From my computer, I can find out what the weather is in
South Africa, I can buy a new dining room table from France,
and I can speak to someone in Israel. What was previously
impossible or extremely difficult is suddenly simple. With a few clicks you can be anywhere in the world, doing anything you could ever want to. One hundred- or even fifty- years
ago, the advances brought to us by the Internet were
unimaginable. Until less than thirty years ago, computers
were for scientific research only, and even twenty years ago
they were by no means a “staple”, the way they are seen
today, in a world where smartphones are more common than
televisions, and social media is the equivalent of reading
books. Where does this leave us, as Torah-observant Jews?
Should we be shunning these advancements which are hurtling
towards us at a terrifying speed, or should we be endorsing
them, as everyone else is?
Perhaps the answer is neither. Perhaps we can practice
caution without a smartphone ban, and perhaps we can utilise
technology without becoming self-obsessed. It’s a matter of
moderation, of healthy boundaries, and of introspection.
Maybe we should ask ourselves, before we open a social media
account, will this enable me to come closer to the Jewish
community? Will this enable me to access new Torah thoughts?
Or will it lead to procrastination, distraction, and
eventually pritzus? Moreover, do I trust myself to use it
for the right reasons, or do I know deep down that I
I don’t always agree with the stance taken by major Charedi
leaders on this issue. Most Chassidic sects adopt a hardline
viewpoint, forbidding smartphones and Internet usage in most
or all situations. Many of those from Chabad-Lubavitch,
meanwhile, realise that technology is here for a very good
reason. As the Rebbe said, “Technology provides an
ever expanding bank of metaphor to crystallize the most
abstract ideas into tangible forms”. Is the Rebbe referring
to media? Possibly. He certainly isn’t referring to utility,
as he stated, “Technology is not here
simply to provide utility”.
In all likelihood, he has in mind the many ways in which
technology can be used to spread Torah thoughts. Online
shiurim, skype chavrusah sessions, email ask-the-rabbi
services; the Internet has it all nowadays. And moving even
further away from utility; what about Jewish music which
touches the neshama? What about Kosher entertainment which keeps us away from non-Kosher entertainment? What about
communication with people we can’t see face-to-face?
Believe it or not, technology does have a place in our
lives. We just need to carefully assess exactly what this
place is, and make sure that whatever it is we’re doing,
we’re doing it with the Holiest intentions.