Sunday, February 10, 2013

Does Owning a TV Matter?

Ad from PTI where R' Schneierson is a Shoel U'Meishiv
Update - I changed the title of the post because the original title did not measure up to my Darkei Noam rules. I apologize to Rabbi Schneierson for any discomfort this may have caused him. 

I’m not going to comment on the substance of Rabbi Daniel Schneierson’s post on YWN. People can make their own judgments about the importance of chemistry between a dating couple.  I will just say that a lot of what he says has merit - but I reject the idea that chemistry is not important.

What troubled me about his essay is the following offhand comment which he puts into parentheses: Nowadays no one really frum has a TV…

With this comment he has just wiped out of Orthodoxy most of observant Jewry including many Charedim. (I don't know him personally but if he not Charedi - he sure sounds like it in this post.) 

I am not going to debate the value of TV. I’ve discussed that issue many times. Suffice it to say that many of the criticisms of the right are true. But just like the internet, there is both good and bad in TV. And just like the internet, it ought not be banned or treated like Chilul Shabbos to own one as Rabbi Schneierson does.

The problems with TV do not begin and end with Charedim. Nor even with Jews. There are many people who feel that TV is nothing more than a vast wasteland. And that one could spend their time much more productively without one. You don’t have to be a Charedi Jew to know that.  Nor is it lost on decent people of all religions that there is way too much immorality on TV. I’m not going to argue any of that because it’s true.

But to make a blanket statement that nobody Frum has a TV anymore (especially in a sort of humorous good natured tongue in cheek sort of way) proves just how isolated the fellow is… and how isolated he wants his community to be.

Not because not owning a TV makes you isolated. But because identifying those who own one as not being Frum. It is no secret that in his circles - not interacting with non Frum Jews is an ideal they pursue. That’s why they try to isolate themselves from the rest of the world as much as possible. And it is why they reject some children  from their schools. Children from homes that have a TV or the internet. They do not want to be ‘tainted’ by the ‘Goyishe’ values children from those homes bring to the school. 

This attitude is so arrogant and narrow minded that it boggles the mind that one can even make a statement like that let alone believe it… and by mentioning it in passing, he insinuates that we all already know that… he is just reminding us of it.

This man is a Rebbe (Shoel U'Meishiv) in a Yeshiva. And he is teaching his students to think of any Jew with a TV as not Frum. And he teaches it in the most insidious way – in a semi humorous post as a foregone conclusion, without any qualification.

This is the”my way or the highway” attitude of so many Charedim. And the Mechanchim they produce make it very dangerous one. He is teaching intolerance whether he realizes it or not.  Owning a TV makes one not Frum and therefore a purposeful sinner. One must not intermingle with purposeful sinners because they will influence you to sin.

I know he means well. He thinks by insinuating that Frum people don’t own TVs it will reinforce the idea of just how bad owning a TV is. He believes that owning a TV is so dangerous to your Frumkeit that he subliminally teaches you to consider TV owners as not observant. After all the definition of being Frum has historically been whether one keeps Shabbos. According to Rabbi Daniel Schneierson the new definition of being Frum is not owning a TV. He subconsciously implants in the mind of those over which he has influence that owning a TV is like Chilul Shabbos.

The fact that there are entire communities of Jews that own TVs and that there are not insignificant numbers of moderate Charedim among them - doesn’t phase him. He  probably writes them off as not Frum too.

I have no patience for people with small minds, no matter how “Frum” they are or how noble their intentions are. I am sick of the mentality that sees Frum Jews defined in increasingly narrow terms. But what makes me even angrier is that he influences so many young people who come to him with a mind full of mush… to end up thinking just like him.

He thinks TV is bad… and that a Frum home should not have a TV? Fine. He is entitled to that opinion. But there are ways to get your message across without de-legitimizing the majority of observant Jewry. Just because you want to impress how terrible TVs on the minds of your students - does not give you the right to look at other observant Jews as not observant.

Rabbi Schneierson could use a heavy dose of Mussar in how to relate to fellow religious Jews or Jews in general. It is not by calling them not Frum.