Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

12 Shevat 5760 - January 19, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Clarifications and Elaborations of the Internet Ruling

by Mordecai Plaut

The psak of the rabbonim about the Internet generated an unusual amount of inquiries. I will try to clear up some misunderstandings and add whatever general information has so far come to light.

The warning and the psak does not apply to email. Though email and the Internet are closely associated and are often thought of together, however they are vastly different in this context.

Email is simply a means of communication, and the content of what is communicated depends on who is doing the communicating. Parents should be advised that there are dangers through email as well, since it is possible to talk to all sorts of undesirable people through it. However, no general limitation was placed on email, and that would certainly apply as well to any "email appliances" made especially to be able to access email, as asked by Bob Miller.

As part of their efforts, the secretary of the Beis Din offers to guide users to be able to access email from their computers without Internet.

Several readers wrote in about their personal situation and the benefits they receive from Internet, both professionally and in Torah study.

I discussed these inquiries with the secretary. He said that each person should apply for a personal ruling in his particular situation. None of the inquiries was sufficiently detailed to allow a psak. In general the secretary said that it is necessary to be thoroughly familiar with the personal details of the situation. He suggested that the she'ela be forwarded to their regular rav for his guidance.

Contrary to the impression that some seem to have received, the Beis Din did not issue a blanket ruling. The public warning does allow for legitimate uses of the Internet. However, at this time, and perhaps in general, the Beis Din has refrained from issuing any public guidelines for general use, other than to say that one should seek to minimize Internet use as much as possible. One should not use the Internet when email is sufficient, and one should seek to even limit what at first may appear to be essential needs.

Another common question was about the Dei'ah Vedibur website. We have sought and continue to seek guidance about our activities. So far we have nothing in this matter that we can publish.

One important point that should be made in this context can be more easily seen in reference to a television. Though all rabbonim prohibit watching television, no one has ever objected to owning a television transmitter. Whoever wants to, can transmit all the television that he can. The only problem is owning a television receiver.

By the same reasoning, there is a big difference between maintaining a website that is broadcast to the whole world, and viewing the Internet, and there is no contradiction between warning against the latter while continuing to do the former.

Finally, this may seem obvious to many but it must be said. The entire context of the writing of the rabbonim is to those people who are not exposed to certain cultural content through the general media. These are people who live their lives without going to movies, without watching television, without reading general newspapers or novels and so on. They spend their time and raise their families sheltered from the cultural imperialism of the West, but became unwittingly exposed to it through the computers that they brought in for various reasons. This warning and ruling is intended primarily for those people, to help them to plug any leaks in their defenses. Everyone else should seek individual guidance, either from the Beis Din or their personal rav.

I can forward she'eilos to the Beis Din that are directed through email.

We are continuing to seek further guidance and clarification from the Beis Din, and will make available whatever we can, when it becomes available.

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