July 10, 2012 On the Internet
Turning off the internet, THAT they say, should fix everything within Hasidism — from problems with infidelity to atheism to teenage rebellion and sexual urges or a plumbing crisis or a flopped honey tort. Rabbis have deliberated over ALL the problems caused by the internet, boasted a Citifield sport of their concerns, and are now implementing solutions. I heard of many Orthodox rabbis who are stepping up their warning against internet and are advising various precautions like filters or limited home use. Hasidic leaders, in their usual extreme way of responding to anything that threatens their tradition, are taking the highway. They are aggressively banning the internet and technological gadgets.
They seem to hope that stopping the internetworks will push back down all issues that have come to the fore through the vorld-vide-veb. All the flaws and holes that have become plainly visible even to Hasidim, that’s what worries them.
Some Hasidic mosdos sent letters to the parent body demanding full disclosure of the parent’s internet activity. At the same time some religious institutions are demanding that the staff surrender their smartphones. Among my own Hasidic circles I have heard the smartphone called “treif”, one unfamiliar woman at a simcha going so far as to sternly voice her objections of the smartphone to my Angry-Bird enthusiast son. The woman reduced him to tears with her uncontained moral outrage at his bird-launching-pig-squashing activities. To this insanity I say, quoting the pigs, “hooooll!”
Hasidim are very concerned about the internet. They have reason to be. Hasidism has been changed by the internet, of that I am sure. Centuries of isolation are no more because invisible web waves brought an unfathomable wealth of resources to the palms of good pious women and to the vestl pockets of real Hasidic men. Information that was completely unavailable and unknown to previous generations of Hasidim is now readily sitting on the very telephones with which Hasidic followers call their rabbis to ask their religious questions, be it about menstrual blood or a dairy fork in a meat sink. The answers available online are of a different breed entirely. Whereas rabbis respond in authoritarian halachik rulings, the internet provides not rulings, but information. The internet gives the information to the searcher and leaves the decision making to the person himself. One can find thousands of answers instead of one; through ooogles of google results, wikipedia, forum conversation or this blog (by the way, the answer is “what the heck is wrong with you?!” and for all other questions: “the naked Hasidish lady would be…