Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Some First Thoughts on the Anti-Internet Brochure

Failed Messiah has posted a link to the brochure that was given out at Citi-Field during the 'Asifa'. It is 100 pages, and even with the big letters I doubt I will be able to read it all at once (unlike those who attended the Asifa I don't have the luxury of 7 hours to spend thinking about this issue).

I know I have blogged a lot about the Asifa, but to me it seems a watershed moment in the modern history of Orthodox Judaism. Sunday was the day when it was made clear to everyone in the world, Jewish and not, that the Orthodox leadership (or the askanim who control them) are completely out of touch with the reality around them. After Sunday, no intelligent person will ever do something because 'the Gedolim said so'.

So, here are some first thoughts:

The introduction begins with the following words:
Welcome to what promises to be the most momentous evening of your life!

Even without the exclamation mark that would be a preposterous statement. But it makes me smile that some people can think that the highlight of their lives will be to sit in a stadium and listen to Rabbis speaking in Yiddish. ;-)

It is no coincidence that Klal Yisrael has gathered as one to unite in facing the challenges of modern technology at precisely this moment.

The theme of 'unity' and 'all of Klal Yisrael' is repeated several more times. To me this is classic 'sinat chinam'. Anyone who did not attend (because they were not allotted tickets, or because they had better things to do, or because they are a woman) is not part of Klal Yisrael. There were apparently 40,000 people at this gathering. According to wikipedia there were approximately 13.4 million Jews in the world in 2010. Even allowing for different ways of counting, that means that approximately 0.3% of the world's Jews attended the rally. Apparently for some people that is considered Klal Yisrael.

When Moshe led Klal Yisrael out of Egypt he took 20% with him. The Gedolim seem to be happy to lead 0.3% and to consider anyone else as not part of Klal Yisrael. From what I have heard this theme was also repeated by the speakers as well.

Sinat Chinam is saying that a group of Jews who are different to me are not part of Klal Yisrael. Perhaps they should have held this Asifa before Tisha B'Av instead of before Shavuot, when ALL the Jews stood at Har Sinai (even the sinners and the idolaters).

Also, this Asifa was planned (months in advance) to be on Yom Yerushalayim. I know that Yom Yerushalayim is modern 'Zionistic' festival, and therefore of no concern to us (which is the reason that was lost Yerushalayim the first time). But to ignore all those who do celebrate, and make no mention of this miracle at such a gathering is not only a chilul Hashem, but also ammunition for those who say that Jews have no rights to the city of Jerusalem and it is not important to Judaism. For 40,000 men to gather and forget to mention Jerusalem's liberation is not only a denial of miracles, and rejecting the kindness that G-d has done for us, but also can be used by our enemies to show that even 'Klal Yisrael' doesn't care about Jerusalem.

It must be made clear before we introduce the various solutions that will be offered for the internet, such as filters and blocks, that these are not true “solutions.” they do not solve the internet problem. the only real “solution” is to ban all access to the internet. And that, in fact, is what each of us who can do so must do.

This was the real message of the night. There can be no retraction of the position of the Gedolim that the internet is treif. There is no chance of seeing the benefits and opportunities it opens up both for learning and teaching Torah, and for earning parnassah. Ultimately it is treif.

The Church has a similar reaction when the printing press became widespread. Everyone had access to information, and the Church lost their monopoly on knowledge. The Dark Ages came to an end with Guttenberg, and it ultimately led to Martin Luther.

I'm not sure why the Gedolim insist that the internet is treif. Technology can be no more treif than it can be kosher. It is a tool which is used by people who have free choice. Unlike television, which provides content (and gives limited choice), with the internet each person can decide for him or herself what to use it for.

Do they not realise that at the Asifa itself a large number of people were using the internet to tweet, blog, and other things? How can the Gedolim (i.e. Askanim) continue to make decrees that the community cannot hold by?

More thoughts later. But I firmly believe that this anti-internet document will be used by future generations as the landmark when the era of Gedolim ended and a new era began (I'm not sure what that new era will be - I look forward to finding out).


  1. Anonymous7:45 pm

    the era of the gedolim ended when rav moshe was niftar

    for the past 30 years, we have been led by pretenders

  2. You mention the reaction of the Church to the printing press. I have spent the past few days wondering how the gedolim of yore reacted to the invention of writing, printing, radio, TV, etc. If reactions such as the one the internet is getting now have always been the case, I might actually have an easier time ignoring the current state of affairs. Do you happen to know this bit of history?

    I would also be interested to see how rabbinic reactions to technology change from when the innovation first appears, to years later. I suspect negative reactions would be more likely when technology is new, and as familiarity grows the perception of threat dissipates; in this case we see the opposite movement, which I find fascinating.