Op-Ed: Smash Your Attitude, Not Your iPhone
By Rabbi Gil Student
Recent news stories about wedding witnesses disqualified for their smartphones and a rabbi-led iPhone smashing ceremony need not generate feelings of alienation among moderates. We all need to remember a simple message: Even a united global Torah community has sub-communities with different customs and standards. What works for some people may be totally inappropriate for us. However, responsible Internet usage is a universally obligation, even if it takes different forms in different communities.
Over the past few months, Torah leaders have reminded us that filters are not enough for a kosher online experience. While someone with enough time and skill can always bypass a filter, even those with no such desire or ability need more. Filters, at their best, keep out the shmutz and other inappropriate websites. Frum Jews have a higher standard than that. As we rapidly transition to a digital age, we have to remember that people are still people and the Torah is still our guide.
R. Mordechai Kamenetsky tells the story of people paying a shivah call to his grandfather, Reb Yaakov. The large crowd required additional chairs. As individuals went to the basement to bring chairs, Reb Yaakov encouraged them to take a chair for someone else. In that way, he explained, you can turn a simple necessary act into an act of chesed. We, too, can raise our time online from a necessary chore into a mitzvah, an opportunity to help others spiritually.
Internet Is Necessary
Calls for restricting Internet usage to business needs will fail. We increasingly accomplish our household needs online. We not only shop, pay our bills, file our insurance claims and the like on the Internet but we also learn online about medical symptoms, home maintenance, travel destinations and much more. Information has been overwhelmingly transferred to the Internet, which has in turn become the primary information resource for our everyday lives. If you want to know a museum’s hours for a summer Sunday family trip, you check its website. If you need directions to a wedding hall, you use Google Maps. And if you want to know whether New York State vehicular law allows a u-turn from the right lane, you search for it online.
More than that, Torah sails through the cyberwaves in previously unimaginable ways. Some yeshivas place recordings of every single shiur online so alumni and others can learn from their rabbeim. I can access literally hundreds of thousands of hours, perhaps millions, of high-level shiurim on my smartphone. One website provides the entire text of Tanach, Mishnah, Tosefta, Talmud Bavli, Yerushalmi and Mishneh Torah. Another contains tens of thousands of sefarim for free download. Ten years ago, I was a frequent visitor of the New York Public Library’s collection of obscure sefarim in Midtown Manhattan. Now I just download them onto my iPad. The process of learning has not changed but the method of accessing texts and classes has, particularly for those who have left yeshiva.
Time Is Precious
We cannot avoid the Internet so we must embrace it with basic guidelines. In addition to the filters and image blockers we install, three Torah principles must stand at the forefront of our minds. The first is bitul zman, wasting time. Everyone needs down time to relax, shmooze, recharge your batteries and allow for random thought association. We are more creative when our minds have some time to expand beyond our normal corridors of thought.
But beware of the Internet time hole. Websites make money by keeping you online for long stretches of time. The easiest way to counter that effort is keeping a log of how much time you spend online each day, outside of work-related activity. Hashem gave you enough common sense to know that spending hours on end each night engaged in leisure activity is simply wrong. It is a waste of your short time in this world. When you keep a log, you gain the power to make informed decisions about how best to spend your time.
Second is tznius. While we often speak of tznius in terms of how we dress, we know that it also applies to how we act. Filters and image blockers can remove pictures that fail our standards of modesty but our conscience must guide our interactions with others. Your online interpersonal conduct must follow the same high standards as your offline public interactions. The language you use, the aggressiveness you exhibit and the intimacy of your interactions with others on the Internet must demonstrate your best behavior. Oversharing, flirting or developing close relationships with members of the opposite gender are just as inappropriate online as off.
Every interaction we have with others, particularly in public, is an opportunity to make a Kiddush Hashem. With nearly the entire civilized world active on the Internet, your time online is just such an opportunity. Whenever you are online, regardless of which website you are visiting, try to make a Kiddush Hashem. Act with sterling midos, show respect to others, let the whole world know that you and your community–Hashem’s chosen people–serve as positive role models.
You are smart enough to know that even when you are correct, insulting others will offend. You know that honey attracts more than a sting. When you are online, you are in public and need to be the honey that attracts people to the Torah. You must demonstrate that the Torah refines people into exemplary individuals worthy of emulation.
The three Torah concepts we discussed are only some of the many that should guide your Internet use. Most importantly, you have to realize your obligation to rise above the chaos of the Internet, just like your offline behavior rises above levels exhibited on the city street. We must not only avoid improper online behavior but actively show the beauty of a Torah lifestyle. In doing so, we raise our Internet activities into mitzvah acts, spreading Hashem’s glory across the world.
Rabbi Gil Student blogs at TorahMusings.com and maintains a website dedicated to responsible frum Internet usage, InternetInJewishHome.com.
Posted by Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg at 9/29/2012
דער חזיר מנובל בארעח מארדחע לעבאוויטש איז היינט געווען אין קארט מיט דריי לויערס. צוויי דערשאוויטץ ברידער און איידעלא. זיין מיסיס וואס ער האט אויף איר געזאגט אז זי איז אן אלטע ק . . . . . און צוויי פון זיינע בנים, זענען אויכעט געווען. זיי האבען געמיינט אז מען וועט עהם ארויסלאזען ווי א שיינער איד צו מפטיר יונה, אבער א נעכטיגען טאג, ער גייט האבען א משפט. זיי האבען זיך געטענה'עט וועגען געוויסע פאפירען וואס זיי ווילען דער DA זאל זיי געבען, וואס איז נישט קיין פראבלעם. איינער פון די דערשאוויטצעס האט גע'דרש'ענט, אז זיי גייען מאכען א גרויסע אינוועסטיגעישען, און זיי ווייסען זאכען וואס קיינער ווייסט נישט וועגען די נעץ וואס מען האט אויף עהם נעבעך ארויפגעווארפען. צו סוף האט ער געבעטען די Judge, אז אויב ביים איבערקוקען דעם קעיס טרעפט זי עפעס וואס קען זיי העלפען, זאל זי פליז עהם זאגען (אך און וויי אז ער ברויך דאס זאגען). דער נעקסטער הירינג וועט זיין November 30.
The MegaPig Baruch Lebovits, was today in court with three lawyers. Two Dershowitz brothers and his original lawyer Aidela. His wife (whom he called an old k . . . ., was also present, together with two of their sons. They tought the he will be let off, ‑ wishful thinking, he will go thru the system again. The Dershowitzes argued that they are conducting an intense investigation, about the web that was spread around their poor client, and they know things that the DA doesn’t know, and what with the extortion case, and that when the judge reviews the case, “she should please let them know if she finds anything that can help them”. The next hearing will be on November 30.
|L. to R. - Munkatcher Rebbe, Alan Dershowitz - Both don't look happy|
אלען דערשאוויץ איז נעכטען פארנאכט געווען ביים מונקאטשער רעבע, ווי מען קען זעהן פון זייערע ביידענ'ס פרצופים, האבען זיי נישט געקענט אויסטראכטען וויזוי צו מאכען א מופת, נישט פאר דעם מוצץ ב.מ.ל., און נישט פאר מציצה בפה. דער איינציגער וואס וועט נאך דא מאכען מציצה וועט זיין דערשאוויץ, ער וועט זיי אויסזויגען דעם לעצטען דאלער, ווי אין פסוק שטייט "ומצץ את דמו".
Alan Dershowitz wisited yesterday the Munkatcher Rebbe. As you can see from their faces, they couldn’t figure out how to make a mofes, not for the motzes B.M.L., and not for MbP. The only one that is going to make metzitza is Dershowitz – he will suck out their last dollar.
Posted by Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg at 9/28/2012
Police Investigating Sexual Assault Report of Queens Toddler
Investigators are looking into whether surveillance cameras captured any suspicious activity in the area overnight
By Katherine Creag, Tracie Strahan and Shimon Prokupecz | Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 | Updated 5:54 PM EDT
The NYPD is investigating a report of a Queens toddler being sexually assaulted in her home.
Investigators are looking into whether surveillance cameras captured any suspicious activity in the area overnight. They say nearly every home on the block where the reported assault happened has a security camera.
According to police, a man reported that a stranger sneaked into an apartment on 88th Avenue and climbed into a bed where his toddler daughter was sleeping.
The man told authorities he heard a tapping noise coming from the girl’s room, then discovered a man, asleep, smelling of alcohol in bed next to her.
After walking the intruder out of the home, the father heard his wife screaming that the girl’s pajamas and underwear had been removed.
But when he raced back out to find the man again, he was gone, police said.
Investigators are telling residents in the area to lock their doors and windows. They were seen carting away bags of evidence, including a teddy bear, pajamas and bedding to check for DNA.
“It’s so stressful because we have kids, too,” said neighbor Radha Persa. “Something like that happens, it’s very bad.”
Posted by Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg at 9/27/2012