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25 Kislev 5765 - December 8, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Gedolei Yisroel and Roshei Yeshivas Meet to Discuss Eliminating Cell Phones from Yeshivas

By Betzalel Kahn

A rare gathering of maronon verabonon, roshei yeshivos and ramim was held on Motzei Shabbos to address the damage being done to bochurim by cellular telephones. Gedolei Yisroel called for the removal of the plague from yeshiva halls.

Seated on the dais were HaRav Eliashiv, HaRav Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman, HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, HaRav Shmuel Halevi Wosner, the Admor of Gur, the Admor of Tzanz, members of Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, roshei yeshivos, marbitzei Torah, menahalim ruchanim, romim and other prominent figures.

The impressive event opened with a responsive recitation of Tehillim led by HaRav Boruch Shapira followed by Acheinu Kol Beis Yisroel for the recovery of HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapira, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Be'er Yaakov, who sent a letter.

The opening speaker was HaRav Nochum Rothstein, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Nezer HaTorah. "There is no yeshiva on earth without a counterpart Above, and every yeshiva student has a power and shadow Above, and if there are a thousand yeshivas on earth there are a thousand yeshivas Above. And what is studied on earth is studied Above.

"The world is sustained by the words issuing forth from the yeshivas. Beis Hamikdosh and the Mishkon face the Mikdosh Shel Maaloh and with this responsibility resting on us gedolei Yisroel have asked us to meet. Roshei yeshivos marbitzei Torah are responsible for the yeshiva students and all of us are gathered together, bearing responsibility for the existence of all of the yeshivas, for a rosh yeshiva has responsibility for all of his students' deeds. We have gathered here with gedolei Yisroel shlita to hear from them what is incumbent upon us to do.

"This is a generation with multitudes of bochurim toiling in Torah, a generations of multitudes of avreichim who cast off all of the vanities of This World to toil in Torah. There is no beis medrash without shiurei Torah and the Soton cannot bear them. We are here to discuss how when the Yetzer Hora does not succeed via other paths it brings the little device found in everyone's grasp.

"Can one sin and not be consumed? In every period we have been aware of the need to fight against `michutz tishakel cherev,' to safeguard the bochurim lest there be tzevochoh birechovoseinu. But who would have thought the Soton would enter the beis medrash?

"Many have fallen victim. Those who are closely involved in this campaign know, and everyone sitting here is aware how many upright, innocent victims have fallen into this net. Homes have been broken as a result of it.

"There should have been an absolute prohibition against this tool of destruction, which was deliberately introduced. The members of the Rabbinical Committee on Cellular Matters can attest they are asking for a device used only for conversation, but instead of simply honoring the request they must engage in exhausting negotiations.

"Our hope is that this will come to a happy end and that the avreichim and baalei batim who need this device will find a way. But for the yeshiva students the situation is dire. Boys are being consumed in fire day by day. Every week from the best of homes parents complain about boys who have fallen into this net."

He was followed by HaRav Wosner, who cited Chazal's remarks that "what remains for us is `this Torah,' but Chazal stressed `this Torah' and not merely Torah. It must be the Torah as we received it at Sinai. That is `this Torah.' And if not in the original form that is not Torah. If Dovid Hamelech said, `Toras Hashem temimoh meshivas nofesh' this is parallel to yiras Hashem tohoroh omedes le'ad. Torah without yiras Shomayim and tohoroh without Torah does not endure. Our Sages said in Brochos, yiras Hashem omedes le'ad is he who studies Torah in purity. This gathering today to honor Hashem and the holy Torah is about something that has reversed His Torah `omedes le'ad.'

"The holy yeshivas in our Holy Land are the designated purpose of the holy Torah. The Zohar Hakodosh on Parshas Vayeilech says that when the Jews entered Eretz Yisroel `each and every soul sang, "Vezos haTorah asher som Moshe lifnei Bnei Yisroel,"' i.e. when HaKodosh Boruch Hu gave the Torah, He gave the Torah in our Holy Land, and He gave them the lands held by the non- Jews. In Emunoh Uvitochon the Ramban, commenting on the verse in Parshas Shemos, `E'eleh eschem me'ani ami meEretz Mitzrayim le'eretz tovoh urechovoh' says this entire verse speaks of the Torah.

"We in Eretz Yisroel must contend with the power of the will of secular Jews and porkei Torah. And we have no power to defend ourselves other than the power of Torah. And the power of Torah rests in the holy yeshivas, the yeshivos gedolos and yeshivos ketanos in our Holy Land. Torah without yiroh and without tohoroh will not continue to exist for generations. If we want to perpetuate the Torah throughout the generations for eternity the Torah must be accompanied by tohoroh and kedushoh. Before Matan Torah the condition was `ve'atem tihiyu mamleches kohanim vegoy kodosh.'

"I have studied the issue of cellular telephones thoroughly. The telephone has two enormous and very terrible detriments. But before we speak about pritzus and tzenius and gilui arayos in the most alarming manner, years ago I heard that the reality for everyone is that even a kosher cellular phone hounds the person day and night, wherever he goes, giving him no rest. This is the reality and it cannot be denied. I have seen avreichim who, be'avonoseinu harabim, came to kollel, took out the book—the Katzos or the gemoro—and laid the phone on the table to remain in constant contact with the family.

"Before we speak of the great harm done to the kedushoh and tohoroh of Yisroel, the phone itself takes away any remnants of peace and quiet. Through the media [i.e. internet] the phone comes along and steals our peace and quiet. The phone is the opposite of rest, even for a tzaddik gomur. And I ask you, how can one bring a cell- phone into the beis medrash where the pure words of G-d are spoken, and then the phone rings in the middle of the shiur? What have we done with the words of Chazal that he who interrupts his learning to engage in idle conversation is fed glowing coals? Everything Chazal said is eternal. Telephones are a leading cause of bitul Torah.

"The other aspect of the telephone is the maaseh Soton that prevents the growth of Torah and yiras Shomayim in our Holy Land, which has increased and succeeded be'ezras Hashem, bringing peros hilulim leHashem in the holy yeshivas. And this applies to all of our brethren in Beis Yisroel who are chareidim ledvar Hashem, whether they are Chassidim or Ashkenazim or our Sephardi brothers. To study Torah is Elokim chaim, to raise generations for Torah and to set up a legion for Melech Malchei Hamelochim, and the cellular telephone is combating this. The latest invention that brings [bochurim] to the lower depths is pictures.

"`Hatzafoni archik me'aleichem.' The tzafoni is the telephone, which can be concealed inside a pocket and hidden from parents, who do not realize their sons are walking around with a phone in their pocket, do not know who they talk to and where they call from, and this reality is undeniable. The incidents of michsholim of pure bnei Yisroel and benos Yisroel brought before us in which whole families were ruined, both in Eretz Yisroel and elsewhere, is clear proof this is a obvious case of a maaseh Soton unknown since the days of Matan Torah.

"Even if the telephone is prohibited in the commercial world, in cases where it is demonstrably needed it will of course only be permitted with a kosher cellular phone for conversation alone, which will receive the approval of Vaadas Harabbonim Le'inyonei Tikshores. But in the yeshivas, both the yeshivos gedolos and the yeshivos ketanos, as well as the seminaries and Beis Yaakov schools, there is no place for this instrument of destruction. Neither a kosher instrument of destruction nor a treif one. And in my opinion, if the esteemed rabbonim consent, together with the leaders of the generation we will issue an absolute ban against bringing this instrument of destruction into a holy place like the beis medrash.

"Second, in my opinion, every rosh yeshiva or seminary director who learns of a talmid or seminary girl who uses this or brings it in violation of the regulation, is authorized to expel the student without recourse. The leitz should be cast out, and there is no leitz greater than gilui arayos and avodoh zoroh. Although I am always the first to only bring Jews closer to Our Father in Heaven, just as it is a mitzvah to bring closer it is also a mitzvah to rebuff what must be rebuffed. And may HaKodosh Boruch Hu give us the strength to withstand this trial and insist on the honor of the roshei yeshivos of the holy yeshivas in Yisroel, Hashem aleichem yichiyeh, for you purify and sanctify the air of Eretz Yisroel."

HaRav Yisroel Hager, representing his father, the Admor of Vizhnitz, said: "Great mesirus nefesh is needed to save the education of the young generation. The Yetzer Hora does not slumber, but together with gedolei Yisroel we will succeed, be'ezras Hashem, and will overcome . . . a declaration must come forth from this gathering that it is strictly forbidden to possess cellular telephones and that these telephones should be used for commercial purposes only, and young men learning in yeshivas have no need for cellular phones in order to avoid reaching impure places."

HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz said: "With the permission of Rabbenu Hagodol Posek Hador, sheyichiyeh le'orech yomim veshonim, R' Yosef Sholom Eliashiv, may HaKodosh Boruch Hu lengthen his days and years with health and pleasantness until the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, and with the permission of Rabbenu R' Aharon Leib Shteinman, and with the permission of all of the roshei yeshivos, gedolei haTorah, who have gathered to seek counsel for how to preserve the holy places of the yeshivas . . .

"We are in a very dire situation. Before I came here I heard from Maran Posek Hador shlita, that accessories of gilui arayos are being brought into the holy halls. And these are the holy words Maran Hagaon, shlita, spoke: What holy place could there be that has such bochurim? What can we expect of them? Homes that have transformed the holy into the mundane, homes that will not produce anything in the generations to come. And the bochurim must be told to take pity on themselves and realize how destructive this tool of devastation is.

"A few [bochurim] wrote to me that they are unable to save themselves. But this is not so, for tshuvoh is effective. What form of tshuvoh will have an effect on them? Let them smash the tool of destruction and make a commitment that in order to succeed in Torah they will never possess a cellular telephone. Then HaKodosh Boruch Hu will accept it from them, be'ezras Hashem.

Roshei yeshivos should know that if people inquire about them regarding shidduchim, nothing good should be said about them. Period. And the parents of bochurim who allow them to buy and possess this . . . they think they are at the yeshiva, but they are not at the yeshiva. This is one of the ways that can be used to frighten them into abandoning this abominable way . . . "

Addressing the hundreds of roshei yeshivos and marbitzei Torah HaRav Shteinman said the threat is not only to a handful of individuals. "We did not come to this gathering for naught. A declaration must be made, for as we have heard, many have already fallen. This is a great danger and we cannot know where it will lead. What is there to add after everyone has already spoken?

"There are those who acquire phones with unwholesome intentions from the start. Certainly they have no place in a yeshiva. But most bochurim say they won't look at the bad things, chas vesholom. Probably most bochurim are not to be suspected of doing this intentionally. He is sure he will refrain, but he fails to take one thing into account. The gemoro in Sanhedrin asks why the reasons behind the Torah were not revealed to Shlomo Hamelech, who was the most intelligent of all men. Says Shlomo, I will have many wives and I will not stray, but he faltered. Shlomo Hamelech, who was sure he would not falter, who was considered a tzaddik . . .

"If there are no yeshivas there is no Klal Yisroel, and over this we must fight with all our might. All of the devices must be returned and it must be said in the strictest manner that an individual who fails to understand this has no place in the yeshiva, otherwise this will destroy the yeshivas. There can be no pity in this matter, for that would be cruelty. We have no choice. If someone is found with this, it is a danger for him and for the yeshiva and the whole world of Torah is in danger. May HaKodosh Boruch Hu help by saving us and enabling us to eliminate this plague and may there be no yeshiva with such a breach and may every individual desist from this."

HaRav Boruch Shapira noted the organizers rushed to hold the gathering before Chanukoh "so that the bochurim would come home on Chanukah and leave the cellular phones in their homes and not bring them back to the yeshivas, chaliloh."

The gathering was held in cooperation with the City of Jerusalem's Department of Torah Culture and through the generosity of Heichal Simchoh-Jerusalem Catering.


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