Opinion: Crisis Facing Klal Yisroel; A Response To Current Internet Debate

By Rabbi Dovid Abenson. It is amazing to observe how the internet has come to dictate the very pulse of modern society. Although this technology can be used for many kosher and appropriate purposes, its duplicity and propensity to carry an individual towards averos, has created a terrible situation for klal yisroel.

Our gedolim recently organized a tremendous gathering to deliver a united message that internet use should be curbed to a minimum and that all yidden should diligently insure their internet connections are equipped with a filtering device. This approach, following the recommendations Rabbi Eliashiv made 15 years ago, assumes that the internet is here to stay and that we must make the best of it by making every effort to ensure it delivers only kosher material into our minds and homes.

While this may be the best practical approach to dealing with the internet, I would argue that the idea of filters is only a temporary and partial solution which fails to address the heart of the matter: Why are we using the internet to begin with? Why are adults and children alike exploring non-kosher sites? How can we better use the internet in addition to filtering it?

People use the internet for all kinds of purposes: business, work, research and entertainment. It is the latter two categories which intrigue me, and which, I think, are at the crux of the internet debate. The ability to
access any all information autonomously and anonymously is an appealing power that many cannot resist. In addition, the freedom and novelty of social media sites allows us speak to more people than ever before, in any way we like, at any time of day. For many, the internet can melt away feelings of loneliness and isolation, ultimately creating a sense of happiness and fulfillment which an individual may be unable to attain in their non-virtual life. When these additional elements are taken into consideration, the problem becomes not the internet itself, but the emotional health of the people using it. Why are is it more appealing to turn to the internet for answers to our questions rather than to our Rabbaim? My suspicion is that questions of a more personal nature are frequently not answered immediately, honestly and clearly, and that a sense of embarrassment may accompany even a most benign inquiry, especially if a talmid feels he should already know the answer. If the internet is perceived as a safer and more opulent source of information than our teachers, we have lost the battle. We must allow and encourage our children to ask their questions ‘live’ rather than look for answers virtually.

Besides seeking out information, people enjoy the internet for its many forms of entertainment. I truly believe that the only way to curb an individual’s desire to spend endless hours in chat rooms, on social media sites or watching television online, is to ensure that our students have an interest and passion for Torah topics that supersedes the entertainment value of a television show. We must work to ensure that there are plenty of Torah topics and Torah activities online for children and adults to access— shirum and halachic discussion pages. If our children are passionate about their religion and about the schooling they are receiving, they will seek to use the internet to explore Torah topics, rather than potentially inappropriate material.

As I have addressed in previous articles, this passion and love for learning must begin with a solid Jewish education which stresses the attainment of basic skills and love of learning.

This is the only way to compete and counteract the instant gratification one receives from the internet.

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  1. Is the internet an issue? Of course! Is the shidduch crisis an issue? Of course! Is the parnasa crisis an issue? Of course! Is thousands of rockets falling in Eretz Yisrael an issue? Of course! Is going off the derech in issue? Of course! Is overeating and smoking an issue? Of course! Is 80% intermarriage an issue? Of course! Is loshon hara an issue? Of course! Is not saying hello to people, and caring for others an issue? Of course! Is emotional health an issue? Of course!

    So what should we do with so many issues and with so many people needing help?????

    We do what the Torah says we should – we use our brains to try and fix situation and daven for success!

    So why don’t we do that? Or why don’t we do more of that?

    I’m sure we can fill a book with reasons.

    My suggestion?

    Burn that book and let’s get to work. Our people are crying and we must be there to help them.

  2. This whole articel is a end run on a tokanah that worked. Yes we know the yerzarhorah is big and you have to fight but the best way to fight is to run away.
    To the chigrin of many the internet asifa did a great job how many pepole got rid of the internet how many pepole put filters changed their phones ect. The yetzar horah is losing so he needs new tactics this article is a fine example. First lets rip the asifa it was foolish temporary wont work ect. I remember when the gedoilim were planning the asifa the same lame arguments were said but it worked and was a kidush hashem. So now in the name of lets be practical the article goes on” let us study the root problem business, work, research and entertainment . NO NO NO the root of the problem is YETZER HORAH and he is smart he will propose shiurim, torah, ovadah, mitzvos anything but put it online. Just one thing he needs back in return it should be normal to go online. where you end up after that he will take care of because once your there you have put yourself in to a nissoin. The asifa worked for that reason it isnot the norm anymore to be online for anything . Yes if you need it there is a way but with restrictions and knolledge that you dont belong there.

  3. to #2

    If someone is in a beis medrash on a phone, then it is better then being in a bar on a phone basicaly is what our gedolim have said.

    on another note I appreciate your input #2 it tells me how much you are aware of in this velt.

    to everyone beside #2 and others like him, this article has some of my thoughts almost exact. Kudos to the writer

  4. To #2: you cannot run away from the world around you. This is a new challenge from above and we have to learn to overcome and derive mitzvos from it. Very good article on a very hot and difficult topic. It warms my heart that Rabbi Abenson is taking this issue head on and not running away from it. Many thanks. Yasherkoach !!

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