A huge billboard on the Manhattan-bound Brooklyn-Queens highway in New York City (USA). It says, “Fellow Jew, You're Going into a Danger Zone; Shield Your Eyes.”
Really??? And Brooklyn is a Holy Land???
This is a particularly problematic attitude. Shmiras Aynayim is an important concept. It means we’re responsible for what we choose to see. If we choose to read inappropriate materials or view inappropriate images, then we’ve caused ourselves a form of damage and are responsible for it.
The problem is when this concept is taken to the extreme. Perhaps we should go around with blinders on? Perhaps we should require our women folk to put on burka’s so we won’t accidentally see a curve? Perhaps we should not enter Manhattan, or never leave our neighborhood in Brooklyn, or never leave our house or synagogue because we might come across an inappropriate sight?
Perhaps we should close our eyes while driving to avoid an inappropriate billboard? (Not a good idea, but all the suggestions in the previous paragraph are real things done by a select extreme few within Judaism.)
The problem in general is Jews are supposed to engage in this world. We are never monks on the mountain. We’re here to light up the world, and to do that we have to interact with it. Not roll around in the muck, not absorb it. But yes, to engage it.
A segment of our religious population has become terrified of the outside world. (Not so terrified as to not be able to engage an advertising agency.) And they seek to impose their position on their brethren. They believe it’s not safe to engage, as they fail to see how to do that without absorbing and rolling in the muck.
It’s not just sad, it’s contrary to the goals of Torah. We are to be a light unto the nations, not a hidden light cowering only in our own neighborhoods… a voluntary ghettoization.
They must learn… those who emit light don’t absorb. Those who give, those who do, those who go to fulfill the mission direct from the Torah… those who shine need not fear the shadows.