Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why Chabad Won't be at the Anti-Internet Rally

While some got caught in the dangers and fear of modernity, the Rebbe knew it was all 
here for us to orient it towards a better, more productive, more united world.

Why Chabad Won't be at the Anti-Internet Rally 

When I first read about the anti-internet rally online, I thought it was a really clever spoof. Then I read online that it was real, and was spooked. I had so many questions to Google. Why would someone in the year 2012 be anti-internet? How does someone inform the masses of their anti-internet rally without the internet? Who would be Facebook-invited to this gathering? Would it be tweeted live? If I can't make it there, could I catch some sort of live telecast? 

Alas, I kid. And you're gathering from my tone that I'm certainly not among the event-planners, nor am I supporter. In fact, despite the fact that there are thousands of people expected to attend the "Jews Against the Internet" rally at CitiFeild this Sunday, I don't personally know anyone that will be attending.

Why? Because I am Chabad. And proud. 

While the Lubavitch community is also Chassidic and practically just as "ultra-orthodox" as the folks arranging and attending this rally, we will have virtually no representation. Not because we can't agree with the concern, but because we can't be concerned. 

Remember us? We're the ones that built the Chabad.org and began educating and inspiring millions of Jews around the world way before anyone had any time to consider any "internet dangers." You tell a Lubavitcher "The internet is scary, stay far away," and he will laugh and say "Dude, where have you been?" 

Oh, the gifts the Lubavitcher Rebbe gave us. The power be see our strict commitment to Jewish law and principle as going hand-in-hand with modernity. To see all of the world—yes, with all its potential ills—as a means towards a powerful end. 

The Lubavitcher Rebbe never emphasized the disease, always the cure. And in every physical, emotional and spiritual case of sickness, the solution was always about introducing an active, real and alive force of good. The Rebbe was not naive to certain modern dangers. He encouraged people (privately, not taking time in a public address) to be careful with lots of modern inventions, including contacts and ultrasounds. But when it came to technology, the Rebbe was amazed, encouraging and anxious to use it for healing, for education, for the betterment of the world. While some got caught in the dangers and fear of modernity, the Rebbe knew it was all here for us to orient it towards a better, more productive, more united world.

In effect, where the rest of the world sees a problem, Chabad sees a resolution. Where all the other "Greats of Israel" see a stumbling block, we see an opportunity. When everyone is getting their feathers ruffled in the excitement of banning and inducing fear, Chabad always has a positive message of "Yes you can, here's how."

How much time have the Yeshivish and Chassidic communities of New York (and indeed the world) wasted on their protests and anti-this and anti-that banners? Have they ever stopped to consider that a little light will dispel a lot of darkness? That, just imagine, there are sparks of Godliness inherent in everything? That almost anything, when used as a force of good, becomes a force of good? 

I would never imply that the Chabad community is immune to the potential "dangers" of the internet. I'm not saying that the spiritual havens that are our homes can't use a break from the internet, or even a good internet-guard.  What I am saying is that we're certainly more sensitive to our worldly responsibility to uplift God's inventions. And we definitely don't insult Him by using our God-given time and voice to rally against them. 

The joke is that the rally is planned for the first day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, a day considered fortuitous in regard to children's education. The idea that combatting the "evils" of the internet is a important step in the growth of our children is actually disastrous. Banishment may keep the bad away, but since when does it encourage good? What will take it's place? What we all need, and specifically our youth, is something that is given forth with strength and positivity, not another message of "don't touch this" and "be careful." The rest of the ultra-Orthodox world has a lot to learn from Chabad in this regard. For starters, giant rallies of music and floats and chants and cheering, all centered around our beloved heritage. The real kind of rally. The kind of rally that rallies were invented for. 

Sure, the question will always linger regarding what the Rebbe would say now of the plethora of new inventions and their societal implications today. But this wondering is almost null: heed the Rebbe's voice of uplifting everything towards the divine and staying busy with the spiritual revolution and you won't need to lose your voice shouting about the dangers of something that 99% of the world sees as wonderful device of messianic proportions.

So sorry Chabad can't make it. We're just a little too busy changing the world with our blessed internet and everything else. 

If only religious Jews would see the internet not as a place of violence, sexuality and the spread of doubtful information, but a place of tremendous opportunity to illuminate, connect and grow. If only religious Jews would learn that "In the times of Moshiach, the entire world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d" and realize that, hmm, that sounds like the internet! But mostly, if only religious Jews would understand what Chabad has known all along: that being "anti" will never make a pro. 

P.S. One more thing: I will be at CitiFeild this month. On May 30th, to watch my husband Moshe perform his inspiring and soulful Jewish music, to inspire the masses and make a true Kiddush Hashem. Because that's how we roll here at Chabad.

10 LadyMama voices:

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks Mimi! Your recent posts have been very deep and meaningful! Keep it coming!

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Hey! Love your blog, and definitely agree with your anti-internet thing. However, I think that the idea of the CitiField rally is not anti-internet. Its education regarding the internet. There was a time when agudat yisrael said no internet. However, they changed their message. Now, it is not no internet. It is, be careful with such a powerful tool. Yes, there are many amazing things that can be accomplished with internet. But as we know in Judaism, that which has the power for good has the exact equal power for bad. The internet is such a powerful tool, I use it to download shiurim, promote my kiruv classes, keep in touch with students,(and without Chabad.org my husband would not have been able to catch a minyan every morning of his 2 week roadtrip across the states), but it is also dangerous. Anyone who ignores that is foolish. The rally is to bring awareness of what is out there, and to encourage people to not think their family is above the dangers. They are promoting filters and such and educating people on how to use the internet in a positive way.

Evelyn Krieger said... [Reply to comment]

Excellent post! In no time the children of the naysayers will have outsmarted them as they, hopefully, move forward with the rest of the world where one can't barely buy an airline ticket without using the internet. Let's see...and find kosher restaurants in London, order a lulav, download a dvar Torah, buy a modest swimsuit, connect with liked-minded Jewish girls, take a virtual Torah class, comment on anti-semitic news articles, protest anti-israel initiatives, create an influential blog, discuss Jewish life issues on a forum, watch a video of the wedding you missed, Skype with an Israeli e-pal, and research a medical condition. There are ways to protect kids without sticking their heads in the sand.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

@Evelyn Krieger As the previous commenter pointed out, the purpose of the rally is not to "stick their head in the sand" but to educate people - especially of the generation who is still baffled by this technology while their kids are way beyond them - as to how they can safely maximize the potentials of the internet. Pay attention to the ads and the agenda of this convention - it's hardly being called a rally - and you'll see that it's not as extreme as you're making it sound without bothering to verify the details.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

I, as a member of chabad do not agree with this article at all, and in no way should it be interpreted, as representative of chabad policy.
Although, the author is correct in the fact, that the internet can be a positive medium, such as to spread torah and yiddishkeit etc, to say that chabads policy is to ignore the negative aspects of the internet, is completely false. For many years chabad has been using media to teach and spread torah and mitzvos, yet nevertheless the Rebbe frowned upon those who read newspapers and openly condemned keeping a television at home. Many others, who are part of this rally, share the same philosophy, and do not see a contradiction between using the internet in a positive manner, yet guarding against its dangers. One of the main sponsors of the event ,has an internet based business, yet at the same time feels that the internet poses a danger. We in chabad are not against the the rally, and there is a letter clearly stating so, that was issued by the beis din of crown heights. The reason that I and maybe many others wont be attending, is because we don't feel that this format will be an effective solution to such a complex problem. But we are definitely not opposed to the rally, and we wish the organizers to be as successful as can be.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Dear Mrs. Hecht,
You obviously missed the letter from the Bais Din of Crown Heights that was passed out to every house in Crown Hts praising the convention.

We have a plague in Crown Hts that is the same plague shared by the other orthodox neighborhoods of internet addiction. Perhaps your children are small or you are addicted or have never thought about it, but this doesn't take away from the problem. You don't know for instance, how many woman demanded demanded divorces because their husbands refuse to give up the "other woman" (their internet!!). One sleeps, eats and goes to the internet. His wife left him. How many woman have this problem and are hopelessly addicted? Then they drag their kids down...

Internet addiction is listed as an official psychiatric problem, and just because you don't realize it is a problem, does not mean it doesn't exist. See this: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/cpb.1998.1.237

Many alchaholics don't realize they are addicted until their families fall apart, they lose their jobs or other things happen that they finally realize after a number of years that this is indeed a problem.

Does that mean that all alchahol is evil?

No. But it means that used in a certain way (for kiddush shabbos and Yom Tov) and for a small lechaim by a farbrengen, so we elevate the wine or beverage.

Outside of that, it is complete tumah. This is the meaning of "Klipos Noga". The thing is a "neutral" koach, depending on how we use it, that makes it holy or the opposite.

Internet when used at work or for shlichus is incredibly powerful. Put the internet in the house, it becomes shalosh klipot ha-tamayot. Put it on a laptop or handheld device, available anywhere, anytime, it is complete tumah.

You are absolutely right! Chabad is not afraid of the Internet or technology. But one needs to firs differentiate where what we are doing is in the right time and the right place.

Internet in the house ruins our children and pollutes our families, wasting the time, destroying the necessary social athmosphere and causing people to ignore their spouses and children.

This is not even mentioning the problems with pornography and weird ideas, dress, etc.

The main problems begin with the most well intentioned of families who innocently bring the internet into the house and their personal space. While (as the Rebbe points out in 1954 about TV) the person may be very frum and is only looking at Bambi, "nature channel" or National geographic-

But the neighor doesn't know that we are only looking at these places. She sees a frum girl or guy with a beard using this medium.

She now goes and brings internet into her house. But by her, "hakol mutar", she looks at everything....

This is what is happening with our children. They see us doing the most frum things with the internet. "Mivsoyim", emails, Rebbe videos etc.

Our children get on the internet and go into everything....
Raanan Isseroff
Crown Hts

Der Shygetz said... [Reply to comment]

But it means that used in a certain way (for kiddush shabbos and Yom Tov) and for a small lechaim by a farbrengen, so we elevate the wine or beverage.

Outside of that, it is complete tumah.


Not quite - not the alcohol and not the Internet.

Alcohol consumed daily in moderate quantities is beneficial for health. You can cook with alcoholic beverages and the results are quite great. In fact, so long as you do not ABUSE alcohol, there is no tuma. Some people can't control themselves and therefore should stay away, but for most people moderate consumption is just fine and may even prolong life. Studies show that those who drink the least live the shortest amount of time!

Same with the Internet. Unlike TV, you can filter it very specifically. You can use it daily to find out what is going on in this world, and you can make an honest living from it as I do. At one time, you could accidentally be misdirected to schmutz - today, with a little education and experience, even an unfiltered account is safe for most adults who do not have a predilection for certain types of sites. And filters are so widely available, including free ones, that anyone who has children can easily set up a filter with very strict guidelines. (As a professional, I recommend a filter or at least a warning system for everyone, because even for most of us who have the strength to close a schmutz site, other threats, such as phishing sites, are still out there).

Just as those who drink the least are actually avoiding something that is healthy, those who avoid the Internet tend to be of the lowest socioeconomic status - and that is where they remain.

The asifa is not the Rebbe's way. Chabad.org and other sites that teach Chassidus are the Rebbe's way of uplifting something that can be used for good or for the opposite of good. The asifa makes Jews look primitive and insular, whereas that was never the Rebbe's intention. Internet is not TV, just as alcohol is not heroin.

stylisttziporah said... [Reply to comment]

um...there are many statements in ur comment
I want to refute...I am not even chabad. Just someone who likes well thought out people -lots of chabad people are.

The first one is ..if a neighbor sees a holy person looking at the internet. I am certain she doesn't think "hakol mutar" she is either going to go places she shouldn't or she wont.
The internet is a tool. Like a paint brush. A person paints. Not the brush. Yes we have to be
ohr laGoyim and set a good example. but I think thats what ehrilch jews are doing.
Sad that someone else is an alcoholic, but I can enjoy a glass of wine on friday nite and not feel like I am drinking evil.

chenyok said... [Reply to comment]

Hi. I appreciate what you write, but Chabad Rabbonim themselves, who surely speak for Chabad, feel somewhat differently. See here and here, and here.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

@Der Shygetz
Chabad is not "Tifrosh Min HaTzibur" (doing differently than others in Halacha)

Dear Sir / Madame,
Thank you for your comment on my comment on Mrs. Hechts comments.

The main point of Tania is that using the three garments of the soul: Thought Speech and Action we fulfill mitzvot. We Think Torah. We Speak Torah (or according to halacha) and we ACT according halacha too.

The Alter Rebbe brings towards the end of Tanya that when the Bais Hamikdash (the Temple) was destroyed the Shechina (divine presence) went to rest in the four measures of Halacha (Jewish Law).

Chabad IS into the Asifa. We DO do what other communities do. When the Bais Din of London suggested a limitation of videos at weddings in London in 1991, Chabad of London went along with it.

Most things that other communities feel strongly about, we go along with as well. Especially Internet. If you notice Rav Osdoba went to the Internet Asifa and the other Rabbonim wrote long letters about the dangers of Internet which were mailed to every house in Crown Heights.

Laughing at others halachic worries is not the Chabad way. Doesn't it say: "Shivim panim le torah?" But laughing at others valid points is not even the 71st face to the Torah. Certainly, it is not Chabad. Realizing that they have a point is Chabad. It is not even Chabad it is below on the level of Middos. Kavod haTorah, etc. A person must have refined middos or Chabad philosophy will not have a kli to fall into.

I wrote an article on the subject a few years ago before it was popular to dare to suggest limits on Internet useage. I found a curious thing: All the people who disliked the article or were critical, had internet in the house. Those who loved the article did not....