The Gemara in Berachos states “Beshas Hamefazrim, Caneis. Loosely translated as “when all are dispersing, you should gather”. Throughout history, there has been no greater time of dispersion, i.e. openness, then today and there is no greater tool for that purpose than the internet. At the asifa last night, Gedolei Yisroel made their decision crystal clear: it is time to Caneis, it is time to gather in.
The following is my understanding* of what took place at the historic gathering at CIti Field. We all know what was said; that the Internet may only be used for business purposes and with a filter. What needs to be understood is that an historic realignment took place that I think will come to the forefront in the days to come.
Gedolei Hador were faced with an excruciatingly difficult question: what is the internet and how should Haredi Jews relate to it. There is no doubt that good has come about through the internet alongside the bad. What was needed was a cost-benefit analysis, a view of the forest instead of the trees. Does the good outweigh the bad or vice versa? Or maybe the internet is neutral and can be controlled.
After much deliberation and based on over ten years of experience with internet-related issues, a consensus was reached. Nimnu vegamru, the bad, the destruction, wreaked on Klal Yisroel and Reb Yisroel as a result of internet use outweighs (by far) whatever positive it can do and has done. Therefore, the internet is out.
Knowing that internet access is a must for businesses, a heter was carved out, bidieved, and for business use only. So for Haredi Jews, the internet was now a business tool and a business tool only, not to be used for Torah, education, information, recreation or anything else.
What came next must’ve been even more difficult to deal with. What about the many people, currently part of the Haredi camp, who will have difficulty or be unable to adjust to the new approach? Here they ran into the difficulty faced by our leaders throughout the ages. Whenever gedarim and seyagim, (i.e. fences and walls) are erected to promote observance and protect the Haredi camp, besides for protecting those within, they also keep others out. With the internet in particular, there are many who are already knee deep in it’s clutches and may be unwilling (or unable) to give it up.
This dilemma, as difficult and as heartbreaking as it is, did not prevent our leaders, from Chazal on forward, from doing what needed to be done. Not from a sense of apathy toward those who cannot toe the line, chas veshalom. Quite the contrary, every soul outside the wall is another hole in our collective soul, in the komah shleima of Klal Yisroel. Nevertheless, in the interest of the greater good, of protecting and enhancing the vast majority of Haredi Jews and their children, the decision was made to gather in. Caneis. To proclaim “Mi Lashem Alai” and hope and pray that as many as possible responded.
Following in the footsteps of every takanah of Chazal, from when Dovid HaMelech excluded the Givonim, down to modern times when Gedolei Yisroel eschewed Zionism, the decision was taken and the battle was joined. Not lightly, for there is a price to pay. No, not the ridicule of the haters, which factors little into the decision-making process of people entrusted with the future of authentic Judaism. Rather it is the percentage of hamon am, regular people, who will be unable to jump on the train leaving the station and may be lost forever, along with their progeny.
Many believe there is a different path that could’ve been taken, the path of more openness. Gedolei Yisroel considered it and rejected it. Going forward, the line in the sand has been drawn and judging by their track record, much good will come from it.
*This is just aniyus dati, my own understanding of what I heard. I have not discussed this with anyone nor do I have inside knowledge of what transpired.