Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Back to the Stone Age!

Extremists who glorify the destruction of useful property as a Kiddush HaShem are going to end up destroying us. And yet that seems to be the direction the Charedi world is going in.

I know that they think cell phones are evil. Despite how ridiculous that sounds to most normal people, I can understand why they see them that way. Just to mention a few of the problems this technological advancement has created:

Half Shabbos. That is the term applied to Frum Jews – mostly young people – who are so addicted to texting that they can’t stop doing it even on Shabbos.

But even without the Chilul Shabbos issue. The addiction causes huge amounts of wasted time - often chattering about nothing!

And then there is the access to internet. We all know the dangers that contains. What makes the cell phone particularly insidious is that internet access is so easily accessible and so easy to hide. Porn can be seen in an instant in the palm of your hand - and then deleted an instant later without anyone being the wiser.

So what is the solution to this problem? In the black and white - all or nothing world of Charedim it means destroying any possible use of the medium in a glorified fashion. Here is what one Yeshiva head in Israel did. From YWN:

Bochrim of the Darkei Shalom Yeshiva in Telshe Stone on motzei Shabbos took part in a seudas mitzvah as they called it marking the burning of their cellular telephones.

After a schmooze from the mashgiach of the yeshiva, HaRav Yerucham Schechter, the talmidim collected their cellular telephones and placed them in a collective fire to remove the evil influence from their midst.

According to Chadrei Chareidim, rabbonim of the yeshiva took part in the event, labeled a Seudas Kiddush Hashem.

But it isn't only cellphones. Other media under attack are computers and TVs. They too are in the category of evil. More from YWN:

Rav Amnon Yitzchak appears to now be directing his energy against televisions in people’s homes. Apparently the rav is planning a major event next much, during which 1,000 televisions will be thrown into a giant dumpster, Chadrei Chareidim reports.

The event is planned to take place on 10 Kislev, Tuesday, December 6th, in front of Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA).

Not that this is the first time something like this happened. Just last year another Yeshiva head did virtually the same thing with laptops - adding that it was better to be a street cleaner than to get a job requiring the use of a computer. That was particularly insidious because he teaches the newly religious who are naïve and impressionable about what is right and wrong in Judaism. They have no frame of reference about it other than what their particular mentor tells them. How sad that this myopic understanding of Judaism is sold to them as truth to the exclusion of all else!

Sometimes I feel like these extremists would be happiest living in the Stone Age!

I am not going to reiterate the benefits of these media. Been there and done that. We all know that there is good and bad contained in them. We also know that sometimes the consequences of abusing those media can be devastating.

The point here - as always - is not to deny the downside of these things. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence will recognize that. The problem is that in the world of extremes that is increasingly defining the Charedi world - the solutions to these problems is to eliminate the medium entirely. The idea of using these media judiciously does not occur to them. Either that or they simply consider the risk of ‘contamination’ to great.

This approach has unintended consequences. Very negative ones. I believe that this approach is at least in part responsible for things like Burka ladies. Those are women who have gotten the message. They have learned that the all or nothing approach applies to everything – including modesty in dress. They ‘get it’. There is no gray… so they cover up their entire bodies - face included.

Not only does their approach contribute to the Burka lady phenomenon, it also contributes to the Off the Derech (OTD) phenomenon. Here is what ‘Project Yes’ director Rabbi Yakov Horowitz said last year about the laptop trashing event:

I see no need to comment on the ceremony itself other than to condemn it and the extremist and violent message it sends impressionable young people in the strongest of terms. We are not well served conducting ceremonies – especially in venues that will be spread worldwide in a matter of moments – that invoke images of book burnings and the like...

If I was asked al regel achas (lit. “on one foot”) to list the “Top Five” causes of kids going off the derech, they would be, in order:

1. Child abuse/molestation/neglect
2. Lack of simchas chayim/shalom bayis at home
3. Poor parenting or overbearing parents
4. Undiagnosed or unaddressed learning disabilities.
5. Extremism (lack of flexibility in raising children and forcing them into the same mold)

With that in mind, I suggest that following Rabbi Feinhandler’s dangerous advice of a) rejecting jobs for adults that require Internet use (read: almost any job that earns north of $30,000- annually) and b) allowing one’s children to be raised uneducated to the extent that they become “street cleaners” will directly trigger at least 4 out of the 5 risk factors.

Need I say more?