Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

Are We Living B’dieved Lives?

Posted on | March 11, 2006 | By Mark Frankel | 90 Comments

In halacha there is a concept of doing a mitzvah l’chatchila, intially the proper way and b’dieved, fulfilling the requirement after the fact in a suboptimal way. On some posts here contributors will highlight their view of the l’chatchila way to live in a particular area such as listening to certain types of music, women’s roles or dealing with the materialistic aspects of our lives, etc..

So here’s my question: Is facing up to the fact that our lives don’t measure up in all areas to the highest ideals of Torah Judaism mean that we are living our lives in a less than an optimal way, i.e. B’Dieved? And what are the implications of that thought pattern?

I think everybody reading this has to ask themselves this question, because the greatest Jews among us do not use the Internet.

So how do you come to terms with this question?

Comments

90 Responses to “Are We Living B’dieved Lives?”

  1. Shoshanna Silcove
    March 11th, 2006 @ 8:55 pm

    Wrong Mark! Some of the greatest Jews aomng us DO in fact use the internet. The Lubavitcher Rebbe believed all technology can and should be used for kedusha, and Chabad has been using the net to spread the light of Torah very successfully. Go to http://www.chabad.org or go to google and type in Chabad and see how much Torah has been disseminated throughout the entire world through this medium.And there are other frum groups besides Chabad also use the net to spread kedusha. No, Mark, at least speaking for myself, I do not lead a b’dieved life.

    In fact, I would venture to guess, and it has been my own personal observation, that in general, the BT’s are more machmir than the FFB’s.

  2. Mark Frankel
    March 11th, 2006 @ 9:17 pm

    Shoshanna

    Do you honestly believe the Lubavitcher Rebbe (or other gedolim) would be surfing the Internet. Of course not! So at the highest level, we wouldn’t be using the Internet and we need to come to terms with that.

    And of course that does not mean that we shouldn’t use all available technology to spread Torah and come closer to Hashem. I wouldn’t be involved with Beyond BT if I felt that way.

    So the question still stands, we are not living our lives at the highest level. Maybe at a high level, but certainly not the highest. So how do we reconcile that?

  3. Steve Brizel
    March 11th, 2006 @ 10:56 pm

    What do lchatchilah amd bdieved mean? We think that lchatchilah means the highest level. In fact, there is a very strong Mesorah in many areas of halacha that bdieved is what we understand to be meeikar hadin ( what is required al pi din) and that lchatchilah means that we are adding on an additional requirement so as to include all possible shitos out of respect for their views even if the psak is not like them.

  4. Chana
    March 11th, 2006 @ 11:02 pm

    Mark, this is an issue very close to home. I am as guilty as anyone of spending a lot of time on the internet, but B”H I spend my time discriminately, on Jewish sites. But I have seen first hand how the internet destroys the lives of teenagers. And if you listen to any of the testimonies of frum Jews whose lives have been ruined, or the warnings of Rebbeim who work with such people, you cannot take this issue lightly. I am stating honestly and firmly that the use of internet is out of control among our teenagers, and daily they are going beyond the point of return. Parents who imagine they can control the use of the net in their homes are simply out of touch. Granted, this issue gets more serious as the children reach the mid-teens where controlling them is not so easy. But the children are so sophisticated, that they will find a way around any parental controls if they are so disposed. A parent does not even need to own a computer in their home for their kids to use the internet. I was happy to hear the decision from Lakewood recently about banning the internet at the cost of expulsion from yeshiva. But afterward, listening to an interview with the Rav who issued the issur, it sounded like somewhat of a retraction, or softening.
    So here is my dilemma (and weakness): I am as addicted as anyone who has found a (Jewish) world at my fingertips on the internet. But knowing how Jewish lives are thrown away due to abuse of the internet, I would be willing to discontinue my own use, if there was real community support and Rabbinic leadership on the matter. Ultimately I know this is a personal nisayon, but isn’t it also a communal one?

  5. Rachel Adler
    March 11th, 2006 @ 11:04 pm

    I guess I look at things in a completely different way.

    G-d created us with a unique neshama. We each perceive the world in a different way, even if we all have similar values in the frum world. We each have our own likes and dislikes.

    Some of us are good at learning, some of us are good at medicine or law or art. If we were all Torah scholars, we would have no way to sustain ourselves. Likewise, we do need our scholars and Rabbis to instill torah into everyone’s lives. Im ein kemach ein Torah, im ein Torah ein kemach.

    So although I’m not the Lubavitcher Rebbe, I don’t see myself as living b’dieved. Obviously, we can all grow, but I don’t think I would be “more observant” if I stopped listening to secular music and stopped reading literature and got married right now and had 10 kids and didn’t go on to graduate school. I think we each have a potential to fulfil whatever role in the world Hashem created us for, and becoming more observant does not mean becoming the same.

    I don’t see my internet usage as bitul Torah, though it might be bitul thesis or bitul studying for midterm. I need my time to unwind, in order that when I do learn Torah I can give it my full intellect, as opposed to being distracted. There’s something to be said for giving ourselves time to unwind.

    And with all the different mitzvot in Judaism, some people more inherently connect to some mitzvot more than others. So maybe I bake deli-roll for shabbat instead of going to a parsha shiur. But then I’m doing the mitzvah of welcoming guests.

    Torah is important, but I see it not as an end in itself, but as a way to enrich our lives by putting what we learn to use in the outside world.

  6. Steve Brizel
    March 11th, 2006 @ 11:11 pm

    Ask R Horowitz re his views on the net. I heard them tonight and they were nowhere as negative as some of the posts here. There was a recognition of the power for good and its risks and the fact that we live in a world where kids grow up much quicker than we did and where they probably can evade any filtering device. More importantly, he quoted R Orlowek that if one raises one’s kids properly wis a vis Midos, then the risks associated with the net will be minimized substantially.

    With regards to Mark’s point, the key is to keep your aim high and remain as passionate as possible about Torah Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim. Many Baalei Mussar and Chasidus and Baalei Machshavah point out that when your life is stationary or you think that you have reached a plateau that you are at most at risk.

  7. Mark Frankel
    March 11th, 2006 @ 11:41 pm

    I only brought up the topic of Internet usage to make the question raised relevant to all of us. I still think there needs to be a lot more discussion on the proper use and misuse of the Internet.

    Rachel – Although I agree with much of what you said, I don’t think it is an issue of everybody being the same. Most people agree that we each have a unique mission in the world.

    But even within our unique mission in the world we have to be honest and realize that we have a long way to go to achieve that mission and we still have unfulfilled potential. And can we ever really reach our potential? Isn’t there also room for further growth as Steve pointed out?

    So on the one hand we can be complacent and say I’m a pretty good Jew in terms of Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim.

    On the other hand we can take pride in our accomplishments, but ask ourselves – is my current level all that Hashem is asking of me? And it is in this non-complacent framework that we might ask – are we living a B’dieved existence.

    A further question is this what the great Rabbah was alluding to in the Gemorra, when he described himself as a Benoni (an average person)?

  8. Rachel Adler
    March 11th, 2006 @ 11:55 pm

    Mark-

    I agree that we all have unfulfilled potential, I guess I was more responding to the attitude of many posters over many past posts about how listening to secular music and watching TV are bad habits, or how ideally the woman should stay home and take care of the kids, or how my nose-ring is just a phase and hopefully some day I’ll be “frum enough” not to want to wear it any more. And the idea that when people choose to live differently, or to not follow chumras, they are being “less observant.” I don’t think of myself as “less observant” in those regards.

    If I’m not fulfilling my potential, it’s because I don’t always daven or I don’t learn enough or maybe I accidentally said lashon hara or didn’t stop someone else from saying it. Not because I have a nose-ring or listen to secular music or want to get my PHD. Maybe I’m drawing a distinction between mitzvot and societal attitudes that not everyone draws.

  9. Menachem Lipkin
    March 12th, 2006 @ 1:03 am

    I think the title of the post was provocative, but unnecessarily broad. I’m sure most people on this list have a spectrum of observance; some things they do B’Dieved, some l’chatchila, some l’chumra, and some, well, some things need real work

    The answer to the basic question of the post, “Is facing up to the fact that our lives don’t measure up in all areas to the highest ideals of Torah Judaism mean that we are living our lives in a less than an optimal way, i.e. B’Dieved?”, in a qualified no. Unless someone is davka going out of their way to perform all of their mitzvah observance B’Dieved, which would be really tough to do, then most people act as I said above, In which case they are not living “B’Dieved” lives. They are living normal Torah lives.

    Everyone, even the greatest sage, has what Rav Dessler refers to has “bechira points”. For people growing in yiddishkeit, these points represent those areas we are currently working on; going from what we are currently doing to what we know we should be doing.

    Going with Mark’s example, the internet itself is parve. It’s just a conduit for information. If you spend hours a day looking at those things which you shouldn’t be looking at, then you need to work on it. If you spend a short time each day reading blogs like “Beyond Teshuva”, then maybe you could say that’s B’Dieved. (Sorry Mark.) And if the time you spend on the internet is devoted exclusively to Torah study. Then your internet use is at least L’chatchilah.

  10. Shoshanna Silcove
    March 12th, 2006 @ 1:31 am

    Torah observance is not a destination, it is a journey. And frum Yidden are not declared frum when they become a certain cookie cutter type, when they jump through some arbitray hoops, and then at the end of it they get their ‘FRUM MEMBERSHIP CLUB’ card becuase they did x,y, and z..

    Tanya teaches that Hashem rewards us not for where we wind up but, for how hard we struggle to get wherever we are in life.

    The internet is not in and of itself evil, just as the cell phones are not evil, and neither is the telephone. All these things fall into the catagory the Tanya calls ‘klipas noga” or neutral, with some kedusha and some klipah. Most things in the world fall into this catagory. We have free choice to transform them into kedusha or not.

    And it is totally unrealistic to think we can ban the internet any more than we can ban the telephone. Furthermore, sometimes the more something is banned, the more tempting it becomes.

    Mark, the the Lubavitcher Rebbe would probably not spend time surfing the net, but to compare myself to him is ludicrous since I haven’t performed any miracles lately either.

  11. Alter Klein
    March 12th, 2006 @ 7:04 am

    Mark,
    Kol Hakovod. I love your post. I also like that you said it instead of me because I am always getting flack for my “right-wing views”.

    You touched on a fundamental principle of Yiddishkeit. Serving Hashem with our best. Cain vs. Abel-Abel offered the best of his stuff for a sacrifice whereas Cain offered nothing special.

    The reason why I dislike writing so much is because the room for error in the way people see things and the lack of being able to clarify those thoughts right on the spot, like at a lecture. Someone who reads a post, might never come back to hear a readdressing of the issue.

    Torah study is equal to all the mitzvos. Yes people need their down time. The question that people need to ask themselves is: How much down time do I need as opposed to what I want. The want part is biltul torah. The need part is like eating; we need to eat so we can learn and do mitzvos.
    Again, listening to secular music or reading secular literature that has non-tsnius/bad values is wrong to read or listen too. That isn’t a chumra, that is the halacha.Guard your neshama. It corrupts the neshama. Music or Literature that are parve-there are different rabbinic opinions on.

    The internet is a loaded gun. On the one hand it is so useful yet is has the potential to bring the worst filth into our homes. Please forgive me but I do not believe that the Lubavitcher Rebbe or any Gadol would advise his followers to have internet in their home. I believe their advice would be If(a big if) you have no other choice;ie job,etc, then do your best to monitor it and guard your family from it. You can’t compare the net to telephones. TV is also neutral. I imagine that most hardcore Lubavitchers don’t have tv’s in their homes. The potential for danger vs. positive is too great. Rabbi Horowitz has advised his parental body to make sure that internet access is never allowed except in public areas of the house and that they be monitored. In Terms of using the internet for torah study, if you live in the middle of no where and that is your only option, then you deal with it. If you live in a city with a beis medresh then you belong in the beis medresh. Chazal are very much into communal learning and interactive learning with a mesorah handed down from teacher to student.

    With all this said and done, of course people are on different levels and they are constantly growing and changing. Every person needs to find a Rav/Rebbezin to help guide them on the path so they are growing and growing at the right rate-not too fast and not too slow.

    None of us have a right to judge anyone. Only Hashem is the true judge. However we need to know right from wrong.

  12. Mark Frankel
    March 12th, 2006 @ 7:29 am

    Rachel – Words like Frum and Observant do not adequately define Torah Judaism. The Ramban describes a person that can observe the entire Torah and still be a despicable person. If we honestly ask, is that what Hashem really wants me to do right now, we can get closer to the ideal, but only a Tzaddik can achieve that consciousness on a constant basis.

    Menachem – In terms of learning, I don’t think the Internet could be considered a L’Chatchila usage, considering all the other Seforim we have an obligation to master and the Internet’s potential pitfalls as a time waster and worse. Although I might argue that connecting with great people like the people on Beyond BT can only be done over the Internet and that might be a L’chatchila usage :-)

    Your point about bechira point is a good one, but for some the choices are sometimes between good and bad, but for the Tzadikim it is between good and good (Unfortunately I forgot where I heard that).

    Shoshanna – There is a *big* difference between banning the Internet and questioning when, where, how and if we should use it. And there is a big difference between cell phones and the Internet and say – TV. Would you argue that a person can raise TV to a kedusha-dik level and therefore there is no problem with having a TV in their home.

    I agree with your points about Membership Club and the struggle being a key but I don’t think we are totally exempt in all the choices we make as we go through that struggle.

    Comparing ourselves to gedollim does seem ludicrous, but the gedollim are the ideals that we strive towards with the hard realization that we are falling short of that yardstick. You could argue that reaching potential is the goal, but don’t most of us have unlimited potential that is not fulfilled?

  13. Yakov Horowitz
    March 12th, 2006 @ 7:30 am

    “I think everybody reading this has to ask themselves this question, because the greatest Jews among us do not be use the Internet.”

    Mark: I think that our mission in life is to bring kedusha to our lives and then to project that kedusha outward in concentric circles, like ripples in a pond — to our loved ones, fellow shul members, co-workers, and so on.

    The hundreds of hours that you, for example, have spend on this Beyondbt website over the past few months have allowed you to spread spirituality, achdus and problem-solving to thousands of people around the world — and projected the ripples — in a manner that would be simply impossible and inconceivable without the reach of the Internet.

    (BTW; I am in middle of working on an article titled, “Taking it on the Chin,” where I discuss the long-term ramifications on frum teens and adults NOT having Da’as Torah responses to the many Internet blogs that ask stinging questions about fundamentals in emunah — with little in the way of response.)

    Mark, I give you a resounding ‘lichatchila’ vote. We need more like you; not less.

    Yakov

  14. Shayna
    March 12th, 2006 @ 7:40 am

    I admire your bravery, Mark, in telling it as it is. I think it’s part of the BT journey to arrive at the level of accepting a bit of personal hypocracy–or, as I prefer, sanity. A leveling out from the initial high of trying to live to the letter, l’chatchila. Sometimes life gets in the way of attempting to be a tzadik/tzadekes; sometimes we accept who we are, where we are, while acknowledging our shortcomings. Many of us need our private outlets, our connection to who we were and the blend of who we are now. Our kids, though, that’s a different story….

  15. Shoshanna Silcove
    March 12th, 2006 @ 7:45 am

    I sorry to say but I am so bored with this internet issue, it is almost a non-issue in my mind by now. I do not believe it is as dangerous as those who are hysterical about it seem to think it is, and I do not also believe it is without dangers. I believe frum Jews can have it in their homes and know how to use it correctly, responsibly and maturely, without all this hype, and without needing Rabbonim dictating their every move. It is a reality in today’s world, and it will become even more prevelant as the technology advances. The Rabbonim will have to eventually accept it as a fact of life, and hope and pray people can muster up the strength to control themselves.

  16. Ezzie
    March 12th, 2006 @ 7:55 am

    One of the first posts here I really disagreed with, though it brings up interesting questions. I don’t think the “greatest Jews” among us do a lot of things we do – and yet, if everyone were like that, we would have serious issues. Each person has their own tasks in life, and no great Jew or rav that I have ever had the opportunity to hear has ever advised people to live a life exactly like them. “L’chatchila” lives are based on how we live our own lives, not based on certain societal standards of what’s “frum” or not. Here’s a great old story I saw erev Shabbos on Elie’s Expositions that can be understood both ways:

    The famous tzaddik, Reb Zusia, once exclaimed, “When I pass from this world and appear before the Heavenly Tribunal, they won’t ask me, ‘Zusia, why weren’t you as wise as Moses? Zusia, why weren’t you as great as Abraham?’ Rather, they will ask me, ‘Zusia, why weren’t you Zusia?'”

    Live to be the best you.

  17. tffb
    March 12th, 2006 @ 8:33 am

    “BTW; I am in middle of working on an article titled, “Taking it on the Chin,” where I discuss the long-term ramifications on frum teens and adults NOT having Da’as Torah responses to the many Internet blogs that ask stinging questions about fundamentals in emunah — with little in the way of response.)”

    I can’t wait to see this article!
    There are few intelligent responses on these blogs from the “Right” and those are outnumbered.

  18. Mark Frankel
    March 12th, 2006 @ 11:22 am

    Ezzie – I’m not sure what you disagree with, in that I was just asking a question? In any case even Reb Zusia had to ask if he was living up to his potential as Reb Zusia. And I’m pretty sure each day Reb Zusia came to the realization that today he could be an even better Reb Zusia than yesterday.

    Shoshanna – I’m glad that you have resolved Internet usage as a non-issue in your mind. For many others it is still an issue. Even Rabbonim who do not think it should be prohibited have not come up with a complete set of guidelines as to it’s proper usage other that it should be filtered and in a public place for children.

  19. Steve Brizel
    March 12th, 2006 @ 11:27 am

    I am a bit of an iconoclast on the issue of net usage. Of course, it has a lot of good, including many portals that can enhance one’s Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim. The net also has a lot of what any of us would call pure shmutz. That seems pretty elementary.

    On the other hand, blogs like this and many of the links allow for discussion and meetings between many Jews of varied hashkafos. I would credit the net to my explorations in Mussar and Chasidus and in enhancing my library in that regard.

    In my opinion, a ban on net usage in certain communities on the grounds of net based shmutz is what a judge would call a pretext for banning it on altogether different grounds-preventing Bnei and Bnos Torah from discussing hashkafic and halachic issues with the other Bnei and Bmos Torah who have a different Mesorah.

    In some ways, banning the net in some communities has a lot in common with the way that some countries like China restrict net usage-anything that threatens the hegemony of the ruling class in the form of free discussion has to be suppressed. I can see a basis for suppressing it in that the Kohen Gadol was vetted by the Chachamim as to any heretical beliefs prior to YK because the tefilos of the entire year and the Jewish nation were dependent on his loyalty to the Mesorah.In certain communities that purport to view themselves as the sole recipient of the Mesorah, I can see a ban. Obviously, such a decision begs the question of whether any community is the sole recipient of the Mesorah in our generation.

    I disagree with the notion that one can be complacent and still be a pretty good Jew re one’s Torah , Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim. Complacency and passion are mutually exclusive positions. That was exactly the point of the Ramban. However, we also have to remember that HaShem built into the process of religious growth the fact that we are humans, that we may stumble and fall and yet we can pick ourselves out of the various types of shmutz and resume our striving.

    As far as a Daas Torah response to questions on “stinging questions about fundamentals in emunah”, I have seen and criticized in Jewish Action one blog that purports to give such an answer. I remain convinced that the blog in question is a clear and present danger to anyone seeking the full spectrum of Torah-based Jewish thought ob hashkafic issues. I refer all interested to Jewish Action . Perhaps, we need more variegated approaches to questions in emunah before anyone deems themselves worthy of setting forth responses to a generation that is starving for “approaches”, as opposed to a catechism of “accepted and acceptable answers.”

  20. Mark Frankel
    March 12th, 2006 @ 11:31 am

    In regard to the question I put forth, I think we need to view ourselves as benoni (middle level people) as did Rabbah in the Gemorra and many of the great Rishonim. Not Rashas and not Tzaddikim, but somewhere in between.

    As many have pointed out, even a recognized Tzaddik, does not view himself as a Tzaddik. As Rabbi Wein puts it, if you think you are a Tzaddik then you definitely aren’t.

    I think one practical outcome of this viewpoint is that we have to recognize that we have real shortcoming and need to work to improve in many areas.

    Another possible outcome is that when we express an opinion of what should or shouldn’t be done in a given area, it needs to be done with the humility of knowing that we have our own personal shortcomings in many areas.

    As far as how Hashem will judge us, unfortunately we won’t know that until our day of judgement, but we can look to the Torah and the lives of the gedolim to see the ideal we can strive towards (but not necessarily reach.

    I think as a group we can help each other become better Jews with the recognition that we all need such help.

  21. Steve Brizel
    March 12th, 2006 @ 12:03 pm

    I don’t think that anyone has claimed to be a Tzaddik or presumed to offer any views without acknowledging that we are Benonim,albeit with enormous potential to tip the scales in one direction or the other based upon our own actions. It is elementary that we all have personal shortcomings and that we all would or should like to think that we are striving in a forward direction, rather than standing still.

    On the other hand, if one has a Mesorah on any issue,either on Halacha or hashkafa, that should not prevent you from expressing your opinion on that issue, albeit with due respect for other legitimate viewpoints. All that we can do is strive in Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim.

  22. Menachem Lipkin
    March 12th, 2006 @ 12:03 pm

    Mark said, “In terms of learning, I don’t think the Internet could be considered a L’Chatchila usage…”

    I know many people who depend on the web for their primary or backup source of daf yomi shiur. Yes, they could struggle with Artsrcoll, but that doesn’t take the place of an actual shiur.

    Also, I know at least two people have received Smicha from programs where the internet was the medium for transmission of Shiurim, Maareh Mekomot, and Bechinot.

    These are just of couple of the countless examples of how the internet is absolutely used for Torah learning in ways that would be difficult or impossible otherwise.

    We can get into a whole discussion of what L’chatchilah means, but you’ll have a heck of a time convicing me that this is not L’chatchliah usage of the internet.

  23. Steve Brizel
    March 12th, 2006 @ 12:16 pm

    I think that Ezzie’s reference to the story of R Zusia is important. The point of the story is that all of us should maximize our potential to the fullest so that we can answer that question in the affirmative.

  24. Mark Frankel
    March 12th, 2006 @ 12:52 pm

    Menachem – Many would argue that the resistance to struggling with Art Scroll (or the original) is one of the big weaknesses of Daf Yomi. A big part of learning Gemorrah is the struggle.

    Of course the Internet is used for Torah study, but I don’t think it is the L’chatchila way to learn Torah.

  25. Menachem Lipkin
    March 12th, 2006 @ 1:37 pm

    Mark – I wasn’t talking about L’chatliha ways to learn.

    Beyond the clearly L’chatchilah uses of the internet I already mentioned. I would say that the internet is one of the main factors in enabling and facilitating the current spurt of Aliyah from North America. Numerous people, including yours truly, have been able to continue employment with US firms, using VoIP people can easily stay in touch with loved ones easing the pain of separation, and we can easily and instantly share, via digital pictures and movies, simchas and milestones with grandparents and other relatives.

    I really didn’t mean for this to become a sparing match over the value of the internet. I was just commenting on your example. I assure that the next generation of “Great Jews” will no less use the internet than the current generation uses the telephone or books printed on printing presses. That many great octegenarions don’t use a new technology is no proof that it’s use is B’Dieved.

  26. Steve Brizel
    March 12th, 2006 @ 2:29 pm

    It is interesting to note that in the Tzedaka appeals that feature the Gdolim, one sees computers in the ads with the Gdolim looking at the screens.

  27. Mark Frankel
    March 12th, 2006 @ 4:15 pm

    Menachem – I guess I don’t understand what you mean by L’Chatchila use of the Internet. Are there good uses for it – of course there are, that is clearly not the question.

    The question I pointed out is that many great Jews in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, 70s and older feel that the dangers outweigh the benefits and it should be avoided wherever possible. That fact that you dismiss these views out of hand is confusing to me.

    My Rabbi has certainly not banned it’s use, and has even endorsed Beyond Teshuva, but he is wise enough to continually warn us about the Internet’s risks and to not fall into a complacency that there is not problem here.

    I’m personally hoping that some people put together the funds to create a safer Internet, without the goal of making money, but rather for providing an environment where we can use the Internet for all the great reasons you enumerated without the risks.

  28. Mark Frankel
    March 12th, 2006 @ 4:19 pm

    On the Reb Zusia story. I never thought that Reb Zusia was excusing himself of reaching high levels.

    I understood him as pointing out that as Reb Zusia he had tremendous potential (as every Jew does) and he was concerned whether he would come close to reaching that potential. I’m pretty sure he spent his life concerned about reaching higher and not in complacency.

  29. Menachem Lipkin
    March 12th, 2006 @ 4:52 pm

    Mark – Maybe I got the implication of your post wrong. My understanding is that you cited the fact that many great Jews don’t use the internet as an example that those of us who do are doing something that is B’Dieved.

    Based on that assumption I am trying to point out that internet use per se does not have to be a B’Dieved activity. We don’t have to measure ourselves against gedolei Torah to assertain if we’re living “B’Dieved” lives. That measure is against our own level and potential.

    You say that there are many great “younger” Jews who feel that the dangers outweigh the benefits. And yet there are also many great Jews in the same age brackets who believe the opposite. Greatness is not only defined as those Jews who follow the “daas Torah” of the Moetzes of the Agudah. There is a world of Torah greatness outside of that realm.

  30. Shoshanna Silcove
    March 12th, 2006 @ 5:21 pm

    I cannot understand why some Rabbonim have made internet usage into the number one issue of the day when we have so many other issues of importance If a Yid is educated properly and has proper hashkafas, then internet should not be a problem, not even for the young people.

    I am not comfortable with this tendency for some Rabbonim to behave as thought police. We all have free choice. Most frum Yidden have enough common sense to know that the internet has dangers and should be controlled and they can figure out how to do that for themselves without being treated like children.

    I feel Rabbonim should spend more time concentrating on improving the yeshivas, improving shalom bayis, helping with shidduchim issues etc., and all that would go a longer way to prevent tragedies than making proclomations about the dangers lurking around the corner.

    The Lubavticher Rebbe never banned anything since that is not the derech of Chabad. He emphasized the positive G-dliness inherent in all things, and while he said that having a TV is likened to having a church in one’s home, he never banned it. The Rebbe spoke only to the yetzer tov and did not address the yetzer hora, because to address the latter only gives the klipas more koyach, G-d forbid. He simply stated his position on the issue and then expected adult people to struggle with their own yetzer horas, because he knew we all have free choice and babying us, being dictorial, or banning things will simply not work.

  31. Bob Miller
    March 12th, 2006 @ 5:22 pm

    I would be very interested to see in this forum actual input from recognized poskim as to which, if any, uses of the internet by adult baalei teshuvah could have “redeeming social value”. If one or more recognized poskim would be willing to accept and answer privately such questions from individuals, and would indicate here how to submit them, that, too, would be helpful.

  32. Ezzie
    March 12th, 2006 @ 5:30 pm

    Mark – I apologize, I read the post as a statement in the form of a question.

  33. Shoshanna Silcove
    March 12th, 2006 @ 6:43 pm

    I might add, that young people must be taught not to spend thier lives trying to avoid every potential dangerous technology because that would be a futile endeavor in today’s world. To teach them that is setting them up for frustrating failure–it is simply impossible. Instead, young people must be taught to have the tools and the abilities to navigate around these dangers, since they may be forced at some point to go out into the world, they must not be set up for a shock that they were no properly prepared to handle. If a young person is brought up in a bubble and told that the normal technological instruments of our society are to be avoided, then he will not be equipped to fight off temptation should it come his way, as it inevitably will. We Yidden are not Amish people, we do not run away from the world, but our way of serving Hashem is to engage with the physical material world, and to elevate it.

  34. Shoshie
    March 12th, 2006 @ 8:41 pm

    Shoshana,

    You write “I sorry to say but I am so bored with this internet issue, it is almost a non-issue in my mind by now. I do not believe it is as dangerous as those who are hysterical about it…”

    Maybe the reason for this is because you don’t deal with people who’ve been affected by it. My husband is a rav and I’m an MSW and we’ve seen firsthand how bad the internet can be. People for the best families, males and females have fallen prey to some of the worst aspects of it and help is usually too late. Clearly you’re women of tremendous faith and principles but not everyone is composed of the same material that you are and thank god there are rabbanim who are willing to tackle this issue head-on.

    The Lubavticher Rebbe certainly had an approach and maybe it worked for his people. In my experience, there’s plenty of work to be done in Chabad families as well. I won’t question his approach but let’s just say that his followers have not been unaffected.

    Rabbanim are called by the Torah “Einei HaEidah – the Eyes of the Populace” That’s their job. They’re not being “Thought Police” they’re being watchmen for the community. Due to their years of Torah study and great devotion to the Klal, coupled with their experience in dealing with all kinds of people, they have a greater sensitivity than most of us and are able to pick up on negative trends before the rest of us in many cases.

    I don’t think any Rav who speaks against the internet is any more of a thought cop than the Lubavitcher Rebbe was a manipulator by encouraging his followers to move the ends of the world and engage in Kiruv. He did what he felt was best for his people and they do the same.

    If you want the internet in your home, by all means. Please add a good filter however and don’t tempt your children.

  35. Shoshanna Silcove
    March 12th, 2006 @ 9:49 pm

    Shoshie,
    I appreciate you have experience in dealing with these issues, but could it be that the internet usage is not the root of the problem but a sympton of it? People who are unstable or have certain issues will always find a venue that is not kosher, won’t they?

    And perhaps repression is not the way to go, but sublimation is. The more we try to repress something, the more the problems fester and worsen.

    The Rebbe did not have one approach for
    ‘his people’ as you call us, and one for everyone else. He saw klal yisroel as a complete whole, not separate groups. And he was not a Rav and did not posken.

    These Rabbonim who are banning the internet usage are not my personal Rabbonim, therefore I do not follow their Psak Dinim, nor do I ascribe to their hashkafas. To me they appear misguided.

  36. tfb
    March 12th, 2006 @ 9:55 pm

    Rabbanim are called by the Torah “Einei HaEidah – the Eyes of the Populace” That’s their job. They’re not being “Thought Police” they’re being watchmen for the community. ”

    That’s the sanhedrin, NOT rabbonim.

    “Due to their years of Torah study and great devotion to the Klal, coupled with their experience in dealing with all kinds of people, they have a greater sensitivity than most of us and are able to pick up on negative trends before the rest of us in many cases.”

    Odd that I was wondering in the 1980s and early 90s how they’d deal with the internet, and it took them a good ten-fifteen years to cotton on to the need to deal with it. The “Eynei ha’eydah” have been consistently behind the curve on every major social issue. Many of their own policies are predictably responsible for difficulties we face today. This idea that they are prescient is at serious variance with the facts.

  37. Steve Brizel
    March 12th, 2006 @ 10:18 pm

    Mark-I think that the R Zusia story has to be looked at in context. R Zushia was a Chasid who asked his rebbe what was the degree of spiritual striving that was necessary for his Avodas HaShem. His rebbe told him that he should strive to “be the best that he could be” within his G-d given nature and limitations as a Chasid without asking questions as to whether he would become complacent. That’s one difference between Chasidus and Mussar_Chasidus always focussed on maximizing one’s potential via Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim and emphasized associating with ( dvekus to use the Nesivos Shalom’s words) a rebbe. Mussar stressed either the katnus haadam versus the gadlus haadam ( man’s lowly state or his highest states).

  38. Shoshie
    March 12th, 2006 @ 10:39 pm

    Shoshanah,

    “but could it be that the internet usage is not the root of the problem but a sympton of it? People who are unstable or have certain issues will always find a venue that is not kosher, won’t they?”

    No. It is no different than when people have a compromised immune system. So long as they’re not exposed to germs, they’ll be fine. A person with a weak moral constitution who is not exposed to the filth of the internet and would have to seek it out in distant locations will not as easily succumb to Taavah. The percentage of cases of spouses who have fallen prey to porn and other taavos has grown exponentially since the internet arrived on the scene. You cannot compare the situation today to what is was before the advent of the internet. Ask any therapist and you’ll hear the same thing.

    I’m certain the Rebbe cared for all of Klal Yisroel but only his followers are bound by his words. We have other leaders and just because they don’t subscribe to the rebbe’s approach doesn’t make them misguided. They too, are concerned with all of Klal Yisroel and it is their job to admonish us and help us overcome societal pressures.

    TFB
    Indeed, the pasuk refers to Sanhedrin, yet is is commonly understood that in an era where there is no Sanhedrin, the Chachmei HaTorah are our Einayim.

    Furthermore, saying that they were too late on the internet issue is a matter of opinion at best. The internet has only become mainstream in the last ten years, not in the 80’s and early 90’s. Thus the threat was not as prevalent and therefore it did not merit a response of the kind that we see today. Because Rabbanim are widely criticized each time they venture an opinion, they tend to be very selective and wait until it’s absolutely necessary to express that opinion.

  39. Shoshanna Silcove
    March 13th, 2006 @ 12:17 am

    It depends on how you view the world. If you view the world as a hostile place where dangers and evil temptations lurk everywhere, then it becomes a place filled with things that are forbidden. If on the other hand, you view the world as a benign or neutral place, to be elevated into kedusha, then the world becomes a place of great opportunities and of vast potential filled with things to use for this purpose.

    The same can be applied to how we view our inner selves. If we view the self as inherently inclined toward evil, then we will repress our ‘bad’ feelings and thoughts. If on the other hand we view our inner selves as inherently holy and godly, then we will have the confidence to allow our good side to overtake our bad side, and we can ignore the ‘bad’ side of ourselves as something that is not intrinsic to our core identities. By simply not feeing into the ‘bad’ desires and temptations, they no longer retain control over us.

    The approach of the Rebbe, and of Chabad Chassidus in general, is to always empahsize what is positive and the holy, and to minimize the dark side.

    People who dwell on repressing their negative tendencies can often wind up dwelling on these tendencies too much in the process, thereby giving the dark side too much koyach. In the same vein, by dwelling on the all of the negative and dangerous external threats in the world, we wind up spending too much time and energy into avoiding them, instead of using them towards a positive good or towards making the world around us a holier place. It may also cause these threats to become more desirable as we label then ‘forbidden fruit.” It is debatable if this approach makes us into better Jews or healthier people. A person can be one hundred percent frum externally, and can avoid using the internet, etc., but inside they may have repressed all kind of unclean thoughts, temptations, doubts, and desires. Eventually such a person will more easily succumb to sin than an individual who has worked on conquering their yetzer hora and has done so by sublimating their dark side into Torah and mitzvoth.

    Ultimately, just as repression cannot solve our innermost issues, making things in common everyday society asser cannot help us to become stronger as Yidden. In fact, by doing so we are tacitly giving in, we are saying that we believe these external threats are too hard for us to grapple with, that they are in fact stronger than the holiness inside of the Jewish neshoma, and that because of that we have to retreat from the world.

    In no way am I advocating a complete immersion in unclean tuma, Chas v’Shalom! But I am also not in favour of making things asser that are impractical or impossible to make asser, such as the internet. I am advocating a balanced approach in which we recognize that there are certainly dangers lurking around us, but that we have faith in the holiness within our neshomas and within the Torah, and in Hakodesh Baruch Hu, who put us into this world, and who certainly gave us the koyach to deal with it in a positive and constructive way–without repression or flight, neither of which will solve our problems.

    These two views can be put into either of these two catagories 1) chesed (ahava or love) or 2) gevurah (yira or fear). Chabad always emphasizes serving Hashem more out of ahava than out of yira.

  40. Shoshanna Silcove
    March 13th, 2006 @ 12:32 am

    Excerpt from today’s daily portion of Tanya (from an editor’s note in The Lessons in Tanya)—-“…This banishment of the sitra achra will take place only at “the End of Days,” during the Messianic era. Until then, however, while the darkness of kelipah still reigns over the earth, one affords G‑d gratification by crushing the sitra achra and transforming its darkness into light, by means of his faith. And man’s realization of this fact intensifies his own joy in his faith….”

    We should not retreat from the darkness rather, our avodah is to transform it into light.

  41. Shoshanna Silcove
    March 13th, 2006 @ 12:38 am

    Shoshie, why can’t you entertain the possibility that in some cases at least, the internet was a sympton and not the root of the problem. Perhaps some of those people who claimed to be victims of the net are just deflecting attention away from their own inner turmoil. It is easier to blame our failings on an external cause rather than take responsibility for our actions. Some of those same people who wanted to cheat on their spouses would have most likely done so anyway, with or without the internet. Cheating on one’s spouse has been going of for thousands of years and if one wants to do it there is always a way, even without modern technology.

  42. tfb
    March 13th, 2006 @ 3:29 am

    “Indeed, the pasuk refers to Sanhedrin, yet is is commonly understood that in an era where there is no Sanhedrin, the Chachmei HaTorah are our Einayim.”

    I don’t know if it’s common, but it’s a misunderstanding. Eynei ha’edah means the most important part, not that they see the future.

    “Furthermore, saying that they were too late on the internet issue is a matter of opinion at best. The internet has only become mainstream in the last ten years, not in the 80’s and early 90’s. Thus the threat was not as prevalent and therefore it did not merit a response of the kind that we see today.”

    If they had foresight, they would have had a response in place. By now, it’s far too late to do anything but ban ineffectively; it’s even late for education about responsibility. The internet catching up to them is a small example of how behind they typically are. The Slifkin affair is another example of how out of touch the leadership is on this issue. Those who signed the ban had no idea how it would play in America, that their posters against the book would circulate to the larger Orthodox community, and had no understanding of how information is exchanged online. All this is just discussing the internet. When it comes to educational policies, they are also out of touch. They are now dealing belatedly with the results of conditions *they* allowed to develop, and and again, their responses typically show little understanding of how issues developed in the first place. The most effective solutions have been and continue to be ones that people initiate on their own, with no instruction, and often those ignore social (and quasi rabbinic) dictates.

    “Because Rabbanim are widely criticized each time they venture an opinion, they tend to be very selective and wait until it’s absolutely necessary to express that opinion.”

    It’s because they follow, and don’t lead.

  43. Alter Klein
    March 13th, 2006 @ 5:51 am

    Dear TFB,
    The Rabbi’s that you are speaking about are some of the gedolim for most of klal Yisrael. Have you ever contacted one of them to discuss the issues and ask why in your “humble” opinion they seem to have no foresight and are out of touch? I assume you didn’t.
    Yes, Rabbi’s make mistakes sometimes. We only know if they made mistakes latter down the line when we see the big picture. Before you condemn and make judgements about anyone, and especially the Gedolim, I suggest you do your research through and through before you decide to “poskin”. You seem to make your judgements based on how you think the scenario is playing out and what appears to you as a mistake. I assume that your aren’t in a leadership position. Before you judge someone that is, 1st experience what it means to be in a major leadership role and what it means to balance saying certain things and not and also saying things that might not be accepted and vice versa.
    I apologize if you feel that I have been harsh with you but when someone insults the Gedolim, let alone in public, with their own biased opinions, I believe they are making a major mistake and a hillul Hashem.
    Sorry.

  44. Yakov Horowitz
    March 13th, 2006 @ 6:25 am

    Dear All:

    I think this website and blog serves a very valuable need in our community. And, I have always been — and am — an advocate for open exchange of ideas and discussions of the challenges that face us.

    Having said that, I am more than a bit uncomfortable with the direction and tone of this stream re: our gedolim.

    This blog (where I proudly serve as a rabbinic advisor) has always maintained a respectful tone. Please let us do what we can to maintain it.

    Let us continue to discuss, debate — and disagree — respectfully and with the proper respect for our rabbonim and gedolim.

    Yakov Horowitz

  45. Bob Miller
    March 13th, 2006 @ 7:59 am

    There are already many other blogs that unfortunately “specialize” in slams against rabbinical authority itself, or against individual authorities. Or in claims that my (group, rebbe, rav) is better than yours.

    We should heed Rabbi Horowitz and keep the discussion here constructive. I am assuming that the purpose of everyone’s teshuva is to learn and practice HaShem’s word with the needed input from those who pass down the Mesorah from generation to generation.

  46. Yakov Horowitz
    March 13th, 2006 @ 8:27 am

    Dear All:

    As a follow to my previous post, I think it is important to note that in proper Torah Hashkafha (philosophy), one need not agree with the position(s) of ALL rabbis and gedolim. In fact, this is virtually impossible, as there is a great deal of diversity of thought on so many issues amongst our rabbonim and gedolim on matters of Internet, Kollel, Medinas Yisroel, etc.

    Additionally, there is a concept in hashkafha of ‘eilu v’eilu — loosely translated as “these [valid opinions] and other [equally valid opinions].” This is a complex subject and deserves at least one post of its own.

    And, I all too aware that my thoughts and views on the Internet, for example, are not shared by many of my colleagues. (It is important to note that there is a significant difference re: rabbinic positions on the Internet for children and for adults; something that was not picked up on in previous posts.)

    Having said that, my request is that we respectfully state our opinions and stake our intellectual claims in a positive tone, stating supportive statements of our rabbonim — but not engaging in putting down those whose views we disagree with.

    Respectfully,

    Yakov

  47. tfb
    March 13th, 2006 @ 10:14 am

    alter: You make an awful lot of assumptions. They are mostly wrong.

    I will drop the topic out of deference to the moderator, but will note that I find the idea that my comments are “slams against rabbinical authorities” is bizarre. We don’t (outside of the chassidic world) have a kehilla system in the United States today. The “Gedolim” have no way to deal with most larger social issues, and they mostly leave things up to private citizens and existing institutions, and only respond once in a while, relatively ineffectively, because these social issues are no longer easily managed and most often – in the case of roshei yeshiva and rabbis of localized shuls – are not their domain. Many of the policies that are being discussed are not set by gedolim at all. To say gedolim predict the future is to attribute to them powers that they never had, and never claimed for themselves. My comments are not “anti-rabbis”. They were a response to the bizarre claim that recent injunctions about the internet somehow stem from rabbis being able to predict future social trends more effectively than laymen, itself based on a bit of “Commonly understood” drush. I was criticizing the strong form of daas torah ideology that, contrary to the assumptions of some posters here, is a relatively recent innovation in non-chassidic circles, and that in my judgement has infantilized charedi society. It isn’t disrespect for gedolim that motivates my comments; it’s respect for their proper role.

  48. Shoshie
    March 13th, 2006 @ 12:42 pm

    Rabbi Horowitz,

    Thank you for stepping in. This blog at times has allowed far too much bashing of Rabbanim and I’m glad you stepped in.

    Shoshie,
    “Shoshie, why can’t you entertain the possibility that in some cases at least, the internet was a sympton and not the root of the problem. Perhaps some of those people who…”

    I certainly can accept that SOMETIMES it is the case. Your original point however was far broader than that. You’ve now modified it. I can accept your modified stance to some extent. Stating that the rabbanim are misguided because they varied with your Rebbe’s approach is not acceptable in my opinion and that’s why I spoke up.

  49. Alter Klein
    March 13th, 2006 @ 1:05 pm

    Dear TFB,
    I apologize again to you if I made some wrong assumptions. I am obviously not the only person who thought you were bashing the gedolim, based on the few comments after. I don’t believe that anyone said or implied that Gedolim can predict the future. We don’t believe in soothsayers. Daas torah on the other hand, gives Talmidei chachamim a special koach/bracha that is attainable by someone who becomes a talmid chacham.

    Maybe someone should write an article on daas torah and how it affects our lives. Any takers out there? I suggest however that whoever writes it, do their homework and be respectful.

    Happy Purim to all.

  50. Mark Frankel
    March 13th, 2006 @ 3:30 pm

    Shoshie

    I’m calling foul. There is very little bashing of Rabbanim on this blog, which is why it is such a rare occurence that Rabbi Horowitz would step in like this. If you are going to make accusations like this, please supply ample support for your defamatory words. Much appreciated.

  51. Shoshanna Silcove
    March 13th, 2006 @ 5:40 pm

    I will qualify something I said:
    I respect the position of all Rabbonim and believe in Kovod Ha’Rabbonim.
    I also feel that the opinions of Rabbonim, especially in communal maters, are not above being critiqued. I do not believe that Torah demands we follow Rabbonim blindly, in fact, the oppostie is true. The Rebbe often taught us to ask Rabbonim from where they derive their pask dinim and that they are obligated to explain to us so we can understand and accept their opinions. In this particular instance, regarding banning of the internet, I feel that the Rabbonim are misguided. I do not believe that by saying this I am ‘bashing Rabbonim’.
    Besides, no one has told me who these Rabbonim are and which Bate Din we are referring to.

  52. tfb
    March 13th, 2006 @ 8:57 pm

    “I don’t believe that anyone said or implied that Gedolim can predict the future. We don’t believe in soothsayers.”

    “Daas torah on the other hand, gives Talmidei chachamim a special koach/bracha that is attainable by someone who becomes a talmid chacham.Maybe someone should write an article on daas torah and how it affects our lives. Any takers out there? I suggest however that whoever writes it, do their homework and be respectful.”

    You will find that this is an idea that rests on drush of the sort that came up in this thread and has no basis in halachic literature, and little basis in hashkafic literature – even the areas where latter authorities have claimed rabbonim have siyata dishmaya doesn’t extend to the sorts of decisions that we are discussing here. Is it in fact respectful to note “p’sakim” that distinguish between net use for adults and children, or is it far more respectful to say that it’s simply common-sense to distinguish between children and adults, and that one should have too much respect for our gedolim to turn to them constantly to make common-sense decisions, particularly on issues for which they are relying on information from others, and have no direct experience.

  53. Yakov Horowitz
    March 13th, 2006 @ 9:51 pm

    TFB:

    It is clear that the issue of Rabbinic guidance as it relates to the Internet (and other matters not related to ‘direct’ halacha) needs to be addressed. My previous posts may not have developed these points so clearly.

    So, please permit me to give it another try.

    1) I posted http://www.beyondbt.com/?p=172 an article that I wrote on the subject of “Daas Torah.” There, I noted the difference between a psak and a request for an eitzah. There is a significant difference between the two. Please read the article carefully and post a question if clarification is required.

    2) I also noted in my introduction to that post (#172) that there are various degrees of ‘buy-in’ as to the efficacy of the advice of a talmid chacham – particularly when the ‘eitzah’ being requested is not in the area of expertise of the Rav being consulted. And, various shades of gray along that continuum are fine and in accordance with Torah hashkafa.

    3) As I noted earlier in this stream, the concept of ‘eilu v’eilu’ allows for a great degree of leeway and comfort level as far as selecting a Rav whose worldview, background, and perhaps even his (the Rav’s) own rebbi matches that of the one seeking advice.

    4) There is certainly nothing wrong, in my opinion, with feeling that the ‘derech’ of a particular Rav or group of Rabbonim is not a match with your worldview – and that you are far more comfortable with that of another Rav or group of Rabbonim. However, for the purpose of this website and blog, I feel that we ‘should not go there.’ Rather, I feel that we will be better served discussing the paths that seem to fit for us – or the challenges that we face as we develop our own, individual shvil hazhav (golden path of moderation; noted in the writings of the Rambam and Shlomo Hamelech).

    5) Finally, I would respectfully suggest that our contributors and ‘posters’ should, whenever possible, use their first (and possibly last) names – unless the posts are about matters that are private in nature. It is a positive message that we can all ‘agree to disagree’ without feeling the need for anonymity.

    Simchas Purim to all.

    Yakov Horowitz

  54. tfb
    March 14th, 2006 @ 12:54 am

    1. Internet bans/communal restrictions are social guidance; they are neither personal eitzah or halachic p’sak (except in cases where someone asks what to do about the social guidance).

    2.”Rather, I feel that we will be better served discussing the paths that seem to fit for us – or the challenges that we face as we develop our own, individual shvil hazhav (golden path of moderation; noted in the writings of the Rambam and Shlomo Hamelech).”

    The difficulty with this post is that both the initial poster and some commenters didn’t take this route, and those who pointed that out were not only chastised but told off, in my case for “disrespecting rabbonim.” If the starting assumption is a strong form of daas torah, and a particular daas torah at that, then that’s the “Shvil hazahav”

    3.. With no personal disrespect intended, I find it sad that there is need for an article to teach adults how to ask for a personal eitzah, and think that is ample confirmation of the infantilization of the charedi community to which I was pointing.

    4. I don’t use my name anyplace online for a variety of reasons unrelated to this discussion. I will use a first name in future. I realize that you are trying to be melamed z’chus, but anonymity hasn’t affected my remarks. For better or worse, I would say the same thing in person.:-)

    A freilichin purim.

  55. Alter Klein
    March 14th, 2006 @ 3:27 am

    I don’t see how people can say that the Gedolim should not be involved in issues like the net. There are Halachas of protecting your life-physically and spiritually. There is brought down in halachic literature about not putting yourself within daled amos of certain situations. The Rambam was a master of many different subjects and very much involved in community issues. The Gemorah discusses issues of non-tsnius, etc.. The Net is all these things wrapped up into one “neat” package.
    Also, Lets look at the gemorah where the zealots want to fight rome and the Rabbinic establishment says lets make a deal with Rome. Maybe we should say “what business do the Rabbis have meddling in military affairs”? Obviously chazal felt otherwise and we see what happened and who was correct.
    There is the famous story of the chazon Ish and mapping out brain surgery for a doctor. Throughout the Galus, people turned to the Gedolim for help, whether it was the Maharal when it came to blood libels( I am not talking about the Golem) or other great leaders of ours.
    I am not saying that people should be running to Rabbis instead of their doctors or generals. Nor do I believe you need to consult your Rav on which car to buy, the blue or red one. However we should be consulting them, especially on issues as potentially destructive such as the net. A Gadol doesn’t need a whole lot technological info to understand the net, what they need is the deep understanding of the human mind and emotions and thoughts, and that for sure they have otherwise they would never have become Gedolim. Understanding people is a prime requisite to becoming a Gadol otherwise how could they poskin for so many different people.
    I leave you off with the following story of daas torah:
    Torah In Its Proper Place
    by Rabbi Moshe Sherer, z”l
    There is a common notion that Torah leaders “have no business involving themselves in political issues” — in the affairs, in other words, of the Jewish people. It first appeared among the maskilim, the “enlightened” of over a century ago, who, rather than show Judaism’s authorities the door altogether, assigned them “their place” — the “four ells of the study-hall”. Rabbis, they said, need to study matters of Jewish law, make sermons, arbitrate personal disputes and the like. Issues that pertain to the Jews as a people and the Jewish future, they maintained, are best left to politicians and social activists.

    As it happens, though, the idea of relegating the Jewish people’s spiritual leadership to “the study-hall” is an entirely alien philosophical planting in the Jewish vineyard, a concept so foreign to Judaism it is difficult to imagine how it managed to spread from the Gentile world into the minds of even some Torah-observant Jews.

    In the non-Jewish world, the approach may be understandable. Religion there is a mere expression of spirit and culture, and hence has “its place”. In the Jewish world, though, Torah is everything, and encompasses not only the life of the Jewish individual but that of the nation as well.

    It is not for naught that the authentic guides of the Jewish people are characterized as “the eyes of the nation” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah, 1). Even the wisest men are subject to short-sightedness — indeed blinded entirely at times — by their personal interests and human weaknesses. True Torah leaders, though, paragons of holiness, are able to transcend all worldly concerns. Their Torah speaks from within them and we are therefore are able to benefit from their advice, guidance and wisdom.

    The concept of “daas Torah” is firmly rooted in the recognition that Hashem “looked into the Torah and created the universe” (Beraishis Rabbah, 1:1). The Torah provides history’s agenda, past, present and future, and encompasses the world’s every secret. Those who have merited to acquire Torah thus possess the best credentials for effectively addressing the world’s problems.

    And those who doubt the Torah-leader’s ability to “understand politics” thereby redefine the very meaning of Judaism.

    Having received my education in yeshivos and in Agudath Israel, I was nurtured on trust in Torah-scholars. My years of involvement with the United States government, though, have strengthened that belief even more.

    One small episode:

    In the summer of 1962, I received an unexpected invitation from President John F. Kennedy; he had summoned a number of Jewish organizational leaders to the White House because of angry Jewish reaction to the passage of an anti-Israel motion in the United Nations.

    I immediately telephoned Rav Aharon Kotler, zt”l, who was not in New York at the time, to gain his advice. In the hour-long conversation that ensued, I was somewhat taken aback when Rav Aharon not only expertly assessed the political situation and advised me what to say and how to say it, but provided responses to all the points he assured me the President would put forth about Israel’s security.

    I had anticipated the need to describe the intricacies of the political situation to the Rosh HaYeshiva. Here, though, this holy man who had never opened an issue of the New York Times, had revealed an astonishing familiarity with detailed political and military issues affecting the Mideast!

    My astonishment intensified when, at the White House meeting, I presented the reasoning that Rav Aharon had delineated and it not only became the focus of the entire discussion, but clearly commanded the President’s attention.

    As I returned from Washington, I pondered the absurdity of the claim that professional politicians have a monopoly on political acumen. Quite the contrary, I realized, was true: purity of spirit and Torah-expertise bestow the deepest understanding, even in the realm of “politics”.

    In an age of spiritual chaos like ours, a time when Jews must grope their way through the moral morass of a spirituality ailing world, we are charged more than ever with the task of strengthening our appreciation of the idea of daas Torah.

    It is our responsibility to remind ourselves and others of the fact that our gedolim are the foremost experts not only in matters of Jewish law, but in social and political issues as well.

    May the light of their Torah continue to guide us along the road leading us to the time of Moshiach.

    (Iyar, 5742/1982)

    ——————————————————————————–

    ——————————————————————————–
    Copyright © 1997-1998 by Ira Kasdan. All rights reserved.
    DISCLAIMER

  56. Alter Klein
    March 14th, 2006 @ 3:46 am

    I forgot to give a brief explanation of who Rabbi Sherer was. I believe Rabbi Horowitz would give it best since he personally knew him. I will just say that he was an incredible human being who served Am Yisrael 24/7, 365 a year. He met with and advised presidents of the US and senators on a regular basis.He was respected by people across the spectrum, non-Jewish and Jewish, politicians, and regular folk.
    His “offical bio” is listed at: http://www.ou.org/yerushalayim/lezikaronolam/sherer/sherer.htm
    As you will see he was truly a giant a Yid.

  57. Steve Brizel
    March 14th, 2006 @ 12:48 pm

    I have posted elsewhere on this issue. I think that we could all do ourselves a favor by recognizing that the issue of Daas Torah, its origins and practical applications in the past,present and future is an issue that can be a “third rail issue” and prevent meaningful discussions especially if questions are dismissed or rejected via the answer of “that’s Daas Torah. We can’t discuss it.” Since the ground rules here seem to favor either not discussing Daas Torah in a way that is both intellectually honest and simultaneously non judgmental of the questions, I think that I will avoid posting further on this issue.

  58. Mark Frankel
    March 14th, 2006 @ 1:24 pm

    I read every post and almost every comment, and I never saw anybody say, “that’s Daas Torah, we can’t discuss it”. However, a tone of respectfulness and non-hostility we do try to maintain. If you hurl untrue accusations and can’t back them up they fall into the category of ….

  59. Steve Brizel
    March 14th, 2006 @ 2:27 pm

    Mark-Let me try to clarify.So far, most of the issues that were discussed remotely could notbe considered in the category that I outlined, except for a few posts on R Slifkin and the internet ban .I am not sure what you mean by ” hurling untrue accusations” and “being unable to back them up.” I merely suggested reasons to support the ban, one Torah-based and another rooted in sociology.

    However, if you were to discuss the views of the Gdolim on many other far more controversial issue, I think that Daas Torah or a variant of it would be raised and I think that the blog would be damaged if such free-wheeling discussions did take place. Here is a small and by no means exclusive list if isssues that I think would possibly implicate Daas Torah and which have appeared in a very hostile form on other blogs-secular education, Torah and science,the rise of Zionism, the reaction to the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust, Soviet Jewry, and other political movements, kiruv , working with heterodox movements on issues of common concern, the purpose of studying Jewish history or biographies of Gdolim , Jewish messianism.

    I am confident that even a discussion on how Daas Torah functioned in its practical application on many, if not all of these issues, would generate a comment to the effect that ” we can’t even discuss these issues because Daas Torah says X or Y.” I have also seen many posts on this issue elsewhere that denigrate other Gdolim in ways that cannot be justified under any halachic basis solely because their approaches on these issues did not follow Daas Torah for a variety of reasons . I would hate for this wonderful blog to sink to that food-fight level.

  60. Menachem Lipkin
    March 14th, 2006 @ 2:34 pm

    Alter Klein said – “There is the famous story of the Chazon Ish and mapping out brain surgery for a doctor.”

    The variants of this story range from the Chazon Ish actually guiding the surgeon’s hand to his simply giving an eitza of where to look. Even the latter case, if true, would be pretty impressive. However, the Chazon Ish did not get this ability from Torah only, at least not per se. The Chazon was an incredible autodidact. In order to understand different areas of halacha he went to secular sources to teach himself subjects such as geometry, astronomy, anatomy, and physics.

    Rabbi Sherer’s story about Rav Kotler and JFK makes a nice kumsitz story, but Rav Kotler did not attain an, “astonishing familiarity with detailed political and military issues affecting the Mideast” without external information. He was a brilliant man and may not have needed a lot of information to extrapolate the advice he gave to Rabbi Sherr but he needed the information from somewhere. (And believe it or not such information can be gleaned without the NY Times!)

    I’m not commenting on the validity Daas Torah one way or the other. I just think it’s important for people to understand that the gedolim who provide the Daas are human.

  61. Steve Brizel
    March 14th, 2006 @ 2:38 pm

    Back to Lcharchila/Bdieved-Here is a true challenge. If a Gadol visited our homes,would we be proud or embarrassed to have such an esteemed visitor? Would our homes be displays of our priorties-gashmius or ruchnius? I think that I read in the Yated that R Steinman during his visit was adamant about sitting on an uncomfortable chair because he was embarrassed about the comfort level when he was responsible for the lives of so many families that lacked many of the “basics” that we take for granted.

  62. Steve Brizel
    March 14th, 2006 @ 2:42 pm

    Menachem Lipkin’s points re the story of the Chazon Ish are well taken. R Moshe Feinstein and R Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach Zicronam Livracha also had many doctors, professors, etc who they consulted with on cutting edge halachic issues. RMF and RSZA also had an intense curiousity in how technological advances impacted on halacha.

  63. Alter Klein
    March 14th, 2006 @ 3:32 pm

    Reb Menachem,
    You said “He was a brilliant man and may not have needed a lot of information to extrapolate the advice he gave to Rabbi Sherr but he needed the information from somewhere. ”
    Please tell me how you know this? Did Rav Hutner tell you this? Did someone close to Rav Hutner tell you this? I assume not( there I go again getting myself in trouble). Realize what you said-he had to get it from somewhere. That means that you are denying that he got it as “daas torah”. Which is ok if it is your opinion however recognize that it is your opinion. Yes the chazon ish was a genious. Do you realize that even if he spent time studying science, it was such a small amount that it makes it miraculous that he could do what he did. The same for Rav Moshe and the other gedolim. Nobody is claiming that Gedolim aren’t human. Of course they are. We also know that a bracha of a talmid chacham is very powerful ( Pirkei Avos 6:1, Gemara Bava Basra 116a, gemara Shabbaos59b,Ta’anis23a).
    Have frelichin Shushan Purim!!!!!!!!!

  64. Steve Brizel
    March 14th, 2006 @ 4:01 pm

    Alter-You missed my point. A Gadol and Posek who is aware of and familiar with the facts on the ground and who knows Shas and Poskim on the ground simply is in a much better position in rendering a Psak than a Posek who issues a Psak but writes explicitly that he has no knowledge of the facts.( Yes-there are prominent Poskim who have written in such a manner.) RMF and RSZA were legendary for their interest in applying halacha to scientific issues and their willingness to consult scientists, doctors, physicists and engineers with specialized expertise.

  65. Menachem Lipkin
    March 14th, 2006 @ 4:23 pm

    OK, let’s parse it out. I think everyone can agree that he was a brilliant man. I said that he “may” have been able to extrapolate from a small amount of information, which doesn’t indicate that I “know” it. So the your issue apparently is in that I said that he had to get information about the “detailed political and military issues affecting the Middle East” from somewhere other than the Torah. Note, I am not saying, as you imply, that he got his insight from somewhere else, just that he had to have have information outside the realm of his Torah study in order to inteligently apply his Torah wisdom to a real world situation.

    We may be working with different definitions of Daas Torah. My understanding is that the modern concept of Daas Torah, which didn’t really become prevelant until after WWII, is the acceptance of the authority of “Gedolei Yisroel”, i.e. the moetzes Gedolei Ha Torah of the Agudah, in matters that involve the general Jewish community. As opposed to purely halachic issues.

    Now I will turn the question back on you. Since you admit that the Chazon Ish may have spent time studying science how do you know that it was “such a small amount that it makes it miraculous that he could do what he did”?

    You admit that the Gedolim are human yet you imply that the Chozen Ish’s abilities were miraculous. I submit that the Chazon Ish’s abilities were the combination of a keen intelect, intense self-study in specific ares of secular knowledge, and the wisdom attained from vast Torah knowledge and study. And it’s this combination that would allow his followers to rely on him in matters outside pure halacha.

  66. Steve Brizel
    March 14th, 2006 @ 4:47 pm

    Here’s an issue which I would like Alter to address. R Yochanan Ben Zakkai was criticized by none other than R Akiva for only seeking the safety of the Talmidie Chachamim in Yavneh,as opposed to the Beis Hamikdash. The Rambam in Hilcos Melachim writes that R Akiva thought that Bar Kocha was the Melech HaMoshiach until it was proven otherwise.Yet, none of us would dare say that either Rabban Yochan Ben Zakkai or R Akiva were “mistaken” or Chas VeShalom “wrong”. At the most , one can say that R Akiva and R Yochanan Ben Zakkai approached the situation and made a decision that they thought was correct based upon the facts on the ground. In other words, while we know that they were two of the Gdolei HaTanaim and worked on a far different and higher madregah than anyone around them or since then in many areas, we live with the consequences of their decisions as human beings,albeit a spiritually higher human being than any of us could ever dream of approaching, even if their decisons appear as “mistakes” solely from the vantage of history. R Nevenzahl offered a similar approach to the statements of the Talmud re the behavjor of King David and Bathsheva.

  67. Menachem Lipkin
    March 14th, 2006 @ 4:48 pm

    Oh, and Rabbi Klein, a Freilichin Shushan Purim to you too! (How come you’re not listed in Shemeshphone?)

  68. Shoshanna Silcove
    March 14th, 2006 @ 6:55 pm

    The view of the purpose of our godly mission, according to my understanding of Chabad Chassidus, is not merely to perfect ourselves, but to purify the world, thereby brining it closer to the revelation of Moshiach, through conducting mitvot. The mitzvah itself has the koyach to elevate a spark of holiness, regardless of the level of Torah learning or understanding of the Yid who performs it.

    This is an entirely different view than other frum schools of thought that value Torah learning as the chief and primary obligation, as an end in and of itself, and see mitzvot as compulsory, without recognizing their inherent mystical affect on the world. Mitzvot are done, acoording to some non-Chassidic schools of thought, because that is what Hashem commands us, but they are not understood to have any role in purification of the world to a more holy level.

    This view of mitzvot as elevation is what motivates a chosid to put tefillin on a Yid who is non-observant and mechallel Shabbos. According to Chabad Chassidus, a Yid mired in the lowest of impurities can still accomplish an elevation by conducting the smallest of acts, in thought or in speech, while appearing to our eyes to be a completely non-Torahdike Yid.

    That is why nothing is actually banned. While we must take care “not to put a stumbling block before the blind”, and to guard our eyes and ears from impurities, we engage with the world, even sometimes in the most impure places, in order to accomplish this elevation, which is the purpose of creation.

  69. Alter Klein
    March 15th, 2006 @ 2:06 am

    Reb Menachem,
    Send me an email to alterk@014.net.il with your phone # and I’ll ring you, bli neder.

  70. Alter Klein
    March 15th, 2006 @ 5:21 am

    Steve,
    You mention the Gemarah in Gittin,56b, where Rav Yosef, some say Rav Akiva said that he should haved asked to let the jews alone.

    I don’t understand what you want me to comment on.

    Yes, Gedolim differ on issues. We are supposed to hold like our Rebbaim and their gedolim. The Satmars hold like the Rebbe and the Litvish hold like Rav Moshe when it comes to a dispute between them.

    There is a huge difference when someone says “the gedolim are out of touch on all major issues”. That is insulting. A person wouldn’t be a Gadol if he was out of touch on all major issues. That again doesn’t mean he knows everything. There are no prophets today. I didn’t agree with Rav Ovadia Yosef’s initial political perspectives on the Oslo accords however I recognize that he is a tremendous Gadol. I don’t go around saying that he has “infant like views”. There is a way to be respectful but yet disagree. No one on the blog said you can’t disagree with the Gedolim. Just do it in a respectful manner and lets remember that the purpose of this blog is to stimulate growth, not to be a punching bag for yiddishkeit or Haredi Jewry.

  71. Alter Klein
    March 15th, 2006 @ 6:09 am

    Shoshanna Silcove,
    You mention ” This is an entirely different view than other frum schools of thought that value Torah learning as the chief and primary obligation, as an end in and of itself, and see mitzvot as compulsory, without recognizing their inherent mystical affect on the world. Mitzvot are done, acoording to some non-Chassidic schools of thought, because that is what Hashem commands us, but they are not understood to have any role in purification of the world to a more holy level.”

    I have to respectfully disagree with you. I believe that litvish Jewry sees learning as a primary mitzvah that we are commanded to do, day and night. Every free(that we aren’t involved in other mitzvas) moment, we are commanded to learn. Learning connects us to Hashem. How that connection works, in terms of the “mystical”, we don’t know exactly. The Ramachal’s sefer derech Hashem is an incredible book that plenty of Litvisher people read. It is very “mystical”. Our emphasis is on the here and now, down to earth approach. A litvisher Jew is supposed to say a bracha like all other Jews, with Kavanna. Kavanna is meditation on the good that Hashem has given us.

    I forget the details of the famous story of the Gadol from Lithania who said that a Yeshiva bochur who stops learning in Lituania might cause a Jew in Paris harm.(I apologize if I get the facts wrong but the meaning is still there). We know that learning Torah is one of the 3 things that keep the world standing. I don’t see how any one can say that statement isn’t “mystical” and that we don’t recognize that learning doesn’t elevate the world.

    Of course a non-frum jew who puts on tefillen is doing something for himself. It is planting a seed for the future for his return eventually to yiddishkeit. Putting on Tefillen is also not an end in itself. All 613 mitzvohs are not ends in themselves but commandments by Hashem for us to do which help us and Am Yisrael fulfill our potential. Chabad Chassidus doesn’t have a corner on the market of truth, spirituality or chassidut. It is one part of Klal yisrael. Let’s remember that there are 70 faces to Torah.

    Now regarding “… we engage with the world, even sometimes in the most impure places, in order to accomplish this elevation, which is the purpose of creation.”

    Where in Judaism does a yid have the right or permission to endanger their self or family? We don’t need to engage in the internet to elevate it. Yes, it is probably here to stay, but it is a non-entity. Their are no sparks to elevate. It is a binary number system in silicon chips.

    Do we try to elevate pornography? I don’t think that there are too many Chabad authors that write for pornographic magazines to elevate the sparks there.

    Why don’t Chabadniks try to elevate drugs. Why not use them on Fri nights and at farbreigins to elevate the sparks? We know that this is wrong.

    Yes there are positive uses to the internet. Yes there are very negative elements to it that many families have been ruined by. Yes, there is a chance that someone who looks at improper things might end up doing it elsewhere. However there are plenty of people who are exposed to pornography and other terrible things by accident on the net. Also, many people would be too embarrased to buy pornography but they can access it so easy on the net. There are plenty of people who go through phases in life who if they weren’t exposed to “corrupting” material during that time, they would mature and not fall later.

    Kol Tuv.

  72. Yakov Horowitz
    March 15th, 2006 @ 6:22 am

    Allow me to pull several threads together:

    Alter, you say, “Yes, Gedolim differ on issues. We are supposed to hold like our Rebbaim and their gedolim. The Satmars hold like the Rebbe and the Litvish hold like Rav Moshe when it comes to a dispute between them.”

    This is a blog for ba’alei teshuvah. So, what does a non-Satmar and non-‘litvish’ to do?

    Additionally, you quote the “…famous story of the Chazon Ish and mapping out brain surgery for a doctor.”

    Alter, that is a tough buy-in for many to 1) accept the story as factually 100% true, and not a small kernel of truth that grew taller with time, and 2) to live with the implications of that story were it to be true.

    The story you quote is very different from a published article by a respected person like Rabbi Sherer who clearly connects the dots re: his involvement with Rabbi Kotler.

    To many, the Chazon Ish story represents an extreme position vis-a-vis acceptance of “Daas Torah” is concerned.

    Stating that position firmly implying that others must similarly feel this way will almost certainly get a ‘push-back’ that you (and sometimes I as well) will find offensive.

    TFB said as much — “The difficulty with this post is that both the initial poster and some commenters didn’t take this route, and those who pointed that out were not only chastised but told off, in my case for “disrespecting rabbonim.” If the starting assumption is a strong form of daas torah, and a particular daas torah at that, then that’s the “Shvil hazahav”

    As for TFB’s note to me earlier, “With no personal disrespect intended, I find it sad that there is need for an article to teach adults how to ask for a personal eitzah, and think that is ample confirmation of the infantilization of the charedi community to which I was pointing.”

    No disrespect taken. And I did write the article on daas Torah to bring clarity to a misunderstood topic — among FFB’s and ba’alei teshuvah alike. And, while I would not use the term “infantilization of the charedi community” — I wrote the article partly to bring more “shvil hazhav” to the overall process of seeking Da’as Torah.

    Yakov

  73. Alter Klein
    March 15th, 2006 @ 7:35 am

    Rabbi Horowitz,
    Are you telling me that not everyone on this blog are satmar chassidim?
    Happy Shushan Purim!

    Seriously now, I don’t think everyone has to agree with me. However, lets do it in a respectful, positive manner.

    Also,If the story of the chazon ish is 100 % true, then you know if someone has problems with the implications then you could say the same thing about other facets of our Judaism. I hope we are all searching and following the path of truth and hopefully if we aren’t on the level of changing our lives to fit the truth(we are because that is why most are BT’s) then hopefully we will get there. If my haskafa is wrong then I want to know because I want to do whats right and also have the right principles. I assume all people here agree with me.

    I need to go get my Streimel cleaned now. By the way, anyone know of any good apartments for rent in Williamsburg? Happy Shushan Purim, again!

  74. Steve Brizel
    March 15th, 2006 @ 8:50 am

    Alter-I think that you missed my point. When you say “the Gdolim” in reference to any halachic or hashkafic issue, I think that in all fairness that we recognize that is code language for some Gdolim but not all Gdolim.

  75. Alter Klein
    March 15th, 2006 @ 9:06 am

    Steve,
    This wouldn’t be the 1st time that I missed someones point. It happened atleast one more time to me before.(Just kidding).

  76. Kressel Housman
    March 15th, 2006 @ 10:43 pm

    The Internet is such a mixed blessing in my life. I am doing kiruv here; I’ve invited a number of Shabbos guests to my home via the Internet, and many more people have said they’ve been inspired by my writings. On the other hand, I really am an addict. I spend more of the average day online than I do davening unfortunately. So I’d have to say, yes, I’m living a b’di eved life. I’m not on the level to give this up. May Hashem help that I use this tool only for good purposes and that even my escapes are kosher.

  77. Shoshie
    March 16th, 2006 @ 9:58 am

    Mark,

    You wrote, “I’m calling foul. There is very little bashing of Rabbanim on this blog, which is why it is such a rare occurence that Rabbi Horowitz would step in like this. If you are going to make accusations like this, please supply ample support for your defamatory words.”

    You are correct. I retract my statement. What I meant to say was that this board needs greater rabbinic oversight, but even that, I concede that I was wrong about. From information gleaned recently, I was made aware that there is indeed, a great deal of rabbinic oversight on this board even if it is not immediately apparrant. I apologize for my rash statement.

    tfb,

    At the risk of prolonging an argument that probably neither of us want to get into I will just say that in your initial post, you refer to the Slifkin incident as an example of where Gedolim can be off base because they failed to perceive how their words would be taken.

    On this point I believe you are in need some facts. My husband is an old talmid of Rav Moshe Shapiro who was heavily involved in the ban. I was very troubled by it and I pleaded with my husband to contact Rav Moshe and see if he would explain his motives to him. Rav Moshe agreed to do so and while I will not/cannot reveal the essence of the conversation, suffice it to say that Rav Moshe knew well what was coming and had no regrets at all. For whatever reason, he felt a statement needed to be made and he was willing to make it although he knew that it would shake up the frum world. He also believes firmly that one day their decision will become clear to all.

    You may or may not agree with him [something you may not be able to do either way since you might not have heard him out on the issue] but before you decide that he had no idea what he was doing, I thought it prudent to tell you that in this case, he most certainly did.

    As for the general idea of how much trust we place in our gedolim etc. I have no wish to argue it out here but that wasn’t the point of my post anyhow. My point was only to respond to a person who openly referred to our Gedolim as “misguided”. That is intolerable for a board that ascribes to these values.

  78. Menachem Lipkin
    March 16th, 2006 @ 10:41 am

    Shoshie, I know this wasn’t your intent, but you did open up the Slifkin issue. I have spoken to Rabbi Slifkin on several occasions. The entire episode has had a major effect on me. I’m not going into the whole thing now.

    However, what bothered me the most is how apparently poorly and unfairly he was treated by those who signed the ban. I wonder if your husband can shed any light on why these Rabbis acted as they did, as opposed to why they did what they did.

  79. Shoshie
    March 16th, 2006 @ 11:02 am

    Menachem,

    I’d love to say more but I’m not going into it anymore than what I said. It’ll do no good for anyone. If we meet in person one day [I know your daughter Eytanna – Mazal Tov BTW] perhaps we’ll shmooze.

  80. Yakov Horowitz
    March 17th, 2006 @ 6:07 am

    Dear All:

    Some food for thought before Shabbos re: this huge daas Torah-emunas chachamim-‘eilu v’eilu’-Internet-R. Slifkin-et.al discussion that we have been having all week on this stream:

    I recently met with a well-known educator in the secular world (a non-Orthodox Jew). During our conversation he lamented the fact that “today’s parents don’t have the respect for school administration members ….”

    He attributed it to “yeridas hadoros” (I guess the best way to translate that would be “It ain’t what it used to be”).

    I told him that he was mistaken, and that I thought that the advent of the Internet allowed people in some instances (like, for example, understanding a type of learning disability) to learn 25-40% of what he learned in his entire adult lifetime in about 2 hours. Not all or most, but an awful lot.

    This really changes the dynamics of relationships — especially re: the deference that a parent would have for the professional educators at a meeting discussion developing an educational plan for their child with a learning disability.

    Ten years ago, a similar parent would only have 2% of that information — if they did not spend several days in a great library ‘getting an education.’

    So, this has little or nothing to do with respect, but more to do with the effect of the power of wisdom on the rapidly-changing relationship between professionals and lay persons.

    This ‘big picture’ idea and its ramifications for the Rav/Gadol and their relationship with their Talmid-Talmidah-ba’al habayis-20/30-something-adults is rapidly changing as well, with the advent of Internet, and with Artscoll’s outstanding success in bringing Torah to the english reading public.

    And no Internet ban will change that. Possibly delay a bit. But not for long.

    Wait till you read my “Taking it on the Chin” article.

    Gut Shabbos.

    Yakov

  81. Mendel Zilberberg
    March 17th, 2006 @ 11:03 am

    I agree with you, however I hasten to point out that there are inherent dangers when people who garner information over the internet fancy themselves authorities, by sheer virtue of having read a strongly worded opinion or compilation of facts.

    The situation is further complicated when they use easily acquired knowlege to duel with people who have years of experience.

    This creates two probles, first, the professional has to needlessly debate the issues and win the other person to their side, and second, it does not allow for the very valuable attribute of experience and the ability to differentiate between statistica and an individual case.

    While knowlege may be power and a little knowlege may be dangerous.

  82. Bob Miller
    March 17th, 2006 @ 11:16 am

    Even some people who are skeptics in general will take unsubstantiated internet information at face value, especially when it reinforces their previous biases. Is this akin to the “suspension of disbelief” that goes on when watching TV or a movie?

  83. Bob Miller
    March 17th, 2006 @ 11:47 am

    I found a detailed article on the issue I raised above:
    http://www.cete.org/acve/docs/pab00015.pdf

  84. Rabbi Shmuel Simenowitz
    March 19th, 2006 @ 7:43 am

    “.. With no personal disrespect intended, I find it sad that there is need for an article to teach adults how to ask for a personal eitzah, and think that is ample confirmation of the infantilization of the charedi community to which I was pointing. ”

    Au contraire mon frere – it is a sign of maturity and a realization that we don’t always have all the answers and that sometimes we need a fresh, different, objective perspective

    Alter

    “We know that learning Torah is one of the 3 things that keep the world standing.”

    and chassidus picks up the other 2 – avoda and G’milus chasadim – as Rabbi Meatloaf once said “two out of three ain’t bad” :)

  85. tfb
    March 20th, 2006 @ 6:14 am

    Shoshie, none of the info you provide on R Shapira is news – R Moshe has made many statements to that effect to many people. 1. RMShapira is not “the gedolim”; he signed the first ban, which had minimal impact. Most American charedim had never heard of him before the ban (let alone MO) and on his own he couldn’t have had much impact. The issue is the second ban, signed by “The gedolim.” 2. RMS did indeed understand he was shaking things up, but doesn’t understand the extent of it. He is concerned with a smaller and different group. I grant you that even if he knew the numbers affected, he might have proceeded, but that is circular too. He is thoroughly unfamiliar with the makeup of American Jewry – its history, how things have been trending etc, and therefore has no way of understanding the impact of the ban on life in the US. He is operating from predictions based on the reality in Israel and with the small groups of baalei tshuva and expatriate Americans he is concerned with; he also has absorbed the common Yerushalmi attitude that all american charedim are tinokos she’nishbu anyway, and is pretty oblivious to how matters in the US are different than in Israel. And this is the one person who *did* intend to shake things up and didn’t just wander into it, and even he has no conception of the effect on the largest group affected by the ban as he barely knows they exist.

    “My point was only to respond to a person who openly referred to our Gedolim as “misguided”. That is intolerable for a board that ascribes to these values.”

    Intolerable! And just why?

    What I said is that you don’t need gedolim to point out the dangers of the net, and the solutions that are likely to work are common-sense solutions. It’s hardly disrespect for gedolim that makes me see this, and if you can’t understand that, that’s sad.

    Similarly, the other things I point to are

  86. tfb
    March 20th, 2006 @ 6:28 am

    I’ll put the rest in my response to Alter.

    Alter:

    We weren’t discussing politics, which conceivably has halachic implications. We were specifically discussing common-sense solutions to net use, and educational policies. For the most part, these policies are not set by gedolim; for ex, educational curricula and agenda are set by principals and educators, of varying ages and intelligence and backgrounds. These policies are sometimes at variance with recommendations of gedolim, and sometimes with their belated approval of a status quo into which they had little input. Are you aware, for ex, that R Schach was militantly opposed to the Artscroll project? Are you aware of the degree to which he opposed the current derech halimud in yeshivas? You will find, if you observe more carefully, that the “Gadol hador” and “Posek hador”s advice is followed haphazardly when it suits the agenda of lower-level activists.
    In fact, if you read R Chaim Ozer’s objections to reinstituting a Sanhedrin, his daas torah was that such a development would be terrible, because a Sanhedrin today would land up being run by bureaucrats and secretaries rather than by gedolim. He says this explicitly; how did that stop being daas torah?(Or call it good sense).

    Please note that “It is not for naught that the authentic guides of the Jewish people are characterized as “the eyes of the nation” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah, 1).” This chazal says that the eyes are the most important part of the body, not that they see future trends as was posited earlier in the thread.

    It’s actually the net that makes me write this strongly. We are going to have to stop expecting the schools to raise our children and stop expecting that if we insulate them completely, they will grow into responsible adults. There’s porn in libraries and on newstands too. When I attended charedi schools, I went to the library on my own. Perhaps that’s why I can manage not to download porn, just as I managed not to take home porn from the library. Many charedi schools today do not allow kids to take out books that aren’t on a pre-approved list. I wonder if these kids will grow into adults who do everything thats not on the pre-approved list as soon as the watchdog is taken away. As Shoshanna wrote, a message of fear can be very damaging. A message of confidence is superior; at any rate, it is rapidly becoming our only option.

  87. tfb
    March 20th, 2006 @ 6:31 am

    “Au contraire mon frere – it is a sign of maturity and a realization that we don’t always have all the answers and that sometimes we need a fresh, different, objective perspective”

    I believe you’ve misread the sentence to which you respond.

  88. David Linn
    March 20th, 2006 @ 8:54 am

    TFB,

    I’d be interested in hearing your personal “common sense solutions” for addressing the potential dangers of internet use. I posted a general comment in this regard in the “Understanding the Internet Ban” thread. So, anyone else with some solid common sense solutions, please join in.

  89. tfb
    March 20th, 2006 @ 12:44 pm

    Some of them have been mentioned: you can get a filter. The connection can be limited to one room, where there is more control. But most important, you don’t have to take for granted that kids get a connection when parents do! This discussion is premised on the notion that if there’s a home connection, the kids have access to it. That is in turn premised on the notion that parents can’t be relied upon to set limits on their kids.

  90. NRA Yid
    August 6th, 2006 @ 4:00 pm

    “The internet is a loaded gun.”
    Alter Klein comment #11

    “Browsers don’t kill people. People kill people! (including themselves)”

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