Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

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









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
A Danger that Must Be Avoided

The gathering of maranan verabonon the gedolei haTorah vehaChassidus last motzei Shabbos parshas Vayeishev just to discuss the problems posed by cellular telephones should be a powerful indication of how serious the problem is. Travel is difficult for some, and all are very concerned with how they spend their time, yet they nonetheless came in person because the danger is perceived as very serious and the need for action is urgent.

Up until recently, cell phones have had their problems of interrupting at improper times — as we have discussed in the past. They destroy one's concentration and focus on kedushoh, which is serious enough.

What has changed is the introduction of new technology known as "3G" for "third generation." It allows cell phones to go way beyond their original function of enabling conversation, and includes high speed data transmission that is unnecessary for voice, but allows sending multimedia including all the filth of modern electronic media including the Internet. Now it can all be in the palm of your hand!

To build a person requires prodigious efforts of patient, hard work that must be invested over years. To destroy a person now requires nothing more than a three-ounce gadget that can display all the temptations of modern society on its tiny screen.

3G technology has been commercially available elsewhere in the world for about three years, but it is just beginning to reach Israel. Before it penetrates, gedolei Yisroel rushed to forestall the threat.

Some people say: What is the problem? We should be strong enough to resist looking at forbidden sights, and if not, the easiest solution is to work on ourselves so that we will be able to resist.

This sort of argument had more validity when it was applied to intellectual threats, ideas and ideologies that were opposed to Torah. Even there, the hostile ideas were often encountered in contexts in which the false ideas had various things in their favor which made it hard to evaluate the ideas objectively. If subscribing to a false ideology brings with it fame and money, for example, it is hard to evaluate it objectively against a Torah lifestyle that brings only poverty and debasement, as was the case until not long ago.

However the suggestion that it is a reflection of weakness if one is not immune to the threats posed by modern multimedia can only be made by one who fails to understand and appreciate the threats. This is the yetzer hora in its rawest form, and even the exposure to this moral sewage is exceedingly harmful.

Maran HaRav Eliashiv has called these new cell phones avizraihu de'arayos — a form of arayos. Other gedolei Yisroel have concurred.

In Machsheves Mussar, Maran HaRav Shach zt"l related to these ideas. He writes:

The loshon of the Rambam is frightening. Chazal say, " `Go, go!' one says to a nozir. Go around and do not approach a vineyard." This would seem like a literary expression and not an halachic prohibition. However the Rambam writes, "It is a rabbinical prohibition for a nozir to be where people are drinking wine. He should distance himself from such a place very much since a stumbling block is before him . . . "

Thinking about this addition of the Rambam, "since a stumbling block is before him," I thought that today, every place in the world is like a stumbling block before us. When one goes anywhere in Tel Aviv, or Netanya, or Haifa, or Yerushalayim there are stumbling blocks — except in our own arba amos. . . . And if it is necessary to make fences to guard against drinking wine, which does not tempt one so much, and many do not drink wine except at Kiddush and the like, and even that is considered a stumbling block that one must distance oneself from, how much more should one avoid walking through streets where the stumbling blocks are much greater . . . and this is definitely included in the principle of telling the nozir, "Go around and do not approach a vineyard."

In only a few years, the threat has been transformed. Whereas once one had to be careful about walking out and about in the non-religious streets, now the wonders of modern technology have "triumphed" in managing to bring all the filth of the streets right into our pants pockets.

The struggle is being waged on all fronts. The goal is not to banish cell phones, but merely to ensure that they remain confined to their main important function: simple voice communication. The problems attending to that we will have to deal with, but the stumbling blocks of 3G capabilities must be absolutely avoided.

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