The Internet Is Not The Problem, I Repeat, The Internet Is NOT The Problem

Record number of religious girls surfing sex sites

New research indicates that one in three teenaged girls from the religious and Ultra-Orthodox sectors surf porn sites – nearly twice as many as non-observant girls of the same age.

Seventeen percent of the non-religious girls polled said they visited sexually-oriented websites, while over 30% of the national religious and haredi girls polled responded likewise.

Over 500 11th and 12th-grade students from the national religious, haredi, and secular sectors participated in the study, which focused on the amount of exposure to the Internet and the “sexual conflict.” The research is a follow-up to a qualitative study published a year ago that examined attraction vs. reversion to sexuality and attraction vs. reversion to morality and conservatism.

Dr. Yaniv Efrati of Bar-Ilan University, who used the statistical research to examine religious youths’ sexual conflict, explains that sexual attraction among girls is “perceived as a much stricter taboo in the religious society than in secular society…..”

Interestingly, while the percentage of religious and haredi girls who surf porn sites is significantly higher than the number of secular girls who do, there was virtually no difference by sector in the number of boys who surf porn sites. According to the study, over 80% of all teens are exposed to online porn.

 

Notice that the “enlightened” non-Haredim fare no better then the crazy “Ban”ners.

And these folks still believe that the internet is not a problem. Stupid (and dangerous) fools.

Why The Internet Must Be Banned

(The most ironic headline EVER :)).

People with good intentions (an some with not such good intentions) have been questioning the necessity of a ban on all non-essential internet use. While they admit that there is great potential for wrongdoing on the web, they believe that the potential for good is strong as well. “Like anything else, the internet as a tool is neutral”, they argue, “it is people who use it for good or for evil”. Let us focus on educating and enlightening people so that they are equipped to withstand temptation and use the web as it should be, and not for nefarious purposes.

The crux of their argument is a reliance on the ability of the public at large to overcome any and all temptation they face, provided that they are properly prepared. “Good will always conquer evil, a little light dispels a lot of darkness” is their mantra.

But that’s not all. They also scoff at the ability to close the barn door after the horse has left, as they perceive internet use to be. Even if banning the internet were warranted, there is no point in doing so because the people just ain’t buyin’ it. No way, no how. (To be discussed in a later post.)

Let us take a moment to seriously examine the views they put forth.  But before that, an important caveat. For Haredi Jews, this discussion is academic, if not superfluous. We do what our rabbinical leaders tell us to do, whether we understand it or not, whether we like it or not. We do so proudly and without shame or regret. We began this tradition at Mount Sinai three thousand years ago and it has kept us as a nation ever since. So whether our conclusions lead us to agree with out Rabbis or disagree, it has no practical application.

This discussion is geared toward those who unfortunately need to understand before committing to act, as well as to dispel any notion that this decision is some sort of Haredi Rabbinical power play and whatnot, instead of what it really is: an excruciatingly difficult, partial solution to an almost intractable problem.

Back to the issue at hand. The theories put forth above are logical and quite understandable but contains two major flaws, flaws that force us to seek a different solution to the internet problem.

Number one: It is not the Torah way

Number two: It is at best a utopian view of the world and its people and at worst an extremely naive one.

It is not the Torah way.

From the time of Adam Harishon and forward, the way of G-d and his Torah has been NOT to rely on the innate goodness of man to face evil head on. The sources are too numerous to quote, starting from “Ushmartem Mishmarti”, which Chazal say is the Torah requirement to enact safeguards toward promoting better observance. It is continued with Dovid Hamelech exhorting us “Sur Merah, Veasei Tov”, turn away from evil and do good. Tosafos in Pesachim (2a) even understands the prohibition of Bal Yeraheh, not having chametz in our possession on Pesach, as a safeguard that we not come to eat it.

The first Mishna in Avos, quoting a remnant of the greatest Bais Din in history, the Anshei Knesses Hagdola, teaches us “Veasu Seyag Latorah” Create fences (safeguards) for the Torah. The words of Avos D’Rebbe Noson on that Mishna say it all:

ועשה סייג לדבריך,
כדרך שעשה הקדוש ברוך הוא סייג לדבריו,
ואדם הראשון עשה סייג לדבריו,
תורה עשתה סייג לדבריה,
משה עשה סייג לדבריו,
ואף איוב ואף נביאים וחכמים כולם עשו סייג לדבריהם.

Chazal continued on this path, promulgating all types of decrees designed to remove Jews from temptation and encourage better observance. In Bava Kama (82b) Chazal forbid the learning of Chochmas Yevonis due to one (!) occurrence that resulted in tragedy. And the list goes on and on. The Yud Ches Davar, Harchokos Bymei Issur, Gidul Beheima Daka, Bushul Akum etc. etc.

Throughout the generations, leaders of the Jewish people have stood guard, ever alert to potential problems, and ready to step into the breach with whatever steps were necessary. Famous among them are the Takanos of Rabbeinu Gershom and the Vaad Arbeh Aratzos, the Council of The Four Lands, but these are just few of many. See also Takanas Shum, Bolognan Takanos, Sefer Chasidim and many more.

Were these additional restrictions immediately accepted and beloved by the general population? Who knows?  One can easily imagine quite a lot of grumbling from the man who intended to have a wife for every day of the week and suddenly finds out he’s restricted to one. Poor soul. Better hope she can cook.

There were also no doubt heated arguments put forth that “it’s a Gezeira that the Tzibur cannot abide” (who can live without two wives? Not opening my neighbors mail? C’mon….). Truth be told, there were times that Takanos preciously enacted were repealed for that reason, but more often than not, the rabbis stuck to their guns and we’re all better for it.

Chazal and later leaders did not need Pesukim or Divine Inspiration to prove the wisdom of Gedarim. History was their guide. The greatest people from the greatest generations faltered when confronting evil head on. The greatest time mankind has ever known, Matan Torah, was swiftly followed by the Golden Calf. Shittim and Kozbi bas Tzur were enough to corrupt the Dor Deah and some of it’s leaders. King Solomon, the wisest of them all, who told us that “hakol hovel”, was severely criticized by Chazal for his misdeeds (on his level and beyond our understanding, of course). The times and places of the greatest revelation of G-d’s presence, i.e. The Bais Hamikdash, were often the times and places of the greatest sins (see the killing of Zecharia etc.) The great Talmudic Sage Abbaye admitted that left to his own devices he would’ve sinned (See Sukkah 52a). Im beshalheves naflu ohr mah nanu anan eizovu kir? Can we ever hope to reach higher levels of kedusha and goodness, levels that will protect us from evil when it failed the giants of history?

Chazal, keen observers of the human condition that they were, understood one of the most basic natures of the human being. Ki Yetzer Lev Ha’adam Rah M’nurav. As much as he can reach dizzying heights, he can also fall to the lowest depths, often in the same person and at the same time! Which is why they warned us: Stay away from evil! Don’t be misgara the Yetzer Horah! It was they who taught us that if not for G-d’s help man would succumb EVERY day, which is why they instituted the prayer “Al tivieinu liydei nisayon” Do not bring us to temptation. They did not ask that we overcome temptation, but that we AVOID it!! They shouted from the rooftops, “Heresy attracts”, “Man soul desires immorality etc”, “Do not believe in yourself until the day you die” etc. etc..

The way of the Torah is clear: we are to avoid evil as much as possible. Of course we should do good, of course we should look to fortify ourselves with Torah, Mitzvos, G-dliness and all that is good in this world. It is the reason for our existence. But even after we’ve done that, it is still incumbent upon us to remove ourselves from harm’s way, to reduce our exposure to minus and znus as much as is humanly possible. Someone who can avoid temptation and chooses to disregard Chazal’s warning is called a RASHA, regardless if he actually sins or not (See Bava Basra, Ika Darka Achrina).  Evil was granted tremendous power and potency in this world and we would be blind not to recognize it.

Some may see this as a preoccupation with the dark side of this world. On the contrary, we are enjoined to STAY AWAY from the dark side and immerse ourselves in the good. Sur M’rah Ve’ase Tov. Don’t fight evil, don’t give it the time of day, just stay away.

This is the Derech Hatorah as taught to us by our Sages and leaders from time immemorial. So should we rely on people making the right choice or should we avoid that choice to begin with? Chazal say run. Bloggers disagree. You decide.

It is at best a utopian view of the world and its people and at worst an extremely naive one.

Wouldn’t it be great if people could be relied upon to follow their better instincts and make the proper decisions at all times? It sure would. There is a name for that world, it is called by the general public “Utopia” and by Jews the “Days of Mashiach” (although even then, evil will have it’s say, see Sukkah 52a). But we’re not there yet.

Let the truth be stated unequivocally: There is no chinuch in the world, not Haredi, not Modern Orthodox, not secular, none, that can inoculate a person against temptation. Never has been, never will be.

No doubt, the more a person is plugged in to the source of life (G-d), the more we teach our children right from wrong in a positive, loving way, the better off they will be. But free of temptation? Hardly. Acquiring Middos Tovos, self control and delayed gratification is a life-long, ongoing process. Are we to assume that once we’ve given up the reigns of teaching our children they are now an Adam Hashalem (a complete person)?. Who are we kidding here?? At best they have had a solid foundation laid out for them, on which they can build a grand edifice over the course of a lifetime. But to think they are now evil-slayers and paragons of righteousness is absurd.

So here’s the $64,000 question. Will a properly educated child be equipped to resist all that the (under)world has to offer? The answer: All temptation? No. So how much can they resist? It depends. How strong is the pull? How overwhelming, how pervasive, how intense is the offering they are being exposed to? That will determine the outcome. Should they succumb, does that mean that they have no goodness in them? Does it mean their mechanchim have failed them? Of course not, evil can and has overpowered goodness, early and often.

The pull of immorality in particular is recognized in the secular world as well. How many politicians have acted against their own best interests and thrown away brilliant careers, including the possibility of being President of the United States (!) to heed the siren call of znus? How many successful businessmen, athletes and professionals have lost it all during a moment of weakness? Can we expect our chinuch, any chinuch to inculcate within us a stronger desire than the desire of self-preservation? Being that self-preservation is swept away by temptation more often than not, why are we so confident that our chinuch is up to the challenge? On what evidence to we base our perceived chinuch prowess?

Then there’s marketing. Why do successful marketing campaigns feature immodestly dressed women as their spokespeople? I’m looking to buy a briefcase for work, where does a woman come into the picture (pun unintended)? Does she recommend this $10 briefcase? Has she used it and loved it? For G-d’s sake, who in the world is she?? Does this need to be spelled out?

No, we are all smart enough to recognize what’s in front of our noses. Shmutz sells, it pulls, it attracts, even for the best of the best. Ever heard of a marketer design an alternate campaign for “those who won’t be attracted to our regular one”? Quite a small consumer base, I suspect. Definitely NOT the prized audience of 20-35 year-olds.

Still not convinced? Take a look at Jewish and non-Jewish sites geared toward helping those who have fallen due to the internet. Read the stories, feel the pain, weep the tears, tears of good and decent people who fell off the cliff BECAUSE THERE WAS NO GATE AT THE EDGE OF IT! Hear it in their own words as they describe their history. True, there are often other issues at play, but take away the internet and they manage, they survive and sometimes even thrive. Hear how they started off innocently surfing the web for news and even Torah and how they ended up in the pit. Hayom omer lach asei cach umachar omer lach asei cach. Hear how the internet was the catalyst for their fall off the deep end, a fall that led to broken marriages, broken homes and broken hearts. Do the underlying issues need to be dealt with? Of course! But should we leave the bor birshus harabim unfixed and uncovered because someone has a limp? Shouldn’t we deal with what’s in front of us along with what’s deep inside us?

Ask them, the fallen. Ask them if they would’ve preferred to never have surfed the internet to begin with. They’ll be honest, they’ll admit that the internet is not the root of their PROBLEMS but it is often the root of their DOWNFALL. Of course we should and DO work on the positive, it is good after all that we seek. But it’s not enough.

Before you criticize a good faith attempt by truly caring individuals, do your research, ask around. Put your heart and soul into it. Speak to people who have fallen due to the internet. Speak to the askanim and the rabbis who are weary and broken from case after case of internet-related tzaros that come to their doorstep. You can be sure, if there were ANY other way, our leaders would GRAB it with both hands. No one is interested in bans, especially in this day and age. Put the cynicism on hiatus for a moment while you get some REAL information, not the lies and half truths you read in the media and on blogs. The two Rabbis behind it all, the Skulener Rebber and Rabbi Matisyahu Solomon are true ehrliche Yidden, sick and frail individuals, who have NOTHING to gain from all this, except possible relief to Yiddishe Kinder. Do you have purer intentions then them?

You want to criticize, you want to have a deah (opinion)? Sure, but first spend a month dealing with the practical, real, life-and-death issues the internet has caused. Talk to the nameless, faceless sholom bayis counselors and educators who toil in the trenches and are begging for relief from the endless parade of internet causalities.  If you still feel the way you do now, we can continue this discussion.

Something tells me you won’t.

How They Deal With The Cold In Chelm

The famous Sage of Chelm came home one night to find his family shivering from the cold.

“Oh Great Sage”, they cried, “We’re freezing here, help us warm up”! So the Sage scratched his head and put his not inconsiderable intellect to the task at hand.

“First” he said, “We need to understand why we’re cold”. He then launched into a detailed explanation of the properties of cold and heat and their effect on the human body. His family listened intently while hugging themselves in the vain attempt to keep warm.

A visiting stranger attempted to interrupt. “Ahem, Great Sage, would you consider perhaps closing the windows and turning on the fireplace? That would warm things up quite a bit”.

The sage turned to him with a wise smile. “Those solutions may work for you where you come from and they may have worked in years past, but today things are different. We need to UNDERSTAND what cold is before we try to deal with it”.

“Do you think it’s that simple”? The Sage continued, marveling at the naivete of his guest. “How many people close their windows and light fires and are still cold? How many times has your approach just dealt with the SYMPTOMS of cold without addressing the deeply-rooted issues underneath? Why, if we were truly a happy family, that would be enough to keep us eternally warm, without any external window-closing and fire-burning”.

Turning back to the matter at hand, the sage continued. “Dear family, you need to realize that cold can be used to do MUCH good. On a hot summer day, wouldn’t you just die for a place to cool off in? How would we keep our food fresh without the cold? And what type of boring world would we live in if the weather was always balmy, without the brisk, refreshing chill of a winter day”?

“Uh, Dear Sage”, said the stranger, “May I interrupt”? “Sure my son”, the Sage replied, “But please, no more of your outdated and disproven ideas. We’re looking for deep and meaningful solutions, solutions that will elevate us to a higher dimension, not some practical, Band-aid fix”.

“Okay” said the stranger.” I just thought to point out that the benefits of cold can be realized without us freezing to death. So how about we first make sure the windows are closed and the fires are lit and THEN we get to the really important stuff”?

The Sage shook his head with a sad smile. “You’re stuck in the past, my friend”, he said. “Sure, you could close the window and start a fire and everyone will warm up but that’s not the issue here. The issue at hand is the deep dissatisfaction that’s at play. But I don’t expect you to understand”.

And so it is today in Chelm, when your window breaks you don’t call a glazier, you call a psychiatrist.

The Citifield Asifa Is No Longer About The Internet.

It has become apparent that the Asifa scheduled for CitiField in two weeks has become more than just an asifa about the internet and it’s dangers (which are very real). It has become a struggle between the mainstream, overwhelming silent majority of supporters of genuine Torah leaders and the small but vociferous minority of critics and cynics looking to turn Haredi Jewry into yet another cesspool of moral relativism.

I’ll admit that there are valid points to criticize about the Asifa and it’s goals. There is legitimate doubt whether it will accomplish much, indeed if there even is a practical “solution” to the internet problem. But this has been turned into much, much more. Bloggers and others have managed to leverage the natural reluctance of even fine Haredi Jews to having restrictions placed on what they may or may not do into an all out attack on Rabbinical authority. They would like nothing more than for this Asifa to fall flat on it’s face, to publish pictures of an half empty stadium and sleeping participants. Will they then use this as proof that the Internet saga has been approached the wrong way? Not at all. They have much bigger plans then that. A poor response from Haredi Jews will be trumpeted from Blogspot to the AP as a “sign” that rabbinical influence is waning and that people no longer “follow the Rabbis like sheep”.

Which is why you should attend the Asifa even if you disagree with it’s solutions regarding the internet or believe it to be a money-making scheme (a ridiculous assertion without a shred of evidence). If that stadium is not filled to capacity, the hit on the Torah value of Emunas Chachamim (Listening to Torah sages) will be incalculable. It will trickle down to every facet of Haredi life, leading to the same breakdown of societal respect prevalent in the secular world.

Our entire Torah is based on mesorah, traditon, and the bearers of that tradition are our parents and especially our teachers and Rabbis (see the first mishna in Avos). Undercut them and don’t be surprised when your kids no longer listen to you.

I will attend that Asifa. Why? Because my rabbis have asked me to. That’s all I need to know. And I’m proud of it.

In Response To Dovid Teitelbaum

I came across Dovid Teitelbaum’s article on the upcoming Asifa at Citi Field. His points are well taken and his solutions are definitely the way to go with regard to raising the next generation of fine and good Jews. But he misses the point.

No one disputes that the more a person builds his character the less shmutz will appeal to him. Same for his kids. The better we raise them, the stronger they will be as Yidden and as human beings. However, the internet is a LOADED GUN, with a round in every chamber. Even 2nd Amendment diehards would not recommend leaving as loaded gun on the kitchen table, no matter how much they scream that “it’s not guns that commit crime, it’s people”. It’s still too dangerous.

The internet is a weapon of destruction, aimed at the heart and soul of a Yid. It cannot be left around unchecked and unfiltered. Not to help those who are LOOKING to use it for nefarious purposes, for them all the the filters and chavrusos in the world won’t help, it’s too late. They need a different approach. But for the innocent bystander, the perfectly fine, stable, happy young teenage boy or girl, doing well in school and in society, those are the ones who need and could be helped the most by simple solutions such as filters, chavrusos and restrictions.

The fact that filtering and the like won’t help for those already exposed does not obviate our responsibility to the many who just need the bor brshus harabim covered up so that they don’t accidentally fall into and break every bone in their body.

So by all means, work on your “E’s” but don’t be naive. Not taking the necessary safeguards of filtering and restricting internet usage pretty much guarantees a michshol at some point for almost every user. If not shmutz then apikorsus and cynicism. Chazal have already taught us the ika darka achrina doctrine. While it may not be the be all and end all of the internet parsha, let’s not pretend it doesn’t exist.

Nobody is talking bans now , neither were they ever. Restrictions, filtering and chavrosus are a must for internet use. Coupled with proper living and Hashem’s help we can hope to raise kids we can be proud of.