Tuesday, May 08, 2012


The Doomed Internet Asifa – Part 2

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

thumbnail (3)(Part 1 Here)

Within the Jewish ultra-orthodox communities, the last 6 years or so have heard stronger and stronger warnings to avoid the Internet.  Parents have had to sign contracts with the religious schools that they don’t have Internet at home.  There are even some synagogues where you’re not welcome to lead services if you have Internet.

A sudden about face has occurred.  The “Internet Asifa” is a conference/gathering to instruct religious Jews on how to properly protect against Internet influences while still using it for business.

What happened?

thumbnail (4)If we were to take a strict view of Jewish law, orthodox Jews should not use cars (due to the risk to life).  They should not use the telephone (due to enhancing one’s ability to gossip as well as waste time).  Even using electricity (which might have a Jew working on providing on Shabbos) or investing in stocks (which might be involved in a business that sells meat/milk based products, from which one may not benefit) can be problematic.

Yet the Jews are not the Amish.  We do not avoid technology or progress, we determine how to utilize it for and in the ways of holiness.  So we use the telephone for many mitzvos, and educate on avoiding lashon hara (evil speech, gossip).  We drive cars and use them in our daily lives, but don’t involve ourselves in sports cars or car excesses.  We use electricity on Shabbos and count on it being sufficiently removed to avoid direct religious complications.  And so forth.

E-access is the way of today.  While in the beginning it was “special” to receive a bill or interact with a company via the Internet, now it costs extra to receive a paper bill or interact with a company via a branch.  In some cases it’s becoming harder and harder to even make a purchase except via the Internet. 

Yet, every 5 years (as I posted in part 1) the technology paradigm is changing.  I’m a technologist.  I understand and can build web sites, e-commerce sites and advanced applications.  Yet I don’t use the social aspects of Facebook or really get it. 

If I was building a new business today, my online presence would have to include a web site, e-commerce abilities, social aspects and a mobile abilities. 

Yet if I don’t interact with the Internet regularly and generationally, I’m not even going to get what “social aspects” and “mobile abilities” are!

And that’s the essence of the problem with the Internet Asifa.  It should be run by a group of 25 year old Jewish orthodox Internet businessmen.  They should be advising on the business impacts and personal impacts.  They should be pointing out filtering to use along with apps to benefit from and apps to avoid.

They should help those who ‘don’t get it’ – and that now includes even me! – understand what the new generation is doing, what the good aspects are and what the negative aspects to be avoided are. 

In the Jewish religious world we appreciate the wisdom of the older generation and follow the leadership of our Torah scholars and Torah leaders.  But they’ve lost control on this issue because they’re out of touch on this issue. 

The Internet Asifa promises to be more of the same.  And by taking that approach they’re only diminishing their own authority.  IF that was all, it would be sad.  But since they stand as the Torah authorities, they diminish the authority of Torah leadership as well.

And that’s a shanda.


  1. Howard SchoenfeldMay 09, 2012 12:01 AM

    When the Chofetz Chaiim was shown the Telephone he cried because he thought the phone would be used for Lashon Harah

  2. Only one little comment from me... and that would be...that if there were no internet, and I didn't know there was Torah teaching available online, it would be a horrible horrible tragedy... It can be used for the worst of the worst or the Best of the Best...and that is Torah teaching and learning. But my understanding is very biased on this, because that's been the drive for us... to learn Torah, and there's no other way for us to hear and read and learn the Truth in a world of lies, except with this means... at this time.

  3. I think this asifa is wonderful. Can you imagine 45,000 Jews (I think this is about the number who will come?) coming together to strategize to fight one of the biggest threats to the spiritual continuity of Torah Judaism. In reality, whatever the outcome and success of the asifa, just the fact that it will unite Jews IY"H to discuss increasing and upgrading our service to Hashem is so absolutely great. In fact, WE ALL NEED TO COME TOGETHER IN THE SERVICE OF HASHEM. I don't even have the internet in my house or only phone, and I use it at work. However, I'm proud and absolutely willing to attend and be a part such a chashuv event!!! It will be a z'chus for me and for anyone who attends, and anyone who makes it their business to connect with this event.


  4. I am in agreeance with you and I also am shaking my head yes, because I cannot stand Facebook. I resent it!

  5. Yes and no. There is mida kneged mida. There is lots of good on the internet, there is lots of smut. There is lots of filth on the internet, there is lots of kiddush Hashem. So many people have discovered Torah online, so many other families have been destroyed by being led astray.

    I think that the internet is indeed bad for the Torah world. Few of us need rabbis anymore, we use the internet. If a rabbi, is not on the internet, then he is primitive, right. Does my shul have a website? If not, then young people will not be attracted, if we do, is it good enough? Should we hire a webmaster for a few thousand dollars to fix it up? Who is going to maintain it? Is that what is more important than using that money to encouraging more young people to becoming rabbis?

    I think Torah scholars and regular folks are also being led to a wide variety of tools and resources on the net, I think it is also making them and us lazier. While some might think that searching for a word in a paper dictionary is a waste of time, well, looking for information in a gmera, or mishna brura, or the Tor is a great learning experience.

    I don't think the Haredi world is ready for the internet yet and it really will destroy many lives. It will be like trying to drink from a waterfall. Baruch Hashem, the kids are grown up very innocent and naive, the internet is not a good place for them. The filtering does not promote safe surfing but rather a false sense of security. The Haredi world should instead be refining real world people and leadership skills. Their numbers are growing and like Rav Leitzman, they will find themselves in positions of power and influence. Don't waste time on the internet.

    My wife thinks I cannot do without the net, well, a few weeks with a few good books and seforim in miluim with no connection are so much better.

  6. I agree with Josh.

    Also, even if you took out all the filth, the Internet and social networking sites are huge time wasters. Facebook updates are often self-indulgent and self-infantalizing. The Internet is like a magazine that goes on forever; it's brain candy. Furthermore, very real changes happen to your brain waves, making these things addictive and making more productive activities less attractive. There is more to say about the extremely unhealthy non-smutty aspects, but that is enough for now.

    This blog is one of the very, very few that has good toeles, even out of the Jewish ones.

  7. Hi, this is Neshama from habayitah blog, also sometimes known as Nechama (Sarah). I'm not the Nechama above.

    Great assessment in your article. It is sad, I also feel many a rabbi just doesn't get it. So many of them end up in the news, in disgrace. We really dont have leaders. I think this too is all "part of the plan," i.e. to force Klal Yisrael to seek out "only" HaShem to ask for His guidance, by speaking out to Him directly. Not thru another. Just the way we as a people used to 'daven' w/o a siddur, an outpouring of the Lev (heart and soul). When the blackberry came out it seemed great, but did not do enough ... For me. I took like a duck to water with th iPad. I know the iPhone is at th moment the best out there, gut cannot help feeling that "Jobs" left a blueprint fo the next revolutionary gadget, a fusion of iPhone/iPad.

    In my estimation, The next quantum leap will be chip of sorts "under the skin" that will allow one to send and receive msgs, immediately recognized by the brain. The elec version of prophecy!

    If you think about it for a minute, isnt that how G-d communicates with His messengers? Let your mind explore/expand a little, actually what is real prophecy?
    It's mental telepathy from u'lemahla l'mattah! And davening is the same in reverse. This is what i wrote above, but we need to do it spontaneously, from the heart.


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