Rabbi Rafael Greineman
Q. There is a lot of discussion these days about the trials of modern technology and some wonder why the subject refuses to leave the current agenda. Weren't there always, throughout the generations, trials and challenges, and the appropriate ways of dealing with them? Why the seeming panic that requires new tools and heightened nonstop publicity?
A. Already thirty years ago, HaRav Shach said that in previous generations the trials were ideological, the kind that were prevalent in each generation. There was Haskalah, Communism, Zionism and others. The antidote to them was the Mussar movement, where each `ism' was dealt with uniquely to highlight the evil in each one respectively and very clearly.
In our generation, by contrast, the main test is that of materialism, self indulgence and gratification. The answer to that is by encouraging a geshmack, a taste and appeal to Torah study and avodas Hashem.
With the development of technology in recent years, a new dimension was created to this selfsame trial. The yetzer hora which seized control over technology and the media is offering one primary thing: excitement and stimulation.
The very attraction offered by the media stems from the stimulation which it provides, and this is the root of its decadence, even before we talk about the literal sins to which it actually leads. When emotional stimulation is involved, new ways to battling it are required to offset them on the same plane. Intellectual argumentation can help against misguided ideology but it is not the response to challenges which are altogether in an emotional plane.
Q. Where is there a problem in emotional stimulation, or, as is popularly stated, "Where does it say that that's forbidden?"
A. The problem here is in the developed dependence and even addiction to such stimulation. "To live on stimulation!" There is the aspect of decadence in the original human purpose, as well as the obstruction in a bond with Hashem.
Man was created to toil. This is how his soul/psyche is built. Inner satisfaction is derived from toil and activity and accomplishment. To be sure, man also needs rest and relaxation, but one who lives on stimulation is abandoning his very soul by forsaking his ability to toil productively, and he will never attain happiness and serenity of soul.
As Jews whose lives are structured around their bond to Hashem, we must realize that the very things which most distances one from a connection to Hashem is alien stimulation. The tie to Hashem is in the heart, and the heart cannot be receptive to such a relationship when it is filled with other stimuli.
The media works directly and powerfully to excite the senses, which is why the decadence which results from its appeal directly impacts on the heart and core of avodas Hashem. It severs one's inner connection to Hashem and impacts one's entire service to his Creator.
I have met many bochurim who dropped out. Not one of them had ideological issues. The problematic point was somewhere between an emotional severance from original values and the strong stimulations they experienced from the other side.
Q. What are the ways of successfully dealing with the trials which stem from that kind of stimulation?
A. The answer or antidote is to create an emotional attachment to values and the reality of avodas Hashem.
For sure, our generation also requires the intellectual knowledge and proper understanding, but the real battle front is on the emotional plane.