Thoughts on Judaism

Friday, June 01, 2012

Citibank Sages

The brochure for this awesome event related over 50 pages of information on the dangers of the Internet.  Most disturbing were the stories of people who were innocent users, who just had email or news services, or had to use it for work purposes, and inevitably, they spiraled into the abyss of Internet addiction, until they lost their jobs, their families, their homes, and they are now living on the street in a cardboard box.

Some of these sages, chachamim b'aynaihem, even state emphatically that one should rather die than bring the Internet into their homes or use a cell phone.  There were some better, more modern speakers, of course, who had ventured a peek into the current century, and they moderated this view slightly to vigorous discouragement of the Internet, except where it is required for employment.  Of course, others disagreed and said that people should get different employment that does not require one to endanger one's soul, especially considering the wide choices provided by the tremendous education that they give to every student.

I, too, would like to relate stories about the Internet.  Itamar was a young man who sat on a train every day for 3 hours, commuting to yeshiva to help students learn gemora.  The situation did not allow him to carry his entire shas, though he required 4 hours of review of the shas (several mesichtas) and mefarshim every day.  Even so, he incorporated Rambam, comparisons of Rashi in Gemora and Chumash, and other sefarim into his shiurim.  However, he decided that he could not carry all of these books with him on the crowded train.  Then the yetzer hara got to him, and he said, why don't I just get a smartphone and then I can call up all of these sefarim instantly, even if I do not yet know which ones I will need.  He got on the Internet and prepared his lessons.

Rafael was a middle aged man who wanted to study daf yomi, but he traveled much of the time, taking disabled children to doctor's appointments.  Without his rabbi's permission, Rafael purchased a laptop and started accessing  Being a simple baal habas, he sometimes needed help in the form of translation or even a magid.  He found that both were on the site and he sat, read and listened as he waited for his next run.

Mendel was a Lubavitcher who had a secret.  He liked to learn Chitas and Rambam daily, but did not have a way to carry sefarim with him to work.  Nor did he want to open sefarim at his desk, even though he had much down time at his job, spent waiting for phones to ring or waiting for a meeting to begin.  As he stared at the wall in front of him, he thought, maybe I will just take a peak at the long Rambam today.  It started innocently enough.  He got onto and navigated to the Rambam and read the first halacha.  The second halacha was a continuation of the inyan of the first.  Before he realized it, he had read six halachas.  Fortunately, the phone rang at that moment, saving his neshama from gehinom.

Shocking?  Of course it is!  But if we are to understand the greatness of the leaders of our generation, if we are to see with our simple eyes what they see through daas Toreh, then we must not shield ourselves from the truth.  These are not simple knee jerk reactions from people without any knowledge of the subject.  These are sagacious words of those who have appointed themselves, through great mesiras nefesh, to lead the Jewish people in our generation.  These stories could have been prevented.  Our rabbis, chachimim mufla'im, have tried to warn us. But we must do our part.