal decision, I am still concerned about the effect the post can have on someone who is new to yiddishkeit. I believe there should have been some mention of what you so beautifully said above, that “Different people will weigh spiritual and material risks and benefits differently and come to conclusions which are correct for them, but might not be correct for someone else.” In my mind, the post created a terrible impression.

  19. ShakedAndAwe,

    Mrs. Housman was sharing her thoughts and her decision making process.

    She came to the conclusion that for her physical and spiritual situation, the dangers outweighed the benefits.

    In my Queens community, I know people who have come to the same conclusion and either severely limit supervised Internet access or don’t allow it at all.

    Different people will weigh spiritual and material risks and benefits differently and come to conclusions which are correct for them, but might not be correct for someone else. I think understanding and accepting that is essential to having a nuanced discussion.

  20. I tend to agree with Micha.

    The amount of bad press from the secular media about this has been crazy.

    I am #disappointed, like many, that the group gathered didn’t represent all of the observant population and I can’t help but think how much money was spent on this event.

  21. Are you #disappointed that Torah observant people think it’s a good idea to allow their children unfiltered Internet access despite the dangers?

    What I’m disappointed in is that anyone is letting children online for any reason whatsoever, even with filters and adult supervision. They don’t belong there, period.

    When someone is at the age where he/she is old enough to take and online academic course of some kind then we can talk about guidelines for Internet usage, not before.

    Even though I have my issues with the Asifa I would rather not pile on with yet another set of complaints except to point out that the one Takanah they could have made that they could have probably enforced would have been to assur all yehivas and Bais Yaakovs from giving any homework that required the students to go online.

    The biggest disappointment is that no one that I know of has articulated what I consider to be the big picture here, and that includes myself because I’m probably also wrong.

    The following link is too long to be be included here: http://emunahspeak.blogspot.com/2011/12/perhaps-theyre-better-than-you.html, but if you take a peek you will get a glimpse of why the Internet discussion is disconnected from reality.

    Hashem didn’t invent the Internet to mess up a few hundred or a few thousand frum Jews in Lakewood, Brooklyn and sundry venues.

    It’s not about them. They are not the center of the picture here.

    What then?

    For all of the millions of dollars that are thrown at kiruv in America, there is very little bottom line return on capital. We are shlepping in but a few thousand baali teshuva a year. Given the 50%+ intermarriage rate that is decimating our brothers and sisters like the bubonic plague it is obvious to anyone who can do simple math (the older generation) that the numbers simply don’t compute in the sense of any great hatzalah.

    The Internet is speeding up the process. For the first time since the inception of the Haskalah we are now on offense. We can now reach Jews who have been impossible to get to for over 200 years.

    The Internet is about kiruv, and any discussion that omits the K word is nothing but empty words.

    All of these people that we are, nebach, losing are collateral damage in a great war that Hashem has unleashed to redeem his people. They are an unfortunate side show that everyone has mistakenly moved to center stage.

    Check out the link. It makes the point with much greater clarity.

  22. Hello, I was the one who was #disappointed in the article that was reposted. Please allow me to elaborate on my #disappointment.

    I was #disappointed that Ms. Housman does not appear to acknowledge her responsibility as a parent in teaching her children how to use the Internet properly.

    I was #disappointed that there was not single mention of an Internet filter for her home (check!)

    I was #disappointed that Ms. Housman got rid of her Internet seemingly based on nothing more than R’ Lowenthal’s and especially R’ Solomon’s fear-mongering.

    I was #disappointed that she sees the Internet as an inherent “stumbling block.”

    I was #disappointed that in reposting an article from 2006, Beyond BT ignores the advances and benefits the Internet provides today, that it did not then.

    I was #disappointed that the post creates the false impression that getting rid of your Internet automatically makes you holier. Impressionable new and aspiring BTs have enough to deal with, without thinking that removing the Internet from their homes is something they must do for the sake of kedusha.

    I was #disappointed when I finished reading the post and Ms. Housman did not say something like “…then I realized that completely removing the Internet from my home was not the solution. The Internet is a tool that offers incredible benefits when used properly. Like any tool, the Internet is not inherently dangerous; it simply depends on how it is used. I have a responsibility as a parent to make sure that a few websites are not all it takes to make my child go off the derech. If that occurs, then there were already problems completely independent of his/her Internet use.”

    So yes, I was #disappointed. This issue requires a much more nuanced discussion than Ms. Housman offered.

  23. to me the issue of the Internet is similar to the issue of the boogyman. i can’t prove to you that it won’t get you, but there isn’t evidence that it’s really a threat to you in and of itself either, at least in so far as the Internet has been presented so far.

    so to clarify my point see these topics:

    i’ve heard complaints about access to adult content. that’s a valid point, but filtering should make it easy to avoid this. if someone wants to argue this claim and convince me they would need non-anecdotal evidence to prove filters dont block enough pornography. otherwise set up a filter that only takes you to per-approved parts of the web.

    if the issue seeing pictures of PG rated clothed women (for example wearing pants and a tight tshirt) or hearing a recording of a woman’s voice then i’m not sure the Internet is any different than the airport / subway / or a secular grocery store. do the opponents of the Internet suggest avoiding these locations for these reasons.

    i’ve heard complaints about impact of social media, but this seems to be an extension of a lifestyle where men and women might or might not interact in social settings. so blaming the Internet just doesn’t make sense to me. if you dont want to interact in a certain fashion avoid that portion of the Internet.

    an argument can be made that there are two sides to every coin. if you avoid the internet and you need to buy clothing is better to go to mall and have to walk past mannikins wearing lingerie?

    what would kiruv be without the Internet?

    and what about skype? especially if you live in a different time zone than your parents?

  24. Mostly, by the number of people who decided in advance what it would be about, criticized it before it even happened, and then cherry-picked among rumors and third-hand reports those points that just allowed them to say “I told you so” and continue.

    I would have preferred the aseifa had spent more time building people up, rather than telling them how horrible the internet is and how they must avoid it. Once you acknowledge that access is going to be unavoidable, and how filters help but don’t eliminate the dangers, shouldn’t you be investing the lion’s share of your teaching to telling people how to withstand the temptations? Instead, they’re pretty much given material to take themselves off the hook by being told its insurmountable.

    But I can’t say I was disappointed on this second point, because it fit expectation. (Ironic comparison to my prior point intentional.)

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