Several Flatbush Rabbonim got together to speak about the dangers of the Internet and what we can do about it.
This gathering was very different from the one 3 weeks ago at Citifield, in that the participants and speakers were on the same page. The speakers were noted Rabbonim from local Shuls in the community(aside from RMS); so aside from addressing the crowd in English, the Rabbonim were very aware of the local needs and challenges.
Women were invited, and overflowing attendance showed that this Asifa was warranted. No one was forced to buy a ticket (in fact the event was free), yet over 1,500 strong (I asked an officer outside how many people were there and he said "not less than 1,500") came to be inspired. And inspired we were.
I came early, approximately 30 minutes before the proceedings began and was surprised to see that almost all the seats in the Bais Medrash were filled. There was additional seating elsewhere in the building, in addition to many standees.
I was impressed that the program began within 5 minutes of the starting time, with several chapters of Tehillim read responsively.
Rabbi Avrohom Schorr, spoke about the auspicious date that was picked, Chaf Sivan, as that day is noted by Chazal as the start of preparations for Yom Kippur. RAS compared the fight against the Internet to the Milchama against Amalek. He said if people would understand that this Milchama is our Nisayon, they would attack it differently (i.e. they would be more forceful in ridding it from our midst). He cited 3 main problems with the Internet. Shmutz, Social issues and Waste of time. He told a story about Rabbi Uri Zohar who once took a 6 hour flight yet had no book or electronic gadget with him. This required him to think. This was the impetus for him to do Teshuva. RAS said that the Yetzer Hara wants us to be busy, so we don't have time to think and change our ways. RAS quoted a statistic that 80% of divorces now quote Facebook in the proceedings. He emphatically stated that Social Networking sites have no place in a Yiddish home.
I thought that RAS would be more fire and brimstone, but his heart to heart talk seemed to be devoured and appreciated by the participants.
Rabbi Yisroel Reisman spoke about the Leitzanim, and the naysayers. He noted that Daniel was 12 years old when he went into Golus, yet he and his friends made Takanos not to eat Bishul Akum, not to drink Goyishe wine...to keep their children from marrying Goyishe daughters. The Leitzanim and naysayers laughed at this, yet it was the L&N's that 60 years later went to Achashveiros's party...He noted that 2 twelve year old boys came to him and told him how easy it is to bypass their father's security (Update: in fact, it was these 2 twelve year old boys that inspired this Asifa). RYR then gave very practical instructions for the layman in how to secure the BIOS bootup, how to use secure passwords etc. He jokingly said not to use your own last name as a PW, but rather to use his! So apparently Reisman will now be the dafault PW on many Flatbush computers.
He then pointed out that we speak about filtering for our "kids", but kids is just a code-word for us, as everyone has a Yetzer Hara. He then suggested putting a screensaver with the words Shivisi Hashem LeNegdi Tamid - and said that the Shem Hashem should be spelled out.
Rav Moshe Tuvia Lieff spoke about Browsing. He said that no one would pass by a Cathedral or an Ashram and say "I'm just going in to browse". He said that WiFi would be more aptly called Wireless INfidelity. He said over a nice Drosho (from Rav Yonoson Eybeschutz) as to why it says "Asher Bachar Banu" when actually WE chose Hashem. He said over a Drosho from the Chasam Sofer how the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah were Mevatel the YHR for Avoda Zara, and blackened the eye of Arayos. Seems that AZ was done in groups and Tefillah was done then only Beyichidus. Forming a gathering for Tefillah was the only way to combat the YHR for AZ. Yet empty Tefillah causes the YHR to regain power.
He asked an interesting question, why we say Lo Sasuru Acharei Levavchem Vacharei Eynaychem...seems that the eye sees first, then the heart desires...He explained that 4 people could read the same newspaper, yet each person notices what interests him and is oblivious to the rest; one sees the sports, one sees the news, etc. so it is really the Lev that comes first, as the heart "sees" whatever it wants to see...
He mentioned Madison Squre Garden, and joked that that is the former site of the Siyum Hashas...He implored filter use. He said that one can walk 3 miles in the rain and keep dry so long as the umbrella is open, but as soon as you close the umbrella, you get wet.
Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon batted cleanup. He spoke about "Hakhel" how people must gather at times and be taught. He noted that today's gathering is an extension of the Citifield Asifa. He explained that the Posuk says "Kedoshim Tehiyu", not you should be but that you WILL BE. It is therefore a promise. Hashem will lead you where you want to go. Similar to the famous Rambam regarding a recalcitrant husband who doesn't want to give a GET, we force him until he WANTS to, but the point is that he really DOES want to give the GET. He said he is amazed that following the Asifa there are so many people who WANT to do the right thing. He said we should ignore the cynics.
RMTL then went through various guidelines that were printed in the handout.
1. Change our behaviour so that Internet use is limited to uses of practical necessity.
2. Totally avoid Internet for entertainment or social interaction.
3. Cease using Facebook, Twitter and other SN sites.
4. Filter all Internet access and protect filters
5. Filter smartphones.
This was followed with Kabalos Ol Malchus Shamayim and a spontaneous breakout of the song Tehei Hashaa Hazos Shas Rachamim V'Es Ratzon Milfanecha (Rav Meir Shapiro ZTL).
I was very impressed in how the Asifa started and finished on time. The speakers knew the crowd and tailored their speeches accordingly. Rabbi Mehlman from the FJJ was thanked for providing the advertising free in his newspaper. This Asifa was definitely a Kiddush Hashem and was very inspiring.