Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

12 Shevat 5764 - February 4, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Tools of the Yetzer Hora or Not

By Mordecai Plaut

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 administrative violation.

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 in advance.)

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" (Chapter 2).

To carry an active cell phone into a shiur is to be an agent of the yetzer hora, chas vesholom (perhaps unwittingly).

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.

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