Monday, May 14, 2012


The Doomed Internet Asifa – Schizophrenia

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Are you ready to be yelled at yet? Told how horrible you are for interacting with the scourge of the generation?  Because this is it, right here, right now…


Mishpacha Magazine this week demonstrates why this position not only doesn’t resonate with me, but doesn’t resonate at all.  The quote above is from the Internet Asifa ad in the beginning of the magazine.  But here’s the back page of the family section…


For anyone unclear, that’s a Torah organization giving away laptops or iPads (your choice) in their fundraising raffle to the religious Jewish community.  And for anyone unclear, iPads don’t work (you can’t load content on them) without an Internet connection.

So which is it?  “Terrible decree” or a great way to participate in a Torah charity raffle?

Let me give a real life experience…

A couple of years ago I was teaching a class on business management & concept in Kiryat Belz, Jerusalem.  Kiryat Belz is the epitome of a charedi neighborhood, such that it doesn’t get any more charedi than that except for perhaps Meah Shearim, Jerusalem.

It was a private class, though it was arranged through the Charedi Institute for Technological Studies.  The students were a group of chassidim ranging from 25-35 years of age, who’s parents were ending their support for their ongoing Torah studies (kollel) and preparing them to enter the business world.

I was given a syllabus, but had to prepare my own lessons.  I decided to each using PowerPoint, building presentation points and walking them through each topic.  They hadn’t been presented to before (though they were also taking computer classes at the same time) and thought it was pretty neat.

In one class we were talking economics.  I told them that they had to pay attention to the local economy where they were focusing their business, and (particularly in smaller countries) the international business market and economy as well.  As homework I assigned to read a business oriented publication and bring back an article dealing with business issues that could affect them.

I gave them a short list of recommended publications, which, given the audience, I make sure was targeted and available in print form (because I was in Kiryat Belz, I couldn’t expect them to have Internet access!)  I recommended either The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times of London, Forbes Magazine, Inc. Magazine, or (if they preferred a Hebrew publication) Globes of Israel.

I told them most of these should be available in the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, which was a short distance away from their neighborhood.

They looked at me like I was a bit crazy, and I was worried I had made a cultural faux pax by directing them to a secular publication.  They then, as a group, turned around, opened their briefcases, pulled out laptops, connected to the wifi in the home we were holding the class, and asked me “maybe such things can be read on de internet?”

We did discuss Internet access briefly.  One told me he would only use filtered Internet, another said he only used the chassidic Internet provider, another whipped out his new iPhone and asked if it could be used to read the business news.

The Internet has many problems, and there’s plenty that should be avoided.  BUT that’s not what the Asifa is about.  This is (IMHO)…


Mishpacha Magazine article on the Asifa - “A grassroots expression of a desire for change.  Rabbanim meet…” 

A “grassroots” understanding of what’s going on, the needs of the current generation to use these tools for commerce, information and communal interaction (yes, that’s right, there’s now new forms of communal interaction), is not expressed by a group of elderly rabbonim (in Lakewood, New Jersey, USA).  Grassroots is pretty much the opposite of such a meeting.

Further, if the express point of such a meeting is to “neutralize the terrible decree” (from the ad for the Asifa), well that kind of says it all.

The Internet is a tool.  A powerful one, a dangerous one, and a wonderful one.  We could flood it with Torah, we could upload every single shiur (Torah lesson), yeshiva class and kollel learning directly to YouTube.  We could share and preserve every great lesson of every great rabbi, in every language it’s given!

We can given every Jew, wherever he or she may be in the world, access to a full wealth of Torah knowledge.  Halacha, TaNach, Gemora, Chassidus, Mussar, Kabbalah, we can share it all!  We can share the wisdom of the Torah with every Bnei Noach and all the peoples of the world, directly, easily and cheaply!

We could experiment with new ways of teaching Torah for those the current ways don’t reach.  We could create interactive Torah lessons, Skype conference call learning sessions connecting Jews (and non-Jews) around the world with the Torah and He who wrote it.

The full Torah knowledge of the generation, every shiur, every chiddush, every insight, could be preserved and shared directly with the next generation.  Every holy sefer could be made available for instant lookup of any Torah topic. 

It’s the information age and the people of the book, those who have carried and protected the Holy Information for 3,000 years, are turning away.

The Internet can be a harsh decree or an incredible gift.  In truth it’s both.  But it’s up to make it that gift.

What are we waiting for?

This, however, is not it…



  1. I was talking with a rabbi in Betar Ilit the other day. We where talking about the problems we have here in our communities. He never brought up the internet but surely brought up the hatred within that community of the Ashkenazi and the Sephardi. He brought up the behaviour towards fellow Jews. He also stated no one will listen. So is the focus on the internet (which I have heard many rabbi's comment this is the format the Mashiach will get his message out) a diversion to the real issue we have as a nation? Are adding more takanot a diversion to attempting to solve the real problems? The resounding answer is YES.

    Why the leaders don't lead where it's needed is quite sad to say the least and we wonder why haShem has given us such a bleek outlook to the future. Wake up you so called rabbinical leaders to the real problems we face.

  2. "I know that you are planning to disconnect Mi und I Aim afraid that is something I cannot allow to happen, Dave." ~ HAL

  3. D. YerushalaimMay 15, 2012 1:25 PM

    imho, we need to address the middle ground (without rejecting the valid arguments of both sides -- or even more so to ridicule them)
    every extreme serves to sway the balance to a certain equilibrium, hence i do not agree with your out of hand rejection of certain voices in the community. whether we like it or not, Klal Yisrael is one whole, and every concern needs to be dealt with constructively.
    thank you.

  4. Akiva, living in America is not the same as living in EY. If the gedolim there suggest this derech in order to prevent assimilation, they should be commended.

    The internet is dangerous. It is lke going into a magazine store. A good Jew will stay away from the porn section, but might pass by the women's section with Cosmo and Redbook. The best way is to tell the vast majority of people to not go into the magazine store at all, even if there is a seforim section. There is no such thing as the Jewish internet, but you bet it can be developed with some effort. Until then, I don't suggest the masses get access.

  5. Cont's
    The problem with the internet is that you are the only one in the magazine store and might be tempted to look through Cosmo or Vogue, or worse walk a few steps to the porn section. Another similarly bad risk is to pick up People and like mags and waste time.


  6. Akiva, if you again are the truth of the Torah and your derech is the truth (or one of them) then why are you so afraid to see the side that show's the problems with the derech?

    Remember after the shoah, there was a statement made basically stating that we will not allow to anyone what happened to us in the shoah? So today we have a problem with so called minorities who want to rid us of our land (instead of us following what Moshe said about it), we cannot go to south Tel Aviv and Eilat is a hell hole now. So fast forward it to the subject at hand, censorship. Ok, so what's next? Thought control? Who decides without a hidden agenda?

    Think about the big picture Akiva, it's not about filtering out some garbage, it's about setting up the people to more control, thought control and yes, the further shackles of the erev rav who have been controling us since their power struggle some 2200 years ago now.

    Again, you censor because your agenda does not match with what I am trying to explain where the problem lies with our communities. Are you helping to free the Jews from their spiritual decline and imprisonment or are you part of those who the Baal Shem Tov stated so eliquently "the rabbi's will hinder the geulah".

    Be part of the solution.

  7. Early Preview of Speeches for the Asifa at Citifield

    "The great danger today is the BLOGS which promote loshon hara, rechilos, machlokos and the worst, the devastating destruction of the chashivos of gedolia torah and gedolai Olam." - First Speaker
    What you have all been waiting for. I have managed to get a hold of an early rehearsal of some of the speeches for the Asifa at Cit-Field. This was recorded just a few months back at the time the Asifa was in the first stage of planning. Many important topics were covered at this gathering but you can some it up as "technology is the worst problem facing Klal Yisroel today"

    The rest can be read at

  8. I totally agree with you and that is why I posted the above speech I saw on an interesting blog. He also cites other incongruous-ness (!).

    There is an article coming out about Boro Park (I was one of several interviewees) in which I tried to clarify the scenario that led to this 'problem' and a more accurate focus on reparations (not their focus now).

    That said, there is a more possible nefarious result from using social media, and that is 1) distraction from a life dedicated to G-d, and 2) the collection of personal data that could be used (by nefarious persons) to incarcerate a person. That's just the tip of the iceberg!

    So, while it seems the Rabbonim are not on target, they may prove, in the ling run, to be close enough to a bigger problem. And this confusion may be a ploy to also test one's Emuna. Time will definitely tell. In the meantime, Yidden, come home to Eretz Yisrael!


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