Of the different approaches in dealing with the dangers of technology, the Stoliner Rebbe is known to have an engaging approach. Seeing it as a reality of life, the Rebbe puts a focus on confronting it rather than avoiding it.
On Motzei Shabbos Parshas Chayei Sarah, Rav Shimon Spitzer, maggid shiur in Stolin, delivered and explained the Rebbe’s approach on dealing with the challenges posed by technology.
The following is a free translation from Yiddish to English of the shiur on technology by Rav Spitzer regarding the Rebbe’s derech in this sensitive area. (Click here for the original shiur in Yiddish). A summary of the shiur appears here.
‘A Different Kind of Battle’
Introduction by R’ Shimon:
In this past week’s parsha, we read how Eliezer repeated a few times, “I am the servant of Avraham”. He had complete ביטול to Avraham. Everything that we will speak tonight is not my own. We will try to explain the Rebbe’s מהלך in technology in general and with smartphones in particular. After I prepared the shiur, I discussed it three times with the Rebbe to make sure that it should be given over properly, and I went over it as well with the Vaad Harabanim (of Karlin). May Hashem help that we shouldn’t stumble. And if chas veshalom there is any stumbling block, I ask that it be blamed on me – the messenger, and not chas veshalom on משלח הגדול.
It is known that our Rebbe has a derech that is a bit different than the winds in the streets today. And there’s a lot of confusion among people regarding some of the issues. We will try be”h to explain the topic.
The first question people ask on our derech is, “How can the Rebbe be lenient on these things? Chassidim always went beyond the letter of the law. And especially in this area with such important issues, and when dealing with such huge stumbling blocks that include the three cardinal sins, suddenly here we take leniencies?? Doesn’t the Rebbe see the facts on the ground, how much destruction and havoc these things are wreaking, how many people and families have been destroyed by the technology?
In addition, we see what a tremendous shallowness the technology brings people to. Once a melave malka used to be a chassidish gathering with stories of Tzadikim, singing, and uplifiting. Today, people are busy with so much shtusim, narishkeitim, and shallowness.
And they also ask, “Why doesn’t the Rebbe at the very least say “בעל נפש יחמיר על עצמו” and not get such devices?
And indeed, we hear all the time in the street terrible stories, people who were learners, had a big family, etc. but since he got this device he left everything…
So what’s the plan? It seems like it’s only getting worse.
So first of all, when dealing with a complicated sugya, it’s important not to make it into one big salad. There are many so many aspects and components… There are things that are not allowed. There are things that don’t “pas”. And there are things that look like they are bad but if you think more into them, there’s really nothing wrong with them. Each component needs to be examined on its own.
Let’s take the Iranian threat. No one denies the huge sakana. But there’s a big disagreement amongst the political and military echelon about the best ways to deal with it. Some say we must wipe it out by air attack. Even though there will be many dead on both sides, we have no choice. Others, who understand the threat just as well, hold that we need to fight from inside, to send computer viruses, kill their top scientists, and enforce punishing sanctions. There is more than one way to wage a battle.
A big mistake people make is thinking that there are those who make battle with technology and others who don’t and who just say – “it will be ok, we can manage it”. No! There is a battle about HOW we should make battle. It’s not a question of being machmir or meikel. Without taking off a drop of the risk, chas veshalom! The Rebbe is leading a battle! And the Rebbe, with his ליכטיגע אויגן understands that we will win this battle davka in a different way.
After 9/11, Bush decided to go after Sadam and topple his regime. But he didn’t give much thought to what would be the day after. Many analysts today say that ISIS is an offshoot of the vacuum created by Sadam’s ouster. His top generals and loyalists banded together and created an even more dangerous regime. The same in Gaza today, when they shoot rockets there’s always an argument. Many say we must go in and destroy Hamas. But others, who are no less aware of the danger, and no less willing to engage in battle, ask “and what will be the day after?” Who will come in their place? Do you want to have the whole Gaza under Israeli control?
It is similar with the technology. Is there anyone who doubts that we must fight it, is there anyone who can say we should be lenient? Of course not! But our Rebbe, with his holy eyes, sees that this battle will be won specifically in a different way, and this different way will hold us strong for the long term.
The way that we hear the most about, and chas veshalom, we don’t mean to be מזלזל in any gedolei yisrael, just like in chazal there were machlokesim between tanaim and amoraim, when we speak of the other way, they say that the smartphones are a חפצה דאיסורא. Many don’t even care if there is a filter or not, it’s a חפצה דאיסורא. The Rebbe holds that this is incorrect ע”פ תורה for 3 reasons:
1) It’s בכלל not Pashut to assur it ע”פ הלכה. Something that is not a necessity or is used only for issurim, then it is pashut that it is assur. But something that can be used for many useful and important things, and that people need, and the need is only growing, it is bichlal not pashut that we can come and assur it. It’s not a simple thing to assur something al pi halacha. If a person puts a filter, then even if there remains a chashash that a person can be nichshol, we can’t assur it. The Rebbe compares it to a car. If we go back in time to since cars came out, all across the world, רבים חללים הפילה, probably millions have been killed, families destroyed. Yet we don’t find that the previous gedolim assured cars. I asked the Rebbe if Chazal would have assured the car if it had been in their time, and the Rebbe said that they wouldn’t have. He brought a proof from ships. Ships were known as a big sakana in the time of chazal and they didn’t forbid it. We can’t come and forbid something that is used for the normal functioning of society. A bunch of years back, there was a story where someone was driving wildly and killed a father of a big family. At the Shiva, someone was very angry and called out “If the car would have been in the time of Chazal, they would have for sure assured it”. A few days later, the Rebbe was giving a shmuz and he was also speaking heatedly about the dangers, and he called out “If Chazal would have been around today, they would have surely instigated strong תקנות regarding driving”… Notice the subtle but important difference between the words of this yungerman and the words of the Rebbe. No one denies that we must speak out and fight the dangers. The question is, do we just come and say “No more cars!” or do we speak about how we can learn to use cars safely so that these tragedies don’t keep happening.
Many קנאים in the street speak about the chazal of איכא דרכא אחרינא, and they forbid even taking a job in a place with internet, and the like.. Of course, we are not speaking of an open device. We are talking about erliche yidden who use devices that are filtered to the best of their ability. The Gemara in Baba Basra 57, doesn’t say that if the way is longer or more difficult that one is still obligated to take the other way. It doesn’t say this in any of the Rishonim. A person who needs it and it makes his life easier, it’s not pashut to say איכא דרכא אחרינא. The Gemara asks, if he doesn’t have another way, he’s an anus. Asks Rav Moshe Feinstein, Even Haezer Siman 56, what do you mean he’s an anus? He shouldn’t go! אבזריא דעריות! One of the 3 most chamur sins! And even if he needs to go for parnasa or other needs, an onus of money doesn’t push away other issurim. (The street uses words like יהרג ועל יעבור about getting these devices). Answers R’ Moshe, we are not talking about being עובר on an איסור. We are only speaking of a chashash michshol, and a chashash is not enough to prevent someone from normal day to day needs.
2) Forbidding it won’t bring the solution. It’s something people can’t be without. Now it’s these devices. Tomorrow it will be something else. The Rebbe says, it’s gonna get worse – and a LOT worse. Technology is moving forward at a frightening pace. And if we fight only about specific devices, then when it becomes impossible to be without such a device, then we’ll need to change the fight and say, “ok, that we can have, but not the next one”… The world keeps changing. We need to develop a plan that covers all future scenarios, because the types of devices and the amount that we need them just keeps on growing. At first they tried to forbid internet, then they tried to forbid computers at home, then they tried to forbid phones with internet, then smartphones… It is always changing. And yes, it is painful. The Rebbe said to me “Halevai, these devices were never created!” But now it’s here, and that’s the fact and reality. The Rebbe said to me, “This device is here for a very short time , it will become a lot worse. And many of these things will become necessities.” So banning the devices, each new type that comes out, won’t bring the solution. In 10 years from now, if someone will take out a device from today, they will laugh at him. Try to think about what kind of devices we used 10 years ago!
We’re not speaking about regular people, the Rebbe has holy eyes, eyes of a Tzadik, he sees the whole picture, he’s sees a distant view. ‘Assuring’ won’t bring the solution. It won’t hold, and people won’t be able to hold by it.
Besides for that, it brings a terrible זילותא דביה דינא. It brings a terrible zilzul in the gedolei yisrael. There always were those who didn’t listen to the gedolim, but the situation today has never been like this! Even people from the same community, the same chassidus, simply don’t listen to their leaders, they just פייף אן. It’s a very painful situation. If we are speaking about things that people need, and it just becomes more and more of a necessity, and thousands of others have it, it becomes a terrible zilzul. People can’t hold by the issurim, and it’s just getting worse.
3) Once a sheigitz, what’s the difference? – הכל שווה: This third nekudah is not the main thing, but it’s an important point as well. The Gemara in Pesachim 11 says that one is not allowed to מקיז דם in a בכור, since it can make a מום in the בכור. The Chachamim argue with Rav Yehudah and say “יקיז, but he should be careful not to cause a blemish”. Rashi explains: אדם בהול על ממונו. If you assur even when he doesn’t make a blemish, he will do it anyway. And once he goes against chazal, he won’t be careful and do it in a way that makes a מום as well, since he’ll think it’s all the same. If you assur these things, and it’s his money, his parnasa, his inyan, he’ll do it anyway. And once he’s doing it anyway, he won’t care if it has a filter or not. We see people who need it, who can’t hold back from using it, and they decide that since they’re anyway a “sheigitz”, what’s the difference if it has a filter or not? But Chas Veshalom! These devices can be the worst of the worst if they don’t have a filter, yet there are hundreds of yidden who use it properly, על טהרת הקודש, for their normal needs. But if you say it’s assur, so he will feel there is no more נפקא מינה how he uses it.
So again, of course we must hold fierce battle with it. But the question is how? It’s like a country at war. Some people want to fight the enemy head on, at the border. Others go from the other side, to fight with ambushes from within. Those who are watching the main front think that the second group are not fighting at all. But of course they are! Come and I’ll show you what kind of war they are fighting! Yes, it could be that the other group will take longer to achieve their goals, a “long way that is short”, but the reality is that we are definitely fighting the battle.
So what is the way? The battle is from within. And this kind of battle will last for us and our children for generations. And it won’t matter what kind of devices or technologies there will be in the future. But we must fight this battle. If we don’t fight it, we will surely lose! But if we adapt this second way, and we have siyata dishmaya and go in the ways of tzadikim, we’ll for sure succeed!
To understand this second way, we can take once again the analogy of the car that we spoke of before. The car is a dangerous vehicle and it causes many deaths. People do many things to try to prevent accidents and injuries. There are three main ways that the world deals with the dangers of cars. And these three ways are the same three ways that we need to adapt in our battle with technology.
- Safety Features. When cars first came out there were no hand-brakes or even seat-belts. But as technology advanced and awareness of the dangers increased, new safety features were – and are – always being developed. Today, many cars even come with radar that warn you if you get too close to a car in front of you, or beeping if you come to close to something when backing up. The cars comes today with air-bags, passenger air-bags, side air-bags, warning lights for overheating, and so many protective features that we don’t even know about. Do all these safety features help? They do help somewhat, but of course not fully. There are still many accidents and many deaths. But we try our best to install safety features to protect ourselves as much as possible. We are always working on new safety features and we can never sleep.
- Awareness & Education. There is the NSC – the National Safety Council, that gives out slogans, advertising and awareness: Don’t drink and drive. Texting and Driving Kills. Stop, Look and Cross. Make noise, posters, it helps, it reminds… courses, safety,
- No License. With all the safety features, and with all the awareness campaigns, there are still people who don’t–or shouldn’t–have a license to drive, they don’t belong on the streets. Either they are wild drivers who don’t abide by the laws, or they are still underage, or they don’t have the maturity or cognitive development required for safe driving. If a person like that is caught driving, he is stripped of his license and removed from the street. There’s not always much we can do about such people, there’s a problem enforcing it, but that’s the fact. Some people shouldn’t drive.
The same three preventive approaches apply to technology as well. Because we are dealing with something that is here to stay. Does anyone ask today, “Why can’t people just use horses and buggies? Why cars, which are so much more dangerous?”. No. Everyone understands that this is the way of the world, we can’t change the reality. These are the facts on the ground and it will only become worse. We have no choice but to fight from within.
1) Safety Features. The ABC’s is protection: filters, reporting software, etc… The more the frum community will demand good filtering solutions, the more solutions will become available and the better they will become. (But if the frum community continues to just say everything is ‘assur’, the demand for filters will go down and their level of quality will decrease as well). Of course there are still accidents with cars, even with all the safety features, and the same for filters. Filters are never foolproof and there are often holes, but can one compare a phone with a filter to without a filter? There’s nothing to talk about, that’s the ABCs. And those who know will testify that the Rebbe was the first one to push for filtering solutions for the frum world, and he put a lot of kochos to push for the development of filters and strengthened the hand of those working in this field. He was working on this still at a time when the frum community didn’t let any of the filter companies advertise in the frum papers ‘in case’ someone will chas veshalom get internet as a result. They were fighting that there shouldn’t be filters, but the Rebbe insisted there must be solutions.
The Rebbe feels that all the kochos (and money) used for fighting technology should be used instead to make better and better filters for the frum community. We can do better, and we must do better, both in making technology cleaner, and in improving the user experience so that people are able to work smoothly even with the protection in place.
2) Awareness & Education. After a person has a filter, there are still problems, loopholes, glitches, and unintentional exposure can happen. And then there’s the issue of “time wasting”, and many other issues that we’ll go into shortly. We must deal with all these problems, each on their own. Because these problems will always be around, whether with the old devices, the current devices and with all future devices.
Let’s take for example the problem of “time wasting”. By our Rebbe, the issue of wasting time is one of the worst things. He is always speaking about it, at every tisch, at every opportunity, pushing us to make good use of every moment of our time. There are people who hear the Rebbe always speaking about not wasting time and not dealing with narishkeiten and they ask themselves (as if they are asking the Rebbe), “Look, there’s no way out of this. Because we allow the technology, the Rebbe has to keep speaking about it and keep chiding the chassidim about it, and with all that, people are still wasting so much time! Wouldn’t it be so much better to just forbid the technology and finished?! We say it’s allowed, and then we need to chide people all the time about wasting time!” This is a big mistake. Besides the fact that the other way (of just forbidding) doesn’t work, we have to understand that there are situations that call for a constant battle. Many people think that a battle needs to be fought and won and that’s it. But many times it’s not that way. There are some battles that are constant. And that is indeed the plan, to wage a constant battle against it – and the battle never ends. When people hear this, they get very upset. “What do you mean, it never will end?” But yes, there is such a thing. Our Rebbe has a wide-reaching understanding, more than regular people. When we speak about the constant war with the Arabs, we need to understand that there are battles that don’t end. “What do you mean? What will be??” That’s what will be. We will continue to fight them, and that is the way! We will keep fighting again, and again and again.
Why is this different than cars? Someone sees a new class of fresh drivers getting their licenses, and he hears the lecturer explaining to them how careful they must be when driving and how dangerous it is to go against the laws and safety regulations, and he laughs and says, “You’re wasting your time. 50 years ago I heard the teachers explaining the same things and look what tragedies have happened, look at the accidents, it’s one big churban! We keep telling people to be careful and look at what’s happening!”.
Those who go with the other way, they are convinced that if they fight to ban everything they will finish the battle. So why, I ask you, are we here still after 10 years that they’ve been fighting this battle, and they are still putting up posters and making hafganos? “What happened? I thought we already ‘assured’ it. It’s already over, who would dream of taking internet into their house, let alone their pockets?” I don’t mean to make leitzunos. But I mean to bring out the point that they also understand the same thing. It’s a constant battle. They keep making ads, they keep speaking, keep fighting. Either way, it won’t end, it won’t go away. So there’s no difference in this respect. The only difference is that if you make the fight about specific devices, then tomorrow the devices change and you have to change your battle plan, this is now mutar, but this is assur. But if we battle on the specific points that need battling, and we wage a strong battle on these points, we’ll continue fighting and continue talking about them, the Rebbe will keep speaking about it, and we’ll speak with friends, and in our homes, etc. That’s what we must do, and if we don’t, we’ll fall.
3) There are people who should NOT have technology. Just like there are those who don’t belong on the street. There are people who are not allowed to have a credit card. These people have made such a churban with a credit card, they will destroy their lives and the lives of their families. In America there’s a big argument about gun control. More open or more controlled? Who is allowed to car a gun? But there are people whom everyone agrees dare not have access to guns. But those who can use them wisely, can have them. It’s not a mitzvah and not an aveira. The same with the technology. The Rebbe repeated a few times. It’s not a mitzvah and not an aveira. If someone doesn’t need it, he surely shouldn’t have it. There are so many michsholim, why should he put himself into a matzav where he can fall? But if he needs it and uses it properly, Ok. And if not, it’s terrible, worse than terrible. This is all simple and clear.
Tzadikim say that there are things that are not aveiros but can bring to the worst aveiros. The same can be said of the technology. There’s no question that one must be extremely careful when using technology. But as far as the ‘cheftza’, it can’t be said to be an aveira.
Those people who cannot use technology properly, should not have it! Hashem should help that they shouldn’t have it. But what can we do? Often these people won’t listen to us. In the same way that many drivers who shouldn’t be on the street remain on the street. But it’s not a question on this “derech”.
The first thing we mentioned (Safety Features) and third point (some people shouldn’t have it), are simple. But the main battle is in the second way. Fighting the מהות, to understand where the problems lie and fight them, one by one. Each one of us has the achrayus on ourselves, and the ערבות of the כלל, for ourselves, for our children and for our future.
We need to divide the problems of technology into categories, so we can know what needs to be fought. “Know your enemy”.
Those who have it, need to know what to be aware of and what to be careful with. And if they truly are careful, then they are the same as those who don’t have it at all. There’s no difference! Someone who has it and is very careful is a tremendous עובד השם. And there are hundreds of Yungeleit like that. We maybe don’t see them because they rarely take out their phones. Many have told me that they don’t want to be in any Whatsapp groups, it’s stam shtusim, they don’t want to waste time. I know many, many yungerleit who have the technology and use it responsibly. But since the temptation is very big, let’s not fool ourselves, those who don’t need it shouldn’t get it. Just because it’s mutar, you need to get it? It can bring to the worst things! Even with a filter there can be many michsholim. So if you don’t need it, why be a נער and get it? You think you’re making your life better but you’re making it much worse.
So what’s the גדר of “needing it?” There is no answer to this question. Every person should use their own sechel (which, the Rebbe pointed out to me, is quite a frightening proposition) to know if they need it or not, and how much they need access to. Each one of us needs to think very well and weigh the potential benefits against the potential loss. For example, a person thinks he will save 5-10 minutes a day by having Waze, meanwhile he ends up burning 3 hours a day because of the rest of the technology that he introduced now to his life. And the same goes for all the possible michsholim of using the technology. It’s not that it’s a חפצה of איסור, but you are putting yourself in a sakana for no reason. Think about what you’re doing. Make a cheshbon of the benefits against the possible loss. If you feel you will gain, fine. It doesn’t make it a mitzvah, but it’s also not an aveira. If someone does an aveira, then it’s an aveira. Otherwise not.
Many times a person thinks he’s a king, he has all the technology, all the groups, but he’s the opposite of a king. He becomes a slave to it. People who let go of the technology have often found that they feel like a new person, a free person! So those who don’t need it, what are you doing? Why fill your life with narishkeit? I once tried making an early check-in for El Al to save a few minutes waiting in line. I ended up spending hours trying to set it up, wrong number, wrong links, etc… and in the end when I came to the airport I saw I didn’t gain any time. They made me stand in line anyway! So if you really gain from it, fine. But if not, get rid of it! Do we need to be so small-minded as to put everything into black and white boxes of “mutar” or “assur”? Think for yourself. Make a cheshbon. We can’t tell each person what exactly to buy, which apps he needs, etc. Don’t be a נער. Make a chesbon of the benefits of each new technology against the potential הפסד it can cause you.
When using technology, we need to be aware and battle against the following 11 risk factors:
1) ראיות אסורות. It’s not worth it. The תענוג רוחני that a person has when he is guarded is so great, the pleasure of a Shabbos or Yom Tov, the spiritual feelings of being א טפח העכער פון דער וועלט, so holy, so clean. Those who are clean are clean, it’s a different world. Their davening is different, their speech is different, they are ליכטיגע מענטשען. And in today’s world, one who is careful is zoche to such special siyata dishmaya. The Alter Rebbe says that one who comes even with a משהו can become so uplifted, and there are many, many such people, we can find them all around. And I’ll tell you a secret, a chelek of these people have such devices. I’m only saying it to be mechazek. Of course it’s not a חכמה to start-up with the Yetzer Hara, the Rebbe told me clearly, it’s not a חכמה to start up with the Yetzer Hara! But we’re speaking of someone who has it. What can we do, he has it. And yes, it’s possible to stay clean. Many people who have the technology still danced with sweat on Simchas Torah, uplifted people, there are many such people.
2) Time Wasting. Second in the list (although I can’t know the exact order of what are the biggest and smallest issues) is the inyan of time wasting. In other places, it could be they don’t even speak about this concept. Everything revolves around chumros and such. But there is an issue of time wasting, and it is chamur. חמור ביותר. And people give up their whole lives and it’s בזיונות. Forget how it looks from the outside. But what have they done to themselves, to their lives? Every day. Each day, another bit wasted, and another bit wasted. We can use technology the other way around as well. There are more opportunities for chessed, and people today can spend hours on the bus listening to shiurim. It was never possible before. I get feedback from all over, people listen to the shiurim by phone or mp3s. I know people who miss the times when they had to travel to kollel in different cities, they used to listen to shiurim and darshanim to warm them up, but now they learn in the city and don’t have this opportunity. We can use our time wisely, and people waste it with emptiness with the narishkeiten that we get caught up with. People think they are enjoying it and they aren’t even enjoying it. Try a different way! There are hundreds who use technology to make better use of their time, wasting time is terrible. If it brings you to time-wasting, you must deal with it! We all need to fight this phenomenon.
3) ריכוז. Loss of concentration and focus.The technology gives us the ability to be updated about every little thing, every time someone spills a bottle of milk in Haifa, it enables us to be updated with every shtus and narishkeit that is mutar to know about in the world. It looks like a show, we see people sitting even in shul, wait – an update, takes out his phone, puts it back, takes it out. “Someone said something about someone”. That’s the news. A person can lose everything, he loses his entire koach of concentration and is no longer מיושב. Why? Do you think you’ll really be happy knowing every second what’s happening? A normal person has a time for everything. Reb Avadyah Yosef used to hear the news in the morning, someone used to come and tell him the news, he was a Gadol, he needed to know. But a person who is always checking, can’t take anything of substance into him. And let’s not forget how our children see this, if we act this way, especially when we are with them, they will also lose their ריכוז. (Maybe that’s why are there so many children today with ADHD). When children lose their ability to focus, it ends up costing the parents thousands of dollars just for starters, before anything else. In school, they need help from the earliest age, and private teachers. Once we destroy a child’s ability to focus, it’s destroyed. At least some people realize what this is doing to them and they put their phones on still so that when they want to finally be עוסק in shtusim בדחילו ורחימו, they’ll do it then. But what does a person need to be עוסק in it 24 hours a day??
4) The danger of Addiction. It can mamash become a disease. Something actually changes in the brain, the brain gets use to craving these things. He can’t live without it, and he needs increasingly higher “doses” of it, like wine, he needs the feeling that he had before, the drama, and the drama of the drama. And it pulls him to more and more. This can happen with news online, or even with the news-hotlines on the phone, people get addicted to these things. Normally, addiction is defined as behaviors that disrupt a person’s normal life, like if he can’t behave normally, he can’t run a house, so they decide to call him “addicted”. Why did they decide that this is the definition? Because if it doesn’t disrupt his life, who cares? But an erliche yid, if it disturbs his Torah and Teffila, so he’s also addicted! Because for a frum yid, this is a normal life, and he can’t lead a normal life. If he can’t stop thinking in middle of שמונה עשרי and חזרת הש”ס, and even on Shabbos he feels ‘phantom vibrations’ 10 times, then he’s addicted, at least על פי תורה. And this is a bit of a disease. There are ways to get out of addiction, it’s not the end of the world. But why do we get ourselves into these situations in the first place??
Again, each of these issues is going to get worse and worse as technology advances, but as with everything, if we’re aware of the issues and we deal with the dangers, we can be safe. Just like we drink wine at a Kiddush, a person needs to know that if he drinks too much he can become addicted. Everyone knows that if you start smoking you can become addicted. If we start with these devices, we need to know that there’s a danger of addiction. It has nothing to do with mutar or assur. It’s just a fact. But an erliche Yid who needs to have it, should know that he can succeed 100% not to become addicted to it, and there are hundreds of such people. But to go for no reason and put yourself into these dangers? You can get pulled in! Is it so important to take this risk?
5) כבוד בית הכנסת. The עוולה is ריזיג. This needs a big tikkun. Each person has his own אחריות on the issues of כבוד בית הכנסת.
But again, we need to think about each component on its own, and not make a salad out of it. When we focus on each פרט, we can battle with it normally and fight a pinpoint battle. For example, any type of phone is a problem for כבוד בית הכנסת. If a kosher phone rings in middle of shmoneh esrei, it has a טעם? It’s terrible. But does it have to do with a smartphone specifically? No. So we need to wage a strong battle for the kavod of the shul and of the davening. We hang up signs, we give קנסות, we try, we do what we can, and that’s what everyone doing. Why? Because you can’t forbid cell phones altogether, that’s the nature of the world. So we must wage battle as much as we can that there should be more כבוד. And if we try hard, we’ll succeed. And if we don’t succeed fully, we’ll succeed as much as we can. But if we don’t wage battle, shmoneh esrei will truly look like a לייצנות, so we have to fight! Whether it’s לגבי turning off phones, whether it’s לגבי people who talk in middle of davening, we wage battle. And battle doesn’t mean we pick the guy up and burn him at the stake, we tell him off and we try our best. And with technology it’s the same thing. People get confused between ס’פאסט נישט to it’s one of the ג’ עבירות חמורות. The כבוד בית הכנסת is a separate issue. And we need to have it in mind, each one of us, because it’s the Ribono Shel Olam’s Kavod!
6) Shallowness, emptiness. There is a churban today connected to “shallowness”. People’s general level keeps getting lower. The level of people’s speech, jokes, etc. In the past, let’s say in every shul there were one or two people on a lower level, and we knew that he could occasionally say something inappropriate but it was mostly ignored. But today, everyone is connected to everyone, so everyone sees and says over everyone’s narishe vertlach, and it’s the whole time. Instead of one such vertle a month it becomes 100 a day! You know what happens to such a person, to his whole mehalech? The way he speaks, the way he approaches normal things? And not just jokes. Stam narishkeiten and shtusim, people send around the whole time. The Rebbe is the whole time ‘koching’ about this. Think about this issue of shallowness on its own. Do you want to be like that? And if you’re like that, do you realize that your children will be worse? 100%! Just shallowness. Forget everything else, we’re not talking about forbidden things. Just narishkeiten. Such a person becomes a מהות of a narishe mentch. For exampleת with these devices a person can record, take pictures, take videos… Today, when any little thing happens, ten hands come out with phones to snap pictures and videos, the whole thing turns into a show. Imagine a siyum, and everyone is standing around with the phones and videoing. What גדר does this go into? Is it assur? No. Is it Bitul Torah? no, he would anyway not be learning. ראיות אסורות? ביטול זמן? It’s none of these, but it’s shallowness. We lose our level. You want to be a נערישער? People used to act נעריש once in awhile, but today people act נעריש morning, noon and evening. On this we need to battle. But those who wage war on specific devices, so when it comes to frum-news-hot-lines and such, since it’s not בשר טריפה so it’s mutar, even though people can sit and פארבריינג about politics and narishkeit. Shallowness is an issue on its own. And we should be fighting this battle not just for ourselves, but for each other. We should all feel, “Why does our community need to be on such a low level? Why do we deserve that?”
7) Losing our ‘eidlekeit’. Video clips, always looking and watching… It might not be assur, but these are things that are not good for our נשמות. To see things that take away the eidlekeit of kedusha, whether it’s people getting killed, or people laughing at other people’s misfortunes or “fails”, it makes us totally different people. Always watching these things makes us מטומטם.
8) Our Children copy us. Our children see that we מאכט זיך נעריש and they will do the same, they have a live example of time wasting and being נעריש. And later, we will pay for it, big time.
9) רגש דקדושה If a person uses his חושים (seeing, hearing, feelings) for narishkeiten, his חושים get used for that and then he can’t use his חושים for kedusha. If he uses it for shtusim, he won’t have it for holiness.
10) ס’פאסט נישט. Many things we do with technology simply don’t ‘pas’ for a chassidishe yungerman or woman. Why? It just simply doesn’t pas.
11) Attention to our children. The Rebbe asked me to add this פרט as well. People who are taken over by technology don’t give the attention to their children that our children so desperately need from their parents. He comes home after a whole day at work and wants to unwind a little… “What’s the problem? You can look at my phone, there’s nothing inappropriate or assur.” Yes, but the price is so expensive. Kids so desperately need attention from their parents. All the mechanchim today are crying about this. This is simple and clear. If we waste our attention on this instead, it’s terrible.
This whole list of problems is נוגע each and every day. It would be כדאי to keep a list of these 11 issues in our pockets just to remind ourselves what we need to hold battle against. If we don’t, we’ll surely fail. Our way is to wage a strong and constant battle against these problems. The Rebbe speaks the whole time about it, and it’s not because he just heard another bad story that happened, but rather because this is the way to wage battle. We need to wage battle against time wasting, and of course against seeing anything inappropriate. We need to battle for כבוד בית הכנסת, we need to battle against shallowness. We need to battle gainst using our חושים for narishkeiten. And if we don’t fight ALL these things, we won’t succeed in the battle. And there are many people who battle these things and are very successful.
A דרך means a path. There are many paths, litvish, chassidish, one chassidus, the other chassidus. A path means that if you take the path, you’ll come to your destination. If you don’t take the path, you won’t get there. Our path is to allow technology for those who need it, but to fight against all the problems, each problem on its own. If someone won’t fight, they won’t get to where they need to get to. And it is the same with every path. A chassidus is not just a place to come and the Rebbe puts on you teffilin, we give you a path. And each person has free choice. And we must wage battle, all of us together, it’s our אחריות, each one for the other one as well. If we see something in shul that needs tikkun, we need to deal with it with politeness, and we need to wage battle on the מהות of all these things.
To sum up:
There’s no question that it’s a huge danger. And we must battle. The question is what kind of battle? Many just try to ban everything, and this kind of battle is בכלל not simple. If we want to succeed long-term, there’s another way to wage battle. How? 3 ways. (1) Protection and Filtering. (2) Awareness of the issues to battle – all 11 things we spoke, a constant battle that we have to always wage and (3) there are people who are simply not allowed to have it. There isn’t much we can do about that, but if they can’t use it responsibly, it’s terrible that they have it. And in these 3 areas is where the battle lies.
For all other questions and more detailed issues, we have a Rebbe, we have a Va’ad Rabbanim, there are Poskim, there are big people to ask. I just wanted to try to give out some clarity of the הגדרה and הסברה of this ענין.