Sunday, August 5

Logging in LOOking out!

Dear Editor,

Re: Head in the Sand.

Thank you for bringing this very important issue to the fore, which has been waiting to be highlighted for a long time. The points that were discussed are oh so valid, only they cannot be dealt with properly within the framework of such a prestigious publication as Mishpacha - just because of this publications high moral standards!

The time has come to take the bull by his horns and deal with this dangerous, all consuming power in an organised and effective manner.

To achieve this, we he would have to take one step back and look at the current hotch-potch of solutions, some of which have been mentioned in your article and its side bars.

What has been done up until today is no more than affixing temporary patches to an ever growing wound, which outgrows and outwits these well-meaning safeguards at a frightening pace. Just ask all the solution providers of the various filtering services how many of their customers were unwittingly lured in to innocent-looking sites.

Since the birth of the web on 12 November, 1990 (as opposed to the birth of the internet, which happened over twenty years earlier), when its potential started becoming ever more prevalent, I was arguing with both Rabbonim and lay people in my local community about the need to create a separate, well-guarded web environment. After all, we have our own physical communities, our own educational institutions, our own systems to safeguard the purity of our food and clothing - we even have our pure magazines! Why then should we not have our own marketplace, information depository and other digital spheres that have been built from the ground up on unadulterated, Kosher foundations?!

As with any other problem plaguing the Orthodox Jewish community, the three main ingredients required to fix something has always been: The Rabbonim - Da'as Torah, The Community - "the lay people" and the Resources - money etc..
Let me explain: The story of Churban Bayis Sheni is well documented. The city of Jerusalem had enough food in its stores to help the population withstand the siege for many months. It was the act of non-religious zealots that caused them to be burnt, which in turn led Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai to intervene on behalf of Yavneh. This step ensured the survival of Torah and its torch-bearers for generations to come, until our days. Here we have a prime example where Resources - or rather the lack of them - played a major part in altering the course of history. Likewise Da'as Torah and the lay person of that time had a direct involvement in the course of events.

Bil'am - in his forced blessings that he bestowed on Kelal Yisroel - pronounced "Hen 'Om Levodod Yishkon" - "behold, here is a people that dwells apart". Look closely and you will see that unbeknownst to this sorcerer, (who couldn't possibly have foreseen the global use of the English language - according to VeriSign : "two-thirds of content on the Internet is in English" source: Richmond Journal of Law & Technology Volume XII, Issue1) the first letters of these four words form the word HOLY.

We are known as a people with values, but even more so, the Orthodox Jewish community is a dynamic and vibrant community - the only segment of the Jewish people to be around by the turn of the next century. Why is it then that our youth is sometimes seen in unfavourable settings, locales or with the wrong companions? The answer is not a clear cut one; no one can put his hand on his heart and say what ills cause this sorry state. However in trying to uncover the culprit, one would not be amiss for blaming at least a nice portion of the moral decay in our midst on the internet and the many tentacles it spawned in the form of cellular phones, games consoles, entertainment devices and innocent ATMs.

What we experience in this day and age is the sorry state of Sereyfas Neshomo veGuf Kayom: you see the same Avreych, your well loved son or the refined Seminary girl - only the sparkle in their eyes is gone, the lustre around their face is dimmed, their devotions are a rote of lifeless soul-less motions.

We face a fiend as powerful or even more powerful than our forefathers faced in the time of the Hamoneans. They fought a seemingly lost battle - we have to learn from them to wage a war with this all-encompassing, invasive, inventive and venomous opponent.

If we all join the battle with tenacity, resourcefulness and unity - the One who tests us in this generation will help us overcome and vanquish the dragon of impurity - just as He has done battle for our forefathers - Bayomim hoheymm bazeman hazeh.

Menasche Scharf

London, UK
Time iZmani - use it properly