Three prominent Rosh Yeshiva discuss the issues with the Internet.
HaRav Boruch Weisbecker (Rosh Yeshiva of Beis Matisyahu): In order to understand the specific action of the Yetzer Hora in these devices, one has to consider the intent of those who make them. What did they have in mind? And I mean to address the original intent latent in the technology itself, without even considering the serious temptations that can be presented. What is latent even in an instrument that has no such stumbling blocks?
These devices were aimed to change the behavior of the entire world — not just from the Torah perspective, but even from the perspective of general human ethics. The design goal of the creators of these devices was to include within them whatever and as much as they could. To bundle all four senses of a person into one small device.
And the point of this was to create a reality in which the device would be the primary preoccupation of those who have it, that a person would be constantly bound to his or her device. And we see that they were successful. The whole world has become completely subjugated, in all times and in all places, to their little devices. It accompanies a person as he walks along his way, as he sits in his home, in his room, in his kitchen, in his oven — every place. There is no place that it does not enter.
It is important to be aware of this, since this is something important that fully precedes any stumbling blocks that are presented by the device.
We must contemplate, first and foremost, the question of whether we will become, chas vesholom, like the nations of the world. Will we docilely follow their culture of no menuchas hanefesh, no privacy, no peace and inner stability?
Their goal is to take away from man his connection with himself, and to constantly connect him (or her) with externals. One loses his entire inner self. One loses one's ability to think by oneself, to reflect about oneself and about how one is living one's life. Is this (externality) the true nature of a Jew? Is this the true nature of a ben Torah? The Torah lives only in one who kills himself for it, in one whose life is, "One thing have I asked... to sit in the house of Hashem all the days of my life." To be tied to these devices is to be, "sitting outside of the beis medrash all the days of my life," Heaven forfend.
Therefore, when we seek to build fortifications against this awful current, we must adapt the techniques of our enemies. Think about what they are trying to accomplish with their device, and be careful not to fall prey to their designs.
Maran HaRav Shmuel (Rozovsky) zt"l said: The posuk says, "If you walk in the ways of my laws." It does not say that you will keep my laws or perform my commands. Rather it says that you will walk, because the most important thing is the derech. Are you standing on the derech of the Torah or are you, chas vesholom, on the way of sinners?
The only way there is here, is what they did on the advice of the rabbonim: they made a device that is supervised and kosher. In this way we used technology for good. We select what is good in this instrument and keep out the bad. There is no other way against this danger. As soon as one opens a way around it, they miss the target entirely: instead of minimizing the damage, they minimize the solution. One must know that without the clear and absolute boundary of the kosher cell phone, one opens up the gates of temptations. "Today he tells him to do this, and tomorrow he tells him to do that..." This is a rule with no exceptions. An individual cannot fight the rule. He endangers himself and he sets a bad example for others.
I will tell you a story. Once when I was a bochur in Ponovezh yeshiva we were sitting with the Mashgiach HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein zt"l on Purim. There was an elderly man there who was no associated with the yeshiva. He accused the bochurim: "You sing, `The Torah of Your Mouth is worth more to me than thousands of gold and silver.' If you could earn millions of dollars an hour, wouldn't you do it? You would run to do it! So you singing is hypocritical. You do not really mean it!"
A powerful argument.
But one bochur got up and replied, "I will prove it to you. If they would suggest a shidduch to a bochur with the daughter of a very rich man who is willing to support him for his entire life and give him a house full of silver and gold, but on the condition that he will never more learn even a word of Torah. Would anyone agree? Do you think there is even one bochur who would take the deal? Certainly not! So you see, `The Torah of Your Mouth is worth more to me than thousands of gold and silver.'"
This shows how one's perspective of a ben yeshiva can change quickly from one extreme to another. A ben yeshiva is on a very high level and his soul seeks to grow and rise. But the yetzer hora has his guiles and not all are aware of the dangers.
HaRav Michel Zilber (Rosh Yeshiva of Itri Yeshiva): The Gaon of Vilna writes in Mishlei (10) that there is no real pleasure in devorim beteilim, but the klippah of sin causes a person to be drawn to it.
One must remember that the need for worthless time killers is not like food and drink, which are in the final analysis real needs. The desire for idle chatter is entirely due to the power of the sitra achra.
I once heard a story about HaRav Nisan Tikotchinsky zt"l. As a youth he learned in Eitz Chaim. One day his father HaRav Michel zt"l came and said that he wants to set up a daily chavrusa with him for ten minutes of sichas chulin and devorim beteilim.
The young man was mystified, but he agreed due to the honor of his father. He probably thought that his father was concerned that he might have been too big a masmid and he wanted to give him some relief.
The first day when they began their chavrusa, they sat down and his father said, "Nu. Suggest something devorim beteilim to talk about."
The young man thought and thought, until he burst out laughing from the absurdity. "There is nothing to talk about," he said.
His father said, "That is what I wanted to teach you. All day the yetzer comes and tries to take one away from his learning, to draw him to devorim beteilim. But if one sets himself up for it, he sees that there is nothing to talk about!
This shows that it is all hevel havolim. The chatter and conversationalism that is so valued is the opposite of the lesson here. Modern culture values empty but interesting conversation.
HaRav Dovid Cohen (Rosh Yeshiva of Chevron Yeshiva): The desire for interesting conversation is diametrically opposed to the essence of a ben Torah, who must strive for kedushas hapeh and kedushas hazman, which are a part and parcel of sanctifying the soul. But we must not ignore the clear fact that within these devices lurks a tremendous danger. One glance even by accident and one may fall into a chasm. One understands that one cannot walk along the edge of a cliff with impunity with the excuse that it is not the chasm, since he knows that a little slip will cast him into the depths. The unsupervised devices are literally the edge of a cliff. One little slip, and he can find himself in the depths, Hashem yerachem.
Velmaz'hir velaniz'har shelomim tein kemei nohor.
Kesivah vechasimah tovah, for a yeshu'a for individuals and the community.