Tuesday, December 22, 2009

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Judaism and The Internet

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

There is no doubt the Internet is an incredible tool of information. Further, it's become an absolute requirement for normal business (even personal family business) in the U.S. and in many other countries.

The Internet is also an incredible tool to reach people. Jewish organizations such as Chabad.Org, Torah.Org, Aish.com have provided incredible opportunity for Jews around the world to reach out and learn about their heritage, Torah and Hashem. And of course it's also given an avenue for people such as myself and our team of bloggers to make our individual contributions.

Of course, the Internet is also full of terrible material as well. Hate content, kefirah, pornography, etc.

For the most part, with the exception of specific organizations such as Chabad and Aish, the orthodox leadership has treated the Internet purely as a danger and has strongly advised the orthodox community to avoid it. However, this past week I found myself in a private business meeting in a very ultra-orthodox section of Jerusalem with very ultra-orthodox participants. I presented some material on my laptop. During the meeting one of the participants said he needed to look up a fact, pulled out a laptop (more up to date than mine) and turned and asked another participant for the password for his wireless network/Internet connection! I was stunned. (That in an extremely ultra-orthodox section of Jerusalem, in a personal home with a group of ultra-orthodox people - they had a high speed Internet connection and accessing it was public and perfectly normal.)

The ultra-orthodox leadership needs to step up and provide some directions and standards to what has clearly fully penetrated the society. Along those lines I saw the following from a national religious leadership rav this past week...

(Rav Aviner - edited to shorten) Everybody knows that the Internet is a great source of woe... True, it has good things in it, information and service sites, and we have our various Torah sites, and it could have been a wonderful tool... It leads to people wasting enormous amounts of time... Youth (only youth???) regularly enter pornographic sites...

...There is a partial solution through the various filtering programs: In Israel there are Rimon, Etrog, Iconito, Moreshet and Netiv. All of them are good... A filter program is an ABSOLUTE REQUIREMENT according to Halachah. Such indeed is the ruling that has been handed down: If someone has to go somewhere and he has two possible routes, one involving a river where women role up their sleeves to do their washing, and a more modest route, he is obligated to take the more modest route (Bava Batra 57b).

...Rav Wosner ruled that the laws of “Yichud” [seclusion with a female behind closed doors] apply here. ...The evil impulse can attack a person from within or from without, as Ha-Rav ...Kook explained (regarding the Talmudic debate over whether the evil impulse is more a fly, which comes from without, or like a wheat kernel, resembling a heart split in two (Ein Aya). Rambam likewise writes: “It is a person’s nature to imitate his friends and acquaintances and to develop behavior and attributes like theirs. Therefore, a person must befriend righteous people and always frequent the wise, so as to learn from their deeds, and he should distance himself from the wicked who walk in darkness, so as not to learn from their deeds. As King Shlomo said, ‘He that walks with wise men shall be wise, but the companion of fools will be broken’” (Rambam, Hilchot Deot 6:1)...

There is another fine solution in America which can be used here as well, and it has approbations from the rabbis of America and of Israel... It is called "webchaver", and it transmits a weekly report on all the sites visited by the user, placing at the top, in bold, all the problematic sites entered, that reaches the friend chosen by the user. That friend can be the person’s wife who uses the same computer, but with a different email address. It costs four dollars a month.


Kol HaKovod to Rav Aviner for setting some good standards for what people clearly are going to do anyway.

Some utilities to consider:

Web Chaver
Internet Rimon (Israel)

2 comments:

Tiklish said...

I haven't been here in a long time, not since you first moved to Israel. Hope all is well with you. Keep up the amazing work!

Neshama said...

You didn't mention the edict about the charedi news blogs that have closed down because of a psak. The Rabbis are taking a more aggressive approach. However, It seems to me that a great deal of personal and business is and will be conducted via the net; unless there is a new device that is constructed solely for personal business (gas,elec,arnona,etc) and email for communicating with family and friends (No twitter, facebook et al.) that families can use without impunity and danger.

Who is the decisor for the filtering software, who decides what sites can be and cannot be visited; this also can be prejudiced by their religious beliefs. What else?

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