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4 Adar 5777 - March 2, 2017 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Very Smart — but Evil

by The Rabbinical Committee to Fortify the Das

Every day we daven: "Do not bring us to the hands of a nisoyon." However the Ramchal writes that the main success and achievement of a man comes when he successfully passes nisyonos. So why do we daven not to have a nisoyon?
The explanation lies in the stress we put on the words, "to the hands of a nisoyon." There is a kind of nisoyon that has hands, a nisoyon that caresses the person and drags him to the nethermost pit. This is what we pray against experiencing.
The Internet is the kind of nisoyon that has long hands that can pull a person into the trap. And this is what our prayers are about: "Do not bring us to the hands of a nisoyon and to the hands of bizoyon. -- Remarks of HaRav Yaakov Eidelstein zt" l


It is evening at Chazon Ish 5 (the residence of Maran HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman shlita), where the prescriptions of eternity meet the realities of everyday life in the 21st century.

A delegation of rabbonim presents their various deliberations to the Rosh Yeshiva: "There is a fear that in spite of the supervision that only those who really need those pocket communication devices be allowed to hold them with proper filtering, nevertheless, there may come along an avreich with a weak personality who will manage to bypass the supervision."

"A very strict control is required," says Maran shlita. "But whoever slips through will be personally responsible for his lapse," he clarified in measured words. "A pharmacy, for example, sells drugs which if healthy people were to take them, they would be endangering their lives. These must be sold only to those who need them specifically and urgently, and every precaution must be taken that they reach only such people. If a healthy person were to forge a prescription, he is solely responsible and will bear the consequences."

Rodef or Nirdaf?

The smartphone is definitely nirdaf, in two senses of the word. So many people chase after it to have one, but in our society it is pursued to try to make it extinct.

The smartphone is a connection to the outside world, which we all admit is not so pure, to say the least, even after it is duly filtered. Contamination lingers. The secular ambience of even that which passes the filter is hostile to the Torah world in its very essence.

This reality exists throughout the gamut of filtered Internet, via the computer but especially so in the smartphone, which is a chapter onto itself.

The Internet on a computer brings the outside world to the user, but the smartphone transports the user to the outside world for it is portable and joined to the owner at all times — wherever he goes, when he retires and when he arises. Its use is not confined by time or place. It is boundless, ubiquitous.

On the reverse side, one who is immersed in Torah study, at all times, his mind reverts to the topic under study. He is totally connected to Torah and becomes an integral part of it.

Similarly, lehavdil, one who possesses a smartphone is constantly drawn back to it and the outside world which it offers. He and his very personality become part of it, addicted to it until he himself becomes part of that world.

To Break Out of the Prison

If the Internet itself is a potential addiction, the smartphone is all the more so. Its speed, sophistication, its virtual enticing experience and primarily its physical proximity at all times of day and night can lead to a situation of obsession and the inability to wrench oneself from it, the results of which become apparent in his character, his family harmony and the rearing of his children.

An apt caricature shows a patient lying in bed, attached to a respirator, but instead of the oxygen tank we see the smartphone. This depiction is not far removed from reality. The truth is clear: The best way to escape from the prison of the smartphone is - simply - not to enter its confines.

An Historical Analogy

Let us go back in history to the mythical town of Kupshinik where craftsmen were united in guilds or associations. Among these groups was a Jew called `Mendel the Gossipmonger,' a name he earned because he would flit like lightning from group to group so as not to miss out on any juicy information which he could share with everyone else.

"I venture to say," he would divulge in a secretive whisper, "that Yankel Feigenstrultz is on bad terms with Rozkenkowitz." And someone from the group who was not duly impressed, would say, "Oh, we've known for a while what they think of one another, and..."

Mendel wouldn't wait to hear more but would rush off to the next group on his list. "Have you heard that Feigenstrultz and Rozkenkowitz are mad at each other? The oilom says that it all began when Rozkenkowitz heard that he was talking about him behind his back all the time..."

With the advancement of technology, one does not need a human gossipmonger to convey `critical news' from one group to another. Technology has managed to automate Mendel's pursuit. People no longer need to run from one to the other when they can tune in to Whatsapp.

Someone will surely leap up to save the lost honor of said program: "Whatsapp is a vital and efficient tool to connect members of a group and convey information from one group to another."

This cannot be denied but the question remains: which group and what information is disseminated. True, many times this information is technical data which is important for work, but many other times it involves exactly the same service as was provided by Mendel the Gossipmonger - except for one difference: in this technological version, the messages fly much faster than by word of mouth and a human intermediary on the run. Another difference is that the lightning speed and slick technology dulls one's natural aversion to nosiness and snooping on the privacy of the individual.

Even when it cannot be termed pure gossip, a majority of the messages are shallow, hollow and inane, and whoever does not want to turn himself into a shallow, hollow and inane person should flee for his life before he himself becomes addicted.

The negative things which pass through the channels of Whatsapp do not always stop at mere gossip and stupidity but often enough descend to indecent words and pictures.

There are many worse pitfalls as well. Whatsapp serves as a social network which presents potential severe pitfalls of its own, as can be expected in such systems.

Whatsapp also intensifies the already existing dependence upon the device and can lead to an even greater addiction as it entices the user and jiggles his curiosity by its very nature, by providing new attractions at every given moment of the day/night. Whoever has reached the point where it dominates many hours of his day has reached a terrible nullification of his very personality.

Some say, "I'll limit myself to a certain group." Others who have done so to begin with, will admit, "I thought I could hold by that, too, to begin with, only to see my determination last for about three months until, I don't know why or how, I found myself connected to a negative group." One with a bit of sense will distance himself from this altogether instead of exposing himself to temptation.

In Their Merit We Will Be Redeemed

The trial of owning a smartphone was, until recently, removed from the Torah world. But lately, we have seen employers handing them out to their workers, men and women. Women who are partners in sustaining the Torah world of their husbands should value their opportunity of preserving this world from one of the greatest threats to its existence. The singularity of the Torah world is, in its being, a `world unto its own'. If, chas vesholom, they introduce any negative external virtual connections into this world, worlds that are so diametrically opposed, and allow them to mingle, the destruction will be devastatingly world-shaking. The temptation to accept such a `gift' from an employer is the boring of a hole not only in the ship of their family but also in the ship of Klal Yisroel entirely.

We trust our worthy wives to withstand the temptation and stand on guard. And may we all be redeemed in their merit...

Redeemed and saved from the plague of the smartphone and from Golus to Geulah!


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