Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Welcome to the Gates of Hell

Rav Michal Lefkowitz is considered by Charedim to be one of the Gedolei HaDor. To be honest I don’t know that much about him. Perhaps he has published some Seforim containing great Chidushei Torah or Seforim containing Shailos and Teshuvos... I don’t know. But he is often one of the names one finds at the bottom of a Kol Korei – an edict or pronouncement published in the Charedi media in Israel.

Lately I seem to have noticed his name mentioned a lot. His latest pronouncement is located at YWN. Here is that post in its entirety:

According to a front page article in the erev Shabbos HaMevaser, HaGaon HaRav Michal Lefkowitz Shlita stated the internet’s threat to kedushas Am Yisrael is far worse than the threat from television, adding those using it bring themselves down to a low level, compromising their share in “both worlds” because in this world, the internet takes one down to a low place and of course, the spiritual world to come. The Rav warns that if not brought under control the internet chas v’sholom may result in the loss of an entire generation. Those using the internet separate themselves from the klal bnei Torah, the Rav adds.

The article goes on to quote the gadol hador, who addresses the so-called ‘chareidi websites’, accusing those sites of taking down the entire generation – calling upon every rav in every community to make his voice heard clearly on the matter.

The article goes on to quote R’ Gershon Edelstein Shlita, who relates to the internet as the “opening to the gate of gehenom”.

For the record, I never heard of Rav Edelstein either. It would be quite helpful if someone would inform me why these two names (and many others who are listed as signatories on other edicts) have earned such veneration.

But I digress.

I am not going to repeat my position on this issue. I’ve done that more times than I can count. Suffice it to say that I agree with many but not all of their criticisms - and am completely opposed to their solutions as public policy.

This pronouncement is by far the biggest condemnation of the internet that I have seen to date. It is in line with my analysis of the hard right that I have written about recently. Each successive comment by the hard right is more condemning than the last. And will probably result in increased rejection of Daas Torah by the Charedi masses. (Yes - the core will remain loyal but as I’ve said in the past - I believe that they are in the minority.)

Think about it. If one is to believe that Rav Lefkowitz actually said and believes this - it means that every Jew that uses the internet is compromising his Olam HaBa – and is a Poresh Min HaTzibur who is is participating in lowering Kedushas Yisroel. Even if he frequents only Charedi websites. They are ‘taking down the entire generation’! Those who use the internet stand virtually at the precipice of hell!

No Charedi that ever posts a comment here can possibly agree with that. No matter how right wing he or she is. And yet – this is Daas Torah on this issue. Rav Lefkowitz is not a Daas Yachid here. On this issue virtually all the Israeli Charedi rabbinic leaders are of a single mind. They absolutely forbid internet use!

I am not even sure that Rva Lefkowitz and Rav Edelstein allow it for livelihood reasons. How could they? Is Parnassa a reason to allow one to stand at the gates of hell?

Lest someone say that Rabbis Lefkowitz and Edelstein were only talking to Israelis… I didn’t see them qualifying their comments that way. Hell is hell, isn’t it?

As for American rabbinic leaders like those on the Agudah Moetzes - they never contradict the Israeli Gedolim. Privately they may not fully agree but they never publicly challenge their edicts. Besides, they agree with the sentiments. Americans rabbinic leaders vilify the internet in similar terms even if they never actually ban it.

These rabbinic leaders are not naïve. They know all the counter arguments. They realize that there are good sites available – even sites with much Torah content. And yet they present a virtually united front on this issue. They are 100% four square opposed to it!

You hear that, De’iah VeDibur?

For those who don’t know - De’iah VeDibur is the Israeli Yated’s English language website.

The editor of that website, Mordecai Plaut, in a statement published on the internet recently excluded himself from the ban against Charedi websites. He gave a lengthy explanation of why. I don’t think Rav Lefkowitz buys his explanation. Not after this. Bedsides who is going to access that website? Not anyone who is a member in good standing of the Torah world – according to Rav Lefkowitz.

And yet I doubt very strongly that Mr. Plaut will discontinue it. He knows full well that good and decent Charedim are on the internet to stay. No amount of haranguing in the world is going to change that.

Sure- some people who use the internet may have the will power to quit. And there is a community of Charedim that do not use it and never will. But the vast majority of Charedim do. And they will continue to do so.

Is Daas Torah the wave of the future? I don’t think so. Is it in jeopardy? I think so. You can only cry ‘wolf’ so long before people start realizing there is no wolf.