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.