Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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5 Shevat 5760 - January 12, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Daas Torah: Do Not Use the Internet

by Betzalel Kahn

Maronan verabonan the gedolei haTorah vehaChassidus, have publicized their opinion, daas Torah, issuing a stern warning about the dangers of computers, computer video games, computer films and the Internet.

In their letter, gedolei haTorah vehaChassidus warn about the tremendous stumbling block posed by computer games. Most of these games contain forbidden and non-educational elements which, as attested to by principals of the talmudei Torah, distance the children from Torah and yiras Shomayim.

Gedolei Yisroel express their opinion, daas Torah, that the computer should be used only for parnossa, and under no circumstances for entertainment. Concomitant to maronan verabonon's call regarding the spiritual dangers in computers, gedolei haTorah vehaChassidus, founded a special beis din to deal with the problems of the penetration of computers into Jewish homes, and to provide guidance and guidelines for those who need it.

In recent years, computers have become prevalent even in Torah homes. At first, the computer was a sophisticated substitute for the old typewriter. It has developed to the point that today there is no professional area which does not require a computer. Torah scholars and the authors of seforim require the computer for tsorchei kedusha.

But sadly, this device also exudes poison and pollution and it has been transformed, with advancing technology, into an insidious one. By means of the computer, things such as games, movies, Internet and various other harmful elements which destroy the sanctity of the Jewish home, have penetrated our households.

After in depth discussions, maronan verabonan decided to establish a special beis din to mend the breach in these areas. This beis din was appointed by the gedolei hador over six months ago. However, at the request of the beis din, publicizing its existence was held up until various facts were clarified with professionals in the area.

The special beis din is composed of rabbonim of the highest stature, who are very experienced in clarifying such issues according to daas Torah, and well qualified to issue rulings. The members of this beis din are: HaRav Nosson Gestetner, HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Ullman and HaRav Sariel Rosenberg.

The members of the special beis din have convened many times to discuss various issues, among them the Internet and the CD-ROMs which include films and games. The dayanim recorded their conclusions in writing. The beis din also discussed the issue of the students of the educational institutions, and turned to the principals of the talmudei Torah in a separate letter.

Principals of various institutions said that a drastic decrease in the scholastic level of many children whose parents let them use the computer, was evident. Directors of institutions note that the computer is habit-forming and that a child who plays with it, is liable to lose his desire for Torah study. Much written and oral testimony from teachers was presented to the rabbonim about outstanding children, who suddenly began to regress to the point that they stopped learning. In many cases the problem could be traced to the computer.

In general, this pastime takes place without the knowledge of parents, who think that their son is typing divrei Torah or playing with the computer's graphics. At the advice of the gedolei hador, the special beis din decided to instruct the principals of the talmudei Torah to demand that parents not allow their children to use the computer. They must explain to their children, in a pleasant manner, that the computer is a dangerous machine for everyone, including adults, and that they cannot let them use it, since children do not know the limits.

The administrations of 116 talmudei Torah from all over the country and from all sects and circles, have joined the effort to preserve the kedushas Yisroel of their students, and to sever them from the deleterious effects of the computer. As a first step, 30,000 letters were sent to the parents of their students.

In Bnei Brak talmudei Torah principals sent letters to parents a number of months ago signed by thirty-five talmud Torah principals. In Jerusalem, Kiryat Sefer, Beitar Illit, Beit Shemesh, Ashdod and other chareidi communities in the north and south, a similar letter, signed by more than 70 principals, was also sent.

The letter, which bears the heading, "The Soul of Your Son is in Danger," says: ". . . A number of months ago an emergency meeting was held in Jerusalem, at which HaRav Shmuel Yaakov Bornstein, HaRav Menachem Mendel Fuchs and HaRav Yosef Chaim Kopshitz spoke. At the end of the meeting, a number of principals formed a committee, in order to continue to tackle the problem."

Testimonies presented the beis din indicate that one who uses Internet is exposed to the most corrupt kind of culture, and jeopardizes his spiritual situation. They therefore warn parents and educators not to use the computer, especially not its games and films, for entertainment purposes.

From the urgency of the warnings of maranan verabonan, regarding the prohibition against using the Internet, we may conclude that those who have no choice but to use a computer must make certain that from a technical standpoint it will be impossible to connect to Internet from their own personal computers. Those who have Windows 95 can easily erase the Inernet Explorer program. However, those with Windows 98 should seek the help of professionals. The secretary of the special beis din has a bulletin explaining how to disconnect a computer from the Internet.

The telephones of the secretary are: 03-5790953 or cell phone -- 050-206035.

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