Cell phones are certainly one of the wonders of modern
technology with their ability to talk from almost anywhere to
almost anywhere on earth, but even the secular world is
recognizing that they must have limits.
Surprisingly, many teachers in the Israeli school system keep
their cell phones on during class and even answer calls. Some
even have long conversations, telling their students (at
least) that it is an "emergency." An informal telephone poll
of almost 10,000 schoolchildren found that 95 percent (!)
said that some of their teachers answer their telephones in
the middle of class.
The Education Ministry claims that the situation is not so
bad, but nonetheless it is moving to have speaking on a cell
phone in the middle of class formally classified as an
The Knesset is also moving to curb cell phone use. It has had
rules for a long time, but they had little effect. After one
of the major committees installed an electronic blocker that
interferes with reception and was very pleased with the
results, the Speaker of the Knesset wants to put one of those
contraptions in the plenum.
If these authorities recognize the cell phone as interfering
with the conduct of their mundane affairs, it should
certainly be clear how those interrupters disturb the conduct
of the affairs of Shomayim.
Many shuls have signs up to remind mispallelim
to disable their phones when entering, but some people do not
do so. Certainly it happens less frequently than in the early
days (when a cell phone was even a status symbol), but it is
still heard of that the holy silence of the Amidah is
interrupted by some classical or modern tune bursting forth
from someone's pocket. And woe to any tsibur in which
the cell-phone-owner has left his interrupter in the pocket
of his coat that is out of reach -- the merry song will play
for many long seconds. (It may be permissible to walk over
and shut the phone. A competent authority should be consulted
Equally disturbing -- and especially damaging to the owner as
we will explain below -- are the interruptions that break up
a Torah shiur. Everyone is focused on the subject at
hand, concentrating in order to follow the chain of reasoning
that the maggid shiur is developing to shed light on
one of the key sugyos. Suddenly, from another world --
the world of the yetzer hora -- comes an electronic
jingle that jangles the nerves of everyone there.
The first and most fundamental step along the Mesillas
Yeshorim is to have set times for Torah so that one can
get to zehirus. "The Chachomim . . . said, `Try to
minimize business and make Torah your business' (Ovos
4). Business is necessary for a person for parnossoh,
but it is not necessary that it become so pervasive as to
leave no time for avodas Hashem. And therefore we were
commanded to set aside times for Torah." (Mesillas
Yeshorim Chapter 5)
"And this is truly one of the clever tricks of the yetzer
hora to make his work a continuous, demanding burden upon
the hearts of men so that they will not have any space to
contemplate and to look at which path they should follow"
To carry an active cell phone into a shiur is to be an
agent of the yetzer hora, chas vesholom (perhaps
The frenetic pace of modern life makes it hard enough to
concentrate on the right things. We must be sure that we use
all the fruits of modern technology in our service and in the
service of Hashem, and that we not allow them to keep us
enslaved to the yetzer hora.
That is the way to reach the path of the righteous.