Sunday, December 11, 2011

Agudah Advocates Against Automation (Internet)

Rabbi Avrum Schorr made the following points at the Agudah convention:

1. The Tzibbur should be coming to the Rabbonim to ask how to stem the tide of losing Neshomos due to the new smart-phone/internet technologies.

2. A child said he would break an i-phone, being that his father was addicted to it and no longer had time for his children.

3. TXTing has destroyed Shabbos for many who become addicted to it.

4. People answer that they've been on the internet for years and have not seen any inappropriate content (ed. I find this hard to believe). Yet their children see them spending all day on the internet and the message they take away is how great the internet is. They don't differentiate between good and bad sites.

5. The anti-technology fight is war. One can't let up from fighting this war. For those who say it can't be won...look at Eretz Yisroel where Yeshiva people would be embarrassed to have a non-approved cellphone.

5b. Wonders how Mispallelim are not embarrassed to hand their i-phone to their Rav; when one button accesses Facebook, another button, Twitter.

6. Wants to create internet cafes in our neighborhoods, open 24x6 where filtered access will be available to all, and would remove the need to have internet in the homes.

7. Claims that i-phones are really for pleasure, not business.

8. Asked someone why they need i-phone, man responded that he can use the compass feature to show Mizrach...

9. Wondered aloud how one can be Mechanech a Bochur who has 150 movies on his i-phone.

10. Bemoaned the LH that is so prevalent in TXTing.

11. Related Moshol from Chofetz Chayim that a rich landowner once told his workers to only use filtered water in the day they had a fire and the house burned down because they filtered it before they would throw in on the fire...said that everyone nowadays is worthy of fighting the technology war...even dirty water can help put out this fire.

Personally, I think the Rav has made some very important observations, yet I wonder if it can really work here in the USA. Furthermore, I wonder if people would be willing to give up the convenience of having the internet in their homes. Imagine telling women that they can use washing machines, but must only do so at the laundromat. I realize that the 2 cases are not exactly similar, just food for thought.

On the other hand, if this is really war, then perhaps this is the price we must pay for maintaining the purity and Kedusha of our people.

Please keep comments respectful.


  1. It's too little too late. After ten years of denying that there is any to'eles for the internet at all (all the while making gezeros that the tzibbur ignored, demonstrating that apparently the rabbonim just don't get it; or worse, are hypocrites who use it themselves) suddenly the solution is interenet cafes? Who is going to give up their internet access to go to kosher internet cafes? Maybe 10 - 15 years ago an entire culture of using such places could have developed and people would have grown used to the, but not anymore. And this is aside for the issues such cafes would cause, such as people spending too much time online - outside of the home.

    I definitely sympathize. But reactive is just reactive.

  2. I don't think anyone ever claimed that there was no Toeles to the internet. They just wanted it avoided at all costs because the bad outweighed the good. Now that the internet is becoming part and parcel of society, they need to rethink their position.

  3. >6. Wants to create internet cafes in our neighborhoods,

    IIRC he said nothing about cafe's. These Centers would be all business with in-house mashgikhim and heavy filtration. I heard nothing about installing sofas or serving drinks.

    Just commenting for accuracy.

  4. Thanks for your note, Bray. By "cafe", I meant only a place that "serves" up internet machines. No food or drink was intended.

  5. I don't think anyone ever claimed that there was no Toeles to the internet.

    From the remarks synopsized in number 8 it's clear that the speaker is being mehavel all positive aspects of technology and essentially saying that you are a self-delusional fool firmly ensnared by the Yetzer Hara if you "claim" that you need a web-browser for anything Torah-dik or positive.

    Two kashas

    1. I wonder how you can write one post lauding and then follow it up with this clip that clearly says lets throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    2. I wonder if Rav Schorr knows that this clip is going viral on the internet and/ or that many of his own talks are featured on

  6. 1. I wrote the post before I saw this video.
    2. This is Rav Schorr's opinion. Not necessarily mine.

    I would assume the Rav knows this is posted on the internet, but I wouldn't exactly consider 5,000 hits viral.

    If you listen to the speech carefully, RAS is advocating Kosher phones and Kosher Internet. So #8 is no Stira. You can access at the internet center, just not on your i-phone.

  7. "I don't think anyone ever claimed that there was no Toeles to the internet. They just wanted it avoided at all costs because the bad outweighed the good. Now that the internet is becoming part and parcel of society, they need to rethink their position."

    I think we're not speaking the same language. There's to'eles to condoms too, but supposedly they are assur. The point is, you do the right thing, get married, etc. and you can get through life without ever using one. But even if 15 years ago it was possible to reasonably see the internet as nice, has some good, rather than essential to normal functioning, 10 years ago - certainly 5 years ago - it was not. It was completely obvious that the future of life in the 21st century will heavily depend on the internet, and that there would reach a point when certain essentials can only be done via the internet. Of course we're not there yet. Partly it's the technology, and partly it's that the 80 year olds still have to function. But it didn't take a navi 5 or 10 years ago. Yet they were still saying it's assur, as if the internet is a condom.

    It's not so much that they need to rethink it. They should have thought the thinking several years ago. Not only that, those who did the thinking can't be people who don't use it. Yes, I get the irony - if you use it you think it's necessary, if you don't use it you think it isn't. But what happened? Am I incorrect that these were gezeros that the tzibbur couldn't abide by? That the rabbonim who use it were and are seen as hypocrites - even if those particular rabbonim never went on record saying it is forbidden?

    Frankly, I have every reason to believe that the rav who spoke hasn't got a clue about the internet. It's nice that he's trying to propose a kosher solution, but to a problem he really doesn't get?

    By the way, this doesn't apply to all rabbonim. R. Matisyahu Salomon has been saying there is an issur yichud with a computer, for years. But certainly there has been a perception that the official take is that the internet is assur. The fact that what happens in Eretz Yisrael no longer stays in Eretz Yisrael doesn't help either.

    Like I said, I honestly do sympathize because I recognize that it's a real problem. Put it in terms of kedusha, put it in terms of sociology. The internet is a game changer and a society changer.

  8. "Yet they were still saying it's assur"


    I don't recall Rabbonim saying that the internet is Assur. Perhaps in Eretz Yisroel but not here in the USA. The earliest bans, primarily in Lakewood were to prohibit internet use for pleasure...but for those who needed it for work, there was always an Ishur.

    The bans, as I remember them, were to use the internet, but with a filter. Also, to lock it up from children.

    I don't think that the Rabbonim are Neviim. Perhaps they didn't realize how quickly the internet would become a necessity. Many opposed the creation of the State of Israel, but once it became a reality, they adjusted to the reality of the situation.

    As for Rav Schorr, American, son of an American born Gadol, I am sure that he is quite aware of what goes on via the internet. Based on what he said at the Agudah convention, it seems that he is on the receiving end of stories where children go OTD and parents have Shalom Bayis problems which they blame on the internet. You could argue that the internet is only a tool, but my guess would be that a good portion of these stories would not have happened had the participants not had access to the internet.

  9. I'm not a Navi either. I'll bet you realized it and you aren't a Navi.

    What can I tell you? Being the last ones in the room to know is hardly leadership.

    As for Rav Schorr, I would rather not make it personal, but this American son of an American speaks English with a rather thick accent. I was never privileged to know his father, but I have a suspicion that his father sounded less foreign than he did. Nothing wrong with being foreign, neither in outlook nor culture. But I point this out to note that his status as an American son of an American gadol doesn't necessarily show that he is in touch with American Orthodox culture. On the contrary, the evidence points the opposite direction, that he has spent his life running from the reality on the ground.

    I get it that he is on the receiving end of stories. I also get that the internet is more that just a tool. It is a game and cultural changer, as I already said. But strategies which have already failed don't help. Not only that, in themselves they undermine rabbinic authority.

    I know that I can tiptoe around this to be milder and nicer, but there is also a time and place for being frank. This is what I see. Can you help me see it otherwise?

  10. We've both had our say. I'll leave the floor open to others now. Thanks for your comments.

  11. Fred,

    The leadership that we seek from Gedolim is that they be in touch with pristine Liberated Torah values not with American Culture or any other golus culture. The whole point of Torah Leadership is to mitigate the bitterness of Golus and take the Golus out of the Jews so that G-d has worthy Jews to take out of the Golus.

    He is not the last man in the room to know. He is the last man in the room to resist.

    He is a Jewish Dylan Thomas

    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked no lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Thus because the rest of us have gone gently into the khaskus of the internet golus, have not been the baal habatim who should have been the ones initiating a grass roots movement, does not mean that better, braver more enlightened individuals should not rage against the dying of the light.

    He is like his namesake the patriarch. Kol HaOlam Kulo are on one riverbank on this issue and he bravely raging against the dying of the light stands alone on the other riverbank. Goyim and those influenced by Goyisha values may call such pursuits Quixotic. I call the good Rabbi, Avraham HAIVRI Schorr!

  12. Careful, Bray, you may not get another guest post. :-)

  13. who's the greater poet or Dylan Thomas? ;-)

  14. It's a nice interpretation, and maybe even the truth, but the trouble is that it required an interpreter. In fact, your interpretation is poetry. But *you* are the poet. Maybe R. Schorr was your muse.

    Okay, I'll acknowledge that I am corrupted and I'm not going to see it even if it's there. But there are plenty of people who do look up to rabbonim for leadership who do see them as the last to know.

    As for guest posts, come on! Do you actually think I'm that thin skinned? Vive le difference.

    To quote John Lennon, "I don't believe in Zimmerman." I have no idea how to tie this into the discussion, but hopefully the free association will at least make sense!


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