Do we want to stop progress? No. Are we opposed to or afraid
of technology? Of course not.
We use fluorescent lighting for our homes and botei
medrash. We take the latest jet planes all the time. We
use the latest and best methods for preparing and printing
newspapers and sifrei kodesh. The decisions we make
about how to travel or how to communicate are generally based
on the costs and the benefits, and not on any evaluation of
However, even as we benefit from the latest advances, we do
not forget our values and goals.
Research in the modern world has pushed values out of its
purview. Engineers should just focus on engineering, it says.
Art is pursued just for art's sake. Scientists should not
decide in advance what they want to find based on principles
that lie outside of science, but should pursue the logical
consequences wherever they may lead.
Maybe this is the best methodology, and there is no question
that it has been tremendously effective, at least with
respect to science and technology — though whether the
products of art have been improved by this approach is much
However when using technology, it is an entirely different
Some people like to say that technology is neutral — it
all depends on what you do with it. This is true only
In practice, one can drive in a nail with the butt of a gun,
and one can kill with a hammer, but guns mostly kill and
hammers mostly build or fix things. A more advanced gun will
be better at killing, not at driving nails.
Of course, killing is sometimes done for good reasons and
building can be a crime, but the bias of each of these
activities is — or should be — clear.
Most of the world (until the final Geulah) is made up
of shades of gray, and we would not and cannot banish
something even if it is dark gray. But certainly our attitude
and approach to something like a gun will be much more
cautious and restrictive than our attitude to a hammer.
Cell phones, up to the so-called 3G types, were more like
hammers — they had their problems, but they brought
many benefits. But with the introduction of these new types
they have clearly become like guns — more specifically
a lethal spiritual poison.
When we travel — as in everything we do — we are
not just concerned with reaching our destination in this
world. We also have a goal of moving closer to Hashem all the
time. Everything that we do should take us closer to Him, but
sometimes the fastest means to our worldly destination is not
helpful towards reaching our main goal of moving closer to
Hashem. Some means that are effective in this world are
absolutely harmful towards our efforts to reach the higher
goals that we have in life.
Especially in the young years, when a person's overwhelming
and almost exclusive goal is to grow in Torah and
avodoh, nothing should be allowed that seriously
distracts from that goal, and certainly anything that is
destructive should be positively shunned.
It is against this perspective that we may understand HaRav
Eliashiv's penetrating and perceptive statement: A yeshiva
that includes bochurim who carry cell phones, is not
worthy of the name.
A yeshiva is an environment that is dedicated exclusively to
spiritual growth, aiming to provide a foundation that will
set its students along a lifelong path of spiritual growth.
If the cell phone has evolved into an instrument that is
incompatible with that, then the statement is obvious and
If we follow the initiative of all the roshei yeshivos and
remove ourselves from this evil (bochurim completely
and at all times, avreichim to minimize even private
use) then we can expect that it will be a tremendous boost
for us to do good.