The gathering of maranan verabonon the gedolei
haTorah vehaChassidus last motzei Shabbos parshas
Vayeishev just to discuss the problems posed by cellular
telephones should be a powerful indication of how serious the
problem is. Travel is difficult for some, and all are very
concerned with how they spend their time, yet they
nonetheless came in person because the danger is perceived as
very serious and the need for action is urgent.
Up until recently, cell phones have had their problems of
interrupting at improper times — as we have discussed
in the past. They destroy one's concentration and focus on
kedushoh, which is serious enough.
What has changed is the introduction of new technology known
as "3G" for "third generation." It allows cell phones to go
way beyond their original function of enabling conversation,
and includes high speed data transmission that is unnecessary
for voice, but allows sending multimedia including all the
filth of modern electronic media including the Internet. Now
it can all be in the palm of your hand!
To build a person requires prodigious efforts of patient,
hard work that must be invested over years. To destroy a
person now requires nothing more than a three-ounce gadget
that can display all the temptations of modern society on its
3G technology has been commercially available elsewhere in
the world for about three years, but it is just beginning to
reach Israel. Before it penetrates, gedolei Yisroel
rushed to forestall the threat.
Some people say: What is the problem? We should be strong
enough to resist looking at forbidden sights, and if not, the
easiest solution is to work on ourselves so that we will be
able to resist.
This sort of argument had more validity when it was applied
to intellectual threats, ideas and ideologies that were
opposed to Torah. Even there, the hostile ideas were often
encountered in contexts in which the false ideas had various
things in their favor which made it hard to evaluate the
ideas objectively. If subscribing to a false ideology brings
with it fame and money, for example, it is hard to evaluate
it objectively against a Torah lifestyle that brings only
poverty and debasement, as was the case until not long
However the suggestion that it is a reflection of weakness if
one is not immune to the threats posed by modern multimedia
can only be made by one who fails to understand and
appreciate the threats. This is the yetzer hora in its
rawest form, and even the exposure to this moral sewage is
Maran HaRav Eliashiv has called these new cell phones
avizraihu de'arayos — a form of arayos.
Other gedolei Yisroel have concurred.
In Machsheves Mussar, Maran HaRav Shach zt"l
related to these ideas. He writes:
The loshon of the Rambam is frightening. Chazal say, "
`Go, go!' one says to a nozir. Go around and do not
approach a vineyard." This would seem like a literary
expression and not an halachic prohibition. However the
Rambam writes, "It is a rabbinical prohibition for a
nozir to be where people are drinking wine. He should
distance himself from such a place very much since a
stumbling block is before him . . . "
Thinking about this addition of the Rambam, "since a
stumbling block is before him," I thought that today, every
place in the world is like a stumbling block before us. When
one goes anywhere in Tel Aviv, or Netanya, or Haifa, or
Yerushalayim there are stumbling blocks — except in our
own arba amos. . . . And if it is necessary to make
fences to guard against drinking wine, which does not tempt
one so much, and many do not drink wine except at
Kiddush and the like, and even that is considered a
stumbling block that one must distance oneself from, how much
more should one avoid walking through streets where the
stumbling blocks are much greater . . . and this is
definitely included in the principle of telling the
nozir, "Go around and do not approach a vineyard."
In only a few years, the threat has been transformed. Whereas
once one had to be careful about walking out and about in the
non-religious streets, now the wonders of modern technology
have "triumphed" in managing to bring all the filth of the
streets right into our pants pockets.
The struggle is being waged on all fronts. The goal is not to
banish cell phones, but merely to ensure that they remain
confined to their main important function: simple voice
communication. The problems attending to that we will have to
deal with, but the stumbling blocks of 3G capabilities must
be absolutely avoided.