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Issue 186 - Walmart is Coming
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
Publication: Mishpacha Magazine

  Rated by 30 users   |   Viewed 19363 times since 12/5/07   |   44 Comments
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12/5/07

Imagine that you were born and raised in a small farming town with a population of five thousand people. Life was simple there, and you decided to raise your children in that rural setting. You married and shortly thereafter opened a hardware store, which, over the years, met your growing family’s financial needs. You never needed to advertise or market your store much, as you had a monopoly on the hardware business in your town. After all, the closest city and shopping center was thirty miles away.

Then, virtually overnight, your peaceful existence was shaken to the core when the Walmart Corporation announced their intention to open a ‘mega-store’ ten miles down the road from your home. You were understandably frightened, as you knew that countless mom-and-pop stores in thousands of communities across the United States went bankrupt shortly after a Walmart branch opened nearby, as they were simply unable to compete with the dramatically lower prices and enhanced selection that their competition’s high-volume stores offered.

The fear and uncertainty that reigned in the aftermath of the shocking news galvanized the town’s residents to action. An elected official organized a meeting of all local business owners. Efforts began to stall the process in court, and a letter-writing campaign to the Governor asking him to thwart Walmart’s project was initiated. However, it was all for naught as ground was eventually broken and the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new store was suddenly only ten months away.

Once the inevitability of this project became apparent, you and your wife went through the classic phases of the Kübler-Ross grief cycle, along the lines of someone who had been diagnosed, chas v’shalom, G-d forbid, with a fatal illness:

1) Denial – This can’t be happening

2) Anger – Why is this happening?

3) Bargaining – Please don’t let this happen

4) Depression/Resignation – We are so very sad this is happening

5) Acceptance – Look; this is going to happen; let’s deal with this challenge effectively.

Once you reached the acceptance stage (not all do, as many grieving people remain in denial or one of the other phases), you and your fellow storeowners began planning for ‘life after Walmart.’ A number of community leaders formed a committee whose mission it was to travel the country and explore the best practices of towns nationwide who responded effectively to the opening of a Walmart branch nearby. While the committee was doing its due diligence, public brainstorming sessions were held weekly with all local residents invited and where any and all ideas that may help strengthen local businesses were freely discussed and considered.

One month later, the committee members returned with a mixed report. Their research indicated that Walmart’s imminent arrival was in fact an existential threat to their town’s economic survival, as many communities they visited watched their downtown business centers turn into virtual ghost towns once Walmart opened its doors. However, there were successful models to follow – cities that survived and thrived despite the threat of a Walmart opening nearby. Those communities had one thing in common – they developed and executed effective, broad-based plans of action.

Inspired by the sage advice of the committee members, many initiatives were implemented that quite literally saved the town’s viability. A community council was formed that began hosting events designed to build civic pride. A local congressman secured a state grant to revitalize the downtown shopping area. Pressure was exerted on the local police department to crack down and eradicate the petty street crime that plagued the business district. The Mayor spearheaded an advertising campaign that highlighted the positive core values of their town. While all this was happening, a local philanthropist funded an initiative designed to help local merchants and artists sell their wares over the Internet. The results exceeded even his expectations, as quite a number of the residents developed profitable ventures over the web. These proactive steps allowed the town to survive the onslaught of a colossal competitor and, in fact, emerge a stronger and more vibrant community. Chalk one up for the good guys.

Now for the bad news. I suggest that there are striking parallels between the Walmart scenario discussed above and the state of affairs as it relates to the chinuch of our children in today’s rapidly changing times.

You see, in the ‘marketplace of ideas,’ our Torah community was like that small town in rural America for two generations. Our children, teens, and many of our adults did almost all their intellectual shopping on our ‘Main Street.’ Sure, they were individuals who went elsewhere to browse and purchase. But they were just that, individuals.

Then, about ten years ago, a mega-competitor came to town – the Internet. Galvanized into action, we effectively raised awareness about the dangers it poses to our children. But having Internet-free or Internet-protected homes and delaying the age when our children gain access to cell phones is only one (crucial) component of an effective policy, as this does nothing to help teens and adults deal with ‘Walmart’ once they leave the safety our homes.

Additionally, I think that lots of us are looking in the wrong direction in understanding the enormous challenge that new and evolving technology presents. Many look at the immoral content of the Internet as the primary adversary as today’s version of Yakov Avinu’s battle with the angel of Eisav. I beg to differ. From my vantage point, our generation’s challenge is to prepare our children (and ourselves as adults) to maintain our Torah values and hashkafos, fundamental beliefs, in the open arena of ideas that technology provides nowadays.

I think of the Internet not in terms of a mobile red-light district, but rather like the Haskalah on steroids.

When people bemoan the challenges of the Internet to me, I silently categorize them along the lines of the five grief stages noted above:

1) Denial – Baruch Hashem, our teens (adults) don’t use the Internet

2) Anger – How could such a horrible thing happen to our children?

3) Bargaining – Let’s daven that the Internet does not cause more kids to go off the derech (I would like to point out that this is a most appropriate response. However, just like Yaakov Avinu prepared for Eisav in three ways; with a gift, tefilah, and a battle plan – so too, I think that tefilah is an important component of a multi-pronged approach. But we cannot rely on tefilah alone to address this existential threat to our mesorah.)

4) Depression/Resignation – The [challenges presented by the] Internet is a gezeirah, an edict from Heaven, and it is so very sad that we are losing so many kids because of it. But what can we do besides keeping it out of our homes?

5) Acceptance – Look; the Internet is here to stay; let’s continue to shield our homes and children as best we can. But at the same time, we must deal with this incredible challenge effectively in as many ways as we can.

I do not have the time or inclination to assign hard numbers to which of the five stages are the most common among people who speak to me; but I would say that denial is by far most frequent, followed by depression, bargaining, acceptance and anger.

My friends, we are running out of time to slide over to the acceptance phase and develop a coherent, multi-phased approach to these unprecedented challenges. The phenomenon of off-the-derech teens and adults who are, "All Dressed up with Nowhere to Go" that I wrote about in the previous column is just the tip of the iceberg, I’m afraid.

Walmart is coming. In fact, it has already opened its doors – and is planning to expand.

Some suggestions of my ‘committee’ to deal with its presence will appear in my next few columns.

© 2007 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved



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1. The Internet is Walmart     12/5/07 - 1:55 PM
Andy - Wesley Hills, NY

This is the best article I've read on this site. I'd like to emphasize two quotes from it.

"The internet is not a red-light district, it's Haskalah on steroids." This is so true, because when I travel to the Netherlands or other areas with a freely available red-light district, I steer clear. We can't do that anymore with on-line cell phones and computers.

"Our generations challenge is to prepare our children to maintain our Torah values and hashkofos." This is so true. Talk to the good kids about hashkofa (that is if your neither a rebbe or parent). If they open up to you, you'll be shocked at the doubts they express and their lack of passion or interest in anything G-dly.


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2.     12/5/07 - 2:13 PM
Anonymous

An excellent, and probably one of the most realistic and candid summantions of the situation(danger) posed by the internet I have ever seen!


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3.     12/5/07 - 2:28 PM
ROZA

Timely article. We need to teach how to use internet, give kids tools. The problem is that parents don't have time or skills to do it. May be as with driving, there should be internet safety and navigation courses for teens, once they pass, they can go online. Every home should have a filter, like this one for example: http://www1.k9webprotection.com/


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4. Walmart= internet ?     12/5/07 - 3:23 PM
Ak

Hi, I see the internet as the barrels of red wine that are essential for one's health and yet a probable health hazard to your kid. For some the internet facilitates so much learning, stimulation as well as caring for others that are part of cyber- communities and yet for kids a danger to their spiritual growth. I think it is pretty easy for those to preach not having internet when it does not have a place in their emotional and intellectual growth. In a way , the relationship with the internet can be described as impossible to live without and impossible to live with. There are also dangers for us , but we may justify it by saying like Adam harishon , we are choosing greatness over purity. I don't believe that we can really control exposure and it is more a matter of educating children and building trust and praying that on this extremely dangerous rode we travel , there are no accidents and nobody gets hurt


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5. Walmart vs Chinuch     12/5/07 - 3:34 PM
The other Yanky

As usual your articles are very on target.

You alluded to the WalMart problem and while I agree to some of the points I wanted to point out some discrepencies. Why can we have a Mega Mall in Monsey that closes down other stores yet Walmart can't. Why hasnt anyone complained about Pathmark being opened 24 hours, magazines, treife food, etc. etc. Those that are in most part fighting WalMart are not disclosing their financial interests and therefore there isn't any achdus.

In a sense the same goes for Chinuch, too many people pay lip service to their own children's chinuch needs and the schools are not being equipped to deal with the challenges.

I'm interested in seeing your commitee's ideas.

B'Yididus,


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6.     12/5/07 - 3:56 PM
Dina

I think what is needed is a battery of older, seasoned, and integrated baalei teshuva who 1) remember what their old life was like and why a frum life is so much better; and 2) who can articulate such to frum junior high and high school kids in language they understand. Many baalei teshuva learned hashkafa on an adult, deeper level prior to becoming frum, worked it all out intellectually, weighed the life of Hashem and Torah against what they had already experienced in life and chose Hashem. Most are eternally grateful for having been saved from a life of meaninglessness and/or personal destruction. I would imagine this gets conveyed to their kids on a regular basis. I know it is in my house.

In contrast, most frum kids don't know why they're frum except that they were born that way. They don't have the appreciation, and think the grass is greener out there.

If they can hear from cool adults or older teens that it's better to be frum, and why, and be told why they are different from X-tians and M-lems who are also born believing their way is true, that would be a good start. Like Project Chazon, but more. And these questions should be addressed in every school, if not in classes then in assemblies held for that purpose. All kids have them anyway.


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7.     12/5/07 - 7:13 PM
Anonymous

And what if the kids are impressed by the speeches of BT's but say - I hear what you're saying and I believe you, but just as you saw and experienced the world and then became frum, I also want to experience life and then come back to Yiddishkeit.

[mashal: Who do high school students want to hear about the dangers of college from, those teachers who attended college or those who didn't? If those who attended address them, the students can think - yeah, but they went, and they're okay. If those who did not attend college address them, the students can think - what do they know?]


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8.     12/5/07 - 7:50 PM
yoni

I'm afraid I dissagree.

the greatest enemy of our beloved children is not the internet, nor the colleges, but other jews.

WE are, and have been for all of our history, our greatest enemy.

but only because we make it so. If their lives were not already misserable, already bankrupt and meaningless, they would not be inclined to persue the vanity of the internet or the pritzus of college.

WE have to change, not the rest of the world, and until we get over ourselves, and ditch our internal shtussim and hypocricy, things will only get worse.

they are rejecting us, because they see no reason why they should stay, and confuse our silliness with torah.

WE have to change, not just damage control not more restrictions, we have to abandon the non-sensical models of judaism we've adopted in the last hundred and fifty years, and cleave to torah.


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9.     12/5/07 - 8:30 PM
Steve Brizel

As long as we view anything from the outside world with a strong distrust and raise our children with a sense that we must control them and present Yiras HaOnesh as a substitute for Yiras HaRommemus, we will never ask ourselves why someone in our community could not have developed a chain of Walmarts. Walmart is probably the least threatening of any chain with respect to its contents, advertising, etc. FWIW, anyone in the Catskills during the summer can find many Heimishe Yidden in one of the largest Walmarts on any given Motzaie Shabbos and Sunday with their families.


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10. Can "Walmart" Destroy the Haredi World.     12/5/07 - 8:51 PM
Benzion Chinn - Columbus, OH - Beezeenc@aol.com

Brilliant article. I think the problem that the Haredi world has in confronting "Haskalah on Steroids" is that the Haredi world is built around acceptance of authority. The central construct of modernity is the power of the individual to challenge authority. The moment a person accepts the modernist construction that the individual can challenge authority than you can no longer deal with him within the construct of accepting authority. So for the Haredi world to survive it would have to switch to the modernist construct. (www.izgad.blogspot.com)


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11. From the inside out     12/5/07 - 11:25 PM
Benzion Twerski

Last week, I was perusing one of the signs in shul that was publicizing the community simchos, and I was drawn to the letter-poster near it that bore signatures of a new “issur”. I was surprised that batei denim, dayanim, and roshei yeshivos were now issuing an issur against “ipods”. The wry note in my head was that technology advances much more quickly than our printers can publish these signs and posters. So we are again trying to plug a finger into the leaky dam. We are also way too late, even if an issur is the appropriate way to address it.

The issur on internet was nowhere to be found when online access was making its wave of entry into so many of our homes and offices. At that time, the posters from dayanim I saw were the issur on VCR’s. How timely. How useful. Meanwhile, internet was entering homes faster than one could collect opinions and signatures from our community leaders and rabbonim. Now we’re busy with ipods. Most youngsters already have them by now, allegedly with only “Jewish music”. Don’t worry. They all have cell phones so that we can always locate them. It is as if they answer their cells anytime we call. It is as if their answering the phone tells us their location.

I listened to the speeches from several of the major community based presentations about the internet. Most were better than good. However, I found them nearly useless. I have yet to meet an adolescent that has no experience with internet surfing, even with no access at home. Everyone has a friend somewhere who does have access. If not, there is always a public library. I’m so sorry, I forgot that entering a public library is also assur.

The parents I counsel struggle with responding to their struggling teens by seeking guidance to improve their limit setting and rule making. They want the quick fix of making solid curfews, punishments that will scare their kids straight, rules that will never allow their kids to violate anything anymore. The trouble is that these approaches are doomed from the start. The struggling teens are asking for boundaries and limits. But they are not looking to find the sprawl of more rules and issurim. That just pushes them farther into their rebellion. If they do not flaunt it openly, they either hide better or become more skilled at manipulation.

As a community, we score quite poorly when we work from the outside in. We need to work from the inside. Out mission is to help our children want the values and spiritual living we hold so dear. We need to expose our children to our holding these values as dear to us. No lip service, no lectures, no speeches.

Some time ago, I heard the following story from someone who was eyewitness to this event. Reb Zaidel Epstein ZT”L had just finished giving a shiur at yeshiva RJJ when a bochur entered asking the rebbe to sign a document for him. Reb Zaidel noticed that he had no pen, and he asked the talmidim in the room for a pen. A bochur from the back row volunteered his pen, and brazenly flipped it toward the rebbe in the front of the room. Quite inappropriate. When he was finished, Reb Zaidel simply got out of his chair, walked to the back of the room, and returned the pen to the bochur while saying thank you. No mussar, no speeches, no threats, no punishments. The message was received, loud and clear. The eyewitness, who did not identify that bochur, noted that he is presently a respected rosh yeshiva today. That is how we raise children, by example. The rules, issurim, community symposia, even publications about the latest dangers of this-or-that are only secondary vehicles for teaching or addressing the brave new world that challenges us, and sometimes totally ineffective.

While this needs to begin at quite a young age, I find the biographies of gedolim to be treasures of examples in how to live everyday life. Our frum newspapers often have such articles in the weekly issues. And, of course, we parents and mechanchim must be these role models for what is mutar and for the appreciation and value of our Torah life. From the inside out.


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12. Haskala v. Red light district     12/6/07 - 12:51 AM
Shlomo Kohen

Although I find the article thought provoking, I must disagree on what Rabbi Horowitz considers the main problem of the internet.

There is the famous story with R' Chaim Brisker, who had a student who frequently asked Hashkafa questions. This student eventually went astray from the path of Torah. R' Chaim asked him if he first sinned and then had questions or the opposite. When the student answered that he sinned first, R' Chaim said that was the reason he wasn't excepting any answeres to his questions. He was giving answers/excuses, for his actions.

The youth are not troubled primarily by ideological complications. We are living in a society that does not like to excersize the brain(unlike the pre-war Haskala movement). Our youth find it difficult to overcome the basic temptations. Consequently, a sinner devolops an apathy for his religion, and a need to justify his actions.

Case of point: are our teenagers downloading the Foward or adult content?


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13. Acceptance     12/6/07 - 1:14 AM
Baruch Horowitz - Brooklyn, NY - borhowitz@yahoo.com

"The moment a person accepts the modernist construction that the individual can challenge authority than you can no longer deal with him within the construct of accepting authority. So for the Haredi world to survive it would have to switch to the modernist construct."

My own approach in dealing with the issue of Torah authority versus personal autonomy and other issues in the Charedi world is to try to find more room in the shoe rather than finding a different model or size of the shoe. In other words, one can accept Torah authority but try to deal with it and to understand challenges people have to rabbinical authority.

A recent article a Charedi magazine mentioned the issue of kavod hatorah and the internet, and I assume the author's concerns about the internet would apply to Haskalah as well(European Haskalic writers attacked rabbinic authority as well, and there is a relation ). While acknowledging the ideas in the article (and I admit I'm a nogea b'davar), my question is why do people even feel a need to turn to such discussion forums in the first place ? There are some people who for better or for worse, are not satisfied with the discussions in the more yeshivishe publications; how do you satify them?

As Rabbi Tetelbaum wrote, one needs to find a kosher alternative, so even those who criticize certain other discussion forums elsewhere on the internet need to deal with the underlying issues and find a better alternative. There are indeed better forums than anonymous blogs, but we need to think of how to develop and expand them.

This is certainly not a complete answer, but we can try to be understanding of the conflicts which people have. I have very assimilated relatives who I certainly don't agree with, but I at least understand their mindset, so certainly, Frum people should be able to understand where another Frum person is coming from.

It is perfectly normal that there are people struggling with issues of rabbinic authority. How they should deal with the conflict is a different issue, but the conflict itself is not the problem. To the contrary, one might say that those conflicted are uniquely deserving of credit, rather than those who aren't bothered by the issues.

The idea of accepting and understanding another may have relevance to those aware of Haskalah issues as well, as fighting against and resisting a reality will only increase it, and recognizing another's reality is necessary(obviously there are intellectual issues as well which ned to be dealt with)to help someone, as it is to help one's self.

"We need to work from the inside. Out mission is to help our children want the values and spiritual living we hold so dear. We need to expose our children to our holding these values as dear to us"

I also agree with this. I understood that this was the point of Rabbi Horowitz's "spacesuit" analogy("Risk Factors for At-Risk Teens 2")as well as part of Rabbi AH Fried's article in Hakirah. Obviously, everyone values gedarim and harchakos, especially when children are developing a foundation for life, but the question is how to also give focus to inner development.

Regarding Haskalah in particular, there is a quote in Artscroll's Rav SF Mendelovits from R YY Weinberg to the effect that one can't just fight Haskalah with bans, but that one must as a counter measure develop something which can compete in the world of the spirit. Of course, in the modern age, specifically, we have developments like Mussar, Chassidus or Brisker method which speak to the spirit, but the question is how to adopt such revitalization to meet current needs.


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14. Limits, rules and expectations, problem solving     12/6/07 - 2:07 AM
Ak

R' Twerski, WE are very much on the same page

'The parents I counsel struggle with responding to their struggling teens by seeking guidance to improve their limit setting and rule making. They want the quick fix of making solid curfews, punishments that will scare their kids straight, rules that will never allow their kids to violate anything anymore. The trouble is that these approaches are doomed from the start. The struggling teens are asking for boundaries and limits. But they are not looking to find the sprawl of more rules and issurim. That just pushes them farther into their rebellion. If they do not flaunt it openly, they either hide better or become more skilled at manipulation'

The idea that struggling children are asking for limits and boundaries , crying out for them is the justification for imposing boundaries, limits and of course consequences. I have yet to meet someone who wants their autonomy restricted , treated like a small child , conequenced when they break rules. They don't like rules. Children need some structure or limits for their behavior, if not for their learning. Once again, this point may be accurate but does not justify much of what educators and parents actually do. "The critical question," as Thomas Gordon has put it, "is not whether limits and rules are needed . . . but rather who sets them: the adults alone or the adults and kids - together . Kids want to be self-directed , seeking guidance in helping them internalize limit setting and boundaries. The way to go is ' working with kids ' rather than 'doing to them'. We are not with them 100% of the time to control them , to punish or reward their behavior and at best we may be producing ' introjets'. Intrinsic motivation, internalization depends on kids feeling that their actions and decisions eminate from themselves, they are competent and have good relationships.

Should we have rules or expectations It is said rules our needed to play games , but when it comes to relationships , they are counter-productive. There are many families, that don't have rules but there are expectations and standards. The downside of rules is that when they are broken or not met , the parent feels obliged to get compliance or make sure there are consequences and enforce the rules by ' doing to' the kid. On the otherhand when expectation are not met , the response is more likely to be reflective and involve problem solving trying to help the kid. Even if a kid is party to the consequences , it is highly unlikely that is a real choice , similar to the pseudo choices we give to kids - if you clean your room , you can go out to play - when the kid does not comply - the parent says to the kid - you chose not to go out to play. When a rule is broken , the first question is what conequence should I give the kid. One of my favourite quotes is from Eli Newberger The method of consequences is essentially negative: I can't communicate with you, and so I'll hurt you if you don't mind me. The positive counterpoint is: We all make mistakes, and you can trust me to help you do better in the future.

When kids are part of the discussion, they express their concerns , we put are concerns on the table and the problem is defined , kids will see the solution as theirs and not some top-down rule. Inherent is a building of trust and expectation between parents and kids.

Role models and example

Unfortunately when kids are not taught to think proactively and be responsive to informal learning , these hidden messages are missed. How many kids were sensitive enough to experience that learning moment you describe - pen incident. Sometimes kids learn by what is not said , that what is said. Good advice is to never criticize but at most decribe a situation or what happened , never be judgmental.


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15. you're right, but...     12/6/07 - 8:37 AM
Yaakov - Brooklyn, NY

You are addressing your comments to the wrong people. Our public policy is made by our rabbonim, shlita, and it is they who have assured the internet. My wife works for a Bais Yaakov but does not have a computer in her office to make orders by the internet. She has to do with at home, with *her* laptop, which, I can assure you, is never used for another remotely osur. The least benign thing she does is to play solitare to wind down before going up to bed. She does not even email, which I do because I can't do business without it. And since it is kept on the dining room table, there is little chance that the kids will use it for anything osur, either.


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16. Bad Analogy-good message     12/6/07 - 12:11 PM
Yitzchok - Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Walmart we are familiar with, and the store our wives can't seem to get enough of- when it's in someone else's community of course- is a poor, cheap shopping experience. Walmart remains a true symbol of what we value as consumers, cheap,breakable, and not built to last. This is our system today as it pertains to chinuch. The internet and technology empowers the individual- in stark contrast to the great corporate Walmart/Lakewood mentality which is now being dismantled by consumers-our smart kids-proving the downfall of the one size fits all philosophy, as the cheap fix is now becoming ever more exposed for its lack of substance.

Many, many of our youth are twisting in this void-unfortunately turning to other cheap substance.


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17. take back your homes and your kids     12/6/07 - 11:44 PM
tb

Interesting, Yitzchak. Some practical suggestions for the committee from the bleachers: a. if parents use the internet, then chidren should be permitted to do so with kosher filters. No hypocrasy. b. if parents choose to send their children to a school that does not allow them to use the internet or to be in the room when the internet is being used (that's an actual rule at a neighborhood school here) then the parents should not use the internet c. if parents do not want their teens to use the internet or have access to ipods and cell phones with internet access, then they should not allow them to dorm. they could make the unusual choice to parent their teens at home and not send them away to live with other teens full time. d. if parents are not comfortable with the above choices, then they need to reassess the Hashkafic segment of Klal Yisrael with which they now identify.

I know no one is thinking of this issue in this way. But, it continually confounds me to see "middle of the road" Yeshivish people who do not practice what their children are being asked to do in school and who then ship their teens away unequipped to live with other teens. I just don't get it. On all fronts. Elementary school, high school. It's a wonder any of them turn out straight.


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18. Choice is the Key to Survival     12/6/07 - 11:45 PM
Sherree Belsky, Director, Kids

Hashem has given us this amazing gift of "bechirah" Choice, and we have to use that wisely. We have the ability to choose where we shop, what we buy, who we support and who we patronize. The same goes for internet, tv, movies, etc. We choose what we will do and what we won't do.

We have this choice, we have Walmart and Shoprite in the mountains as well as Shomer Shabbos stores in all the local towns. Some people choose to go to Walmart and some choose to patronize and support the local Shomer Shabbos stores simply to give them the parnosah even though they are more expensive. As Jews they choose to give the parnasah to fellow Jews. This of course is a Torah perspective and a well thought out decision. This of course is a decision brought about by one's own hashkafos defined by their learning, upbringing and strong beliefs in their connection to the Torah, mitzvos, chessed and compassion for their fellow Jews. Of course one should not use this as an excuse to hike up the prices and take advantage of this concept. It is not a mitzvah to get ripped off.

So too is the choices made with the Internet. Yes children have to be taught and trained about its uses and what our Hashkafos as Jews, as families and what is appropriate due to our connections with Hashem. When we raise our children on the platform of "V'shivisi eschem l'negdi tamid", that you are always standing before me, that Hashem is always with you and sees everything you do, it is a no-brainer. When we explain what is mutar and what is assur, knowing that Hashem is always watching us it is more likely that children will adhere to the rules.

Let's look at this from a broader perspective. Shmutz has been around for many decades and many generations. Of course due to the internet it is much easier to access it. But those who were curious or looking to break the rules found ways to get their hands on the magazines, videos or find the movie houses they shouldn't have and they still do.

Parents have to be more savy and more aware. Parents have to keep one step ahead of kids today. B"H we are constantly being told not to bury our heads in the sand. Denial is an easy way to find your family falling apart.

Staying in tune with your children and giving them the love and attention they need while doing everything you can to maintain your Shalom Bayis is the most basic foundation you can possibly concentrate on to avoid initial situations.

Keeping the lines of communications open is the next rule while paying close attention to any changes in behavior or attitude is next.

Being the best role models you can be by practicing what you preach, and teaching the children to do what you do is the best way to assure compliance.

So if you don't want the big corporations like Walmart to "crush" your community and wipe out your way of life be careful of your choices. Make sure your choices follow Torah Values, and make sure they are good role models for your children to follow. Bring your computer into an open area of the home and make sure that you won't be embarrassed if the children look over your shoulder either.


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19. adults and kids     12/7/07 - 10:52 AM
Anonymous

tb - parents don't want their children to engage in sexually intimate behavior and therefore, neither should they?

parents don't allow young children to use knives and matches, and they shouldn't use them either?


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20. not the same     12/7/07 - 1:13 PM
tb

I knew someone would bring up that point. I don't agree with it. I'm sorry. Sexually intimate behavior is not readily available to them everywhere they go the way the Internet is. I'm sorry. In mainstream Yeshiva circles, the Internet is more available to your children and teens than you realize. Because of that, you must approach it differently than the examples you mention. And, by the way, I understand that in many homes the Internet is not used by adults or children. I think that is a valid option. I have problems with parents who watch T.V. or use the Internet, but do not allow their children to do so. I have problems with parents who send their children and teens to Yeshivas that espouse a philosophy that they do not subscribe to themselves. And, in the end, I wish everyone a Happy Chanukah and I hope for the best for all our kids. I just see way too much hypocrasy.


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21. finish the moshol     12/7/07 - 1:15 PM
Elitzur

And at the end... The town was safer, nicer, and more wealthy. Walmart hired 50 residents to work at their store decreasing unemploymend. Walmart also offered the towns residents numerous products not available to them previously raising their standard of living. Walmart provided cheaper prices and a more convinient location for products the residents used to have to go to the big city for.

And so, by providing a challenge and providing its products, Walmart made the town a better place. And when the charedi community sees that there is good out there in the great big world - their community will be much better off too...


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22.     12/7/07 - 2:19 PM
yoni

elitzur, you've missed the point.

those fifty jobs are not even subsistance levels, provide poor insurance or other benifits, if at all, and worse than this, come at the cost of 75 or 100 jobs that pay a living wage that they ran out of buisiness, thus effectively killing the towns economy.

thus crime rises (as some of them wont know how to pay for things) and other problems spread.

Wallmart kills economies, not helps them. (because it does not provide a livable standard.)


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23.     12/7/07 - 2:20 PM
Anonymous

this is, what one might call a "local monopoly" which is every bit as harmfull as a global one.

Because you're still killing competition.


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24. availability?     12/9/07 - 4:45 PM
Anonymous

tb - what does availability have to do with your point about hypocrisy?


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25. re: availability and hypocrasy     12/10/07 - 11:40 AM
tb

Issues we raise in this forum are always complicated by the fact that there are many subgroups among Frum Jews. Not all responses are appropriate for all groups. What does this have to do with your question, anonymous? OK. Here goes. Forgive me if this doesn't come out clearly enough. It's hard to explain on one foot. There are homes where children attend super right wing Yeshivos (whether Litvish or Chasidish) and whose parents do not use the Internet or T.V. or DVD's. How do they approach the Internet? I do not feel qualified to answer and I do respect it if their choice is to completely ban it. But, there are also homes where children attend "middle of the road" Yeshivos where school policy is that Internet may not be used by children at home and/or T.V. may not be in the home at all. Some Yeshivos are asking parents to sign that the children may not be in the room when they use the Internet. Here is the question. What is the likelihood that the children and teens in middle of the road Yeshivos will encounter the Internet at home or through friends? What is the possiblility that there will be friends in your teenager's circles that have wireless capability on their IPODS, cells, in dorms or even in the neighborhood? I guess the key is: In what circles is your child really running? And he/she does not have to be "at risk" to run with other kids who have this kind of access. The kids are way ahead of you. If it is available around your child either at home or in social situations or in the dorm, then you need to make it open for discussion, open for use with proper filters, and you need to get real about its use by parents and not by children. What has seemed to become accepted over the years is that parents have a T.V. in their bedroom that kids are not allowed to see supposedly or a DVD player that is only for some use and primarily for adult use, that the idea that we lead by example does not apply to media. Well, as an educator, I do not agree. I understand that--for parents who do watch T.V. or rent DVDs that there will be some that they watch that they do not show their younger children, but the idea that a. they can use media, but not their children, or b. they will sign to not having/using media and then do so anyway is unacceptable and dangerous. The Internet is even more of an issue in terms of banning because it actually will serve a purpose for these children when they grow up. Not all will become Talmidai Chachamim. Many will enter the work force, attend college, etc. (remember, we are talking about middle of the road Yeshivish kids). We are raising a generation of children in our Yeshiva system with misplaced priorities with regard to Yiddishkeit. Rebbe says: X. Mommy and Tati do Y. And the availability of the Internet in wireless options in certain Yeshivish circles and dorms demands an open approach by parents. There are many, many Frum homes where Internet with filters is used. There are some Yeshivas where Internet with filters is used in the Yeshiva for teaching and research purposes. It can be done. I've been using it to teach for years. And it isn't only the MO schools who use it. There are all kinds of Frum Jews out there. You would be surprised. Never have I happened on an inappropriate site. In years. Never. Should everyone use the Internet? No, probably not. Should more of those who know that it does not conflict with their personal actions and Hashkafos? Yes. We all know that there are pornography dangers and addiction dangers. Why would we not then be realistic with our kids? Why would we not then filter our computers, put them in the kitchen, stop buying our kids IPODS and Cell phones, stop wholesale sending our sons away to dorms, and for goodness sake stop signing those papers that say something we and our kids know we don't follow. It is available. It is out there, not in a red-light district but in the hands of our teenager's friend or in the home of our 10 year old's friend or in our home. It is there. And it is in every office of every kind. It is used in every research paper of every college class. Who are you? And who is your child likely to become? Now, make a decision for your family.


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26. Text Messaging a Problem?     12/10/07 - 6:36 PM
Anonymous

I see ads in Jewish publications for special cellphones and service for voice only, touting, among other things, no text message capability. The ads say or at least imply that no other cellphones or service are acceptable for a Jew to have.

What Jewish objection does anyone have specifically to text messaging?

It's pretty easy to buy an ordinary bare-bones cell phone with voice plus text capability only (and no Web connection), so I wonder what could be so wrong with that combination.


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27. Shopping choices     12/10/07 - 9:14 PM
Yitzchok - Brooklyn, N.Y.

Sheree- #18 As the Director of 'Kids' , does it occur to you, to also educate those in your charge, not only to discuss the merits of shopping at Shomer Shabbos establishments for the sake of 'keeping it in the family' but also as the right thing to do as a human being, concious of the devastation and havoc wreaked upon the economys of hundreds of rural communities, in addition of course to the many intangibles in which the likes of big box Walmart disrupt interpersonal relations even in seemingly small things like the kindly bakery person giving a cookie to a child in a true communal spirit. not to mention the uncompromising approach to ingredient selection.

Am I waxing nostalgia of times bygone or of values bygone? were valuable lessons not communicated in these seemingly insignificant encounters? The butcher, the fish store man, the that fresh bakery smell, the pride, the meticules cleanliness, the perfect order in which the goods were presented.

Contrast that to the progress we embraced. No I'm not crying cuz my cookies are broken and the 'settled' crumbs now cover what was once shiny chocolate icing, and I'm not suing either. If you want to sue please be aware that there is a disclaimer on the noisy plastic container saying 'some settling may occur' . In other words shut up and get back into your seat.

All I'm saying Herr Direktor is that the price choppers of the world seem to have chopped more than just price.

A value that is incumbent upon us, to share with our kids.


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28. re: anonymous and text messaging     12/11/07 - 12:25 AM
tb

When you say that the bare bones cell phone has no internet capability, does that mean that a child who uses it could not possibly get a wireless card attached or something like it? I don't know. I was just told that at one of the recent Aseifos to discuss the Internet, the possibility of becoming Internet accessible was raised. Text messaging is literally a quieter, more insidious form of communication than talking so I think that makes it a problem for kids. I know that my friend who is a sweet, frum woman who runs a structured Yeshivish home has a son in a dorm who was text messaged by a girl in a high school nearby. no one can eavesdrop easily to those conversations. I would like to hear more about this stuff because I don't consider giving my child a cell phone as early as these other parents do (even in sleep away camp), but you better believe I'm gonna be completely educated by the time I hand over the phone. I'm thinking that will happen when he/she can pay for it himself/herself and hold a part time job to pay the bills.


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29. blogs and Internet     12/11/07 - 12:53 PM
Yehoshua

The recent Jewish Observer had an article expressing the evils of many Jewish run blogs which show disrespect for our Gdolim and Torah. The article went further to criticize any Jewish blog, even one with kosher content, as becoming a gateway to exposure to the heinous blogs.

Rabbi Horowitz: If this is becomes the accepted approach by the Gdolim, there will not be any opportunity for "us" to develop any multi-faceted approach to Internet use. In fact your blog is evil in the eyes of the author.

It seems to me the author of that article is still at stage #1 thinking "bans" such as this will make a difference to our use or our children's use of the blogs or Internet.

To me the better approach would be the development and promotion of the kosher blogs like this one or cross-currents, hirhurim etc. where discourse is civil and often scholarly.


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30. Addressing the Real Issues     12/16/07 - 2:35 PM
Shlomo H - Baltimore, Md. - shoffman18@verizon.net

The Wal-Mart is Coming article was on target. It is an issue, but limited than most think. There are two real issues, economic and traffic congestion. Economic- yes, we will all discover how much more "Moishe's Bargain Store" charges for items that Wal-Mart changes 30-70% less for. Congestion- Route 59 is already choking, so adding W-M makes that even more a problem. A hang-out- not really, WM management does not their stores to be hangouts anymore than we do.

So what to do- just look at Lakewood where there are 2 Wal-Marts within a few miles of central Lakewood. Did it case any stores to go under? Was traffic an issue? I don't know, but let's ask.

We can't fight todays nesyanos with yesterdays tactics. It won't work. As Rabbi H has stated many times we need to be clever, creative, positive, and constructive in addressing these issues.


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31. Blogs and the Internet II     12/16/07 - 5:56 PM
Baruch Horowitz - Brooklyn, NY - borhowitz@yahoo.com

"The article went further to criticize any Jewish blog, even one with kosher content, as becoming a gateway to exposure to the heinous blogs."

I don't think that the JO was referring to this site or to CC.

First, the JO article was referring to blogs which use "blogger" technology, and are part of the "family of blogs", and the above two forums are not. Second, there is more responsibility and oversight on these forums than on others, so the specific concerns of the JO are not issues. I note that in Mishpacha Magazine's article on the internet, they made positive reference to internet forums which "give people chizuk".

I gave much thought the JO article since I do interact with the blogosphere. I am "nogiea b'davar", so I will simply say that it raises important issues which should be thought about.

The only thing I will add is that as with any external "fence"(which is indeed a concept in the Torah), one can not neglect the internal development, a point made at length in Rabbi AH Fried's Hakirah article. You can fence out what's bad, but what is the underlying reason why people want what's on the other side on the fence?

There is a reason why people turn to blogs. For example, Rabbi Horowitz wrote elsewhere that:

"...many of the publications serving the charedi world draw the line as to what can be discussed in their pages. Which is precisely why people in our community are turning to ... the Internet"

In fact, I would like to ask a "stirah"( contradiction) to the JO article in question from a previous one !

In "Adults at Risk", Rabbis Becher and Gordon write:

" One of the greatest mistakes one can make is to reject a question or questioner out of hand...Our prime directive is to listen to and accept without prejudice or criticism (or even reaction) any question at all on any topic".

Since there are valid questions, in of themselves, which are discussed on blogs, wouldn't it make sense to teach people how to express a question in an appropriate manner, and to acknowledge that there is an underlying cause of attraction to blogs which need to be dealt with? None of that was addressed in the JO article on blogs.

As a current example, on a blog today, the NYT article about zealotry in fringe-elements of Satmar is being discussed. This is a normal topic which people wonder about, yet it is not discussed in the Charedi media, for the most part.

Even if it would be discussed in the Charedi media, discussion needs to allow for question and answer. Some people are not looking for "explanations", "defenses", or "perspectives", which is how it would usually be handled in the media(I think Jonathan Rosenblum and R. Horowitz's articles are of the genre which are appropriately self-critical, and I am not discussing those, but even those, need to allow for readership questions).

People need to be able to raise questions, in a respectful manner. Parenthetically, I think that there is room for that even regarding more fundamental hashkafa issues, such as ikkarie emunah(perhaps vaadim and private forums are best), but certainly regarding this type of issue, there should be discussion in the form of question and answer. Part of the attraction of blogs is that it is non-judgmental and that questions are allowed.

The only alternative, is for either people to speak to Rabbonim in private, but that's not going to happen on a mass level. It's more practical to create a better alternative to blogs(similar to R. Eli Teitelbaum's idea regarding kosher entertainment), where people aren't afraid to raise issues(as in "Finding Our Voices and Our Names"). As above, I see forums such as Cross Currents or this one, as fundamentally different than what was being discussed in the JO article, and are not "blogs".

On another parenthetical note, I was originally going to e mail this comment to one of the administrators of this forum before posting it, but thought better of it. I try to tailor and adapt my comments for which ever forum I am posting to, and the administrators are welcome to contact me regarding any criticism or suggestions, as with anything else I write.


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32. Blogs and bans     12/17/07 - 2:07 PM
Yehoshua

Boruch Horowitz: as usual, I agree with what you write here. On one point I differ. The author of the JO article was clear about all blogs being a gateway to the "bad blogs." Yes he used an example of blogger and using the "next blog" feature, but he didn't go say "therefore shuls with blogs should not use blogger." The point was that shuls, and I presume others, should not have blogs. You can parse words, as you did, to read otherwise, but I truly believe the author, and tacitly the JO, are saying noone should be reading or writing on blogs.


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33. Jewish World Wide Connector     12/17/07 - 3:25 PM
Nechama

It's been a dream of mine to create an Orthodox Web. The current 'best way' or using the internet is to be careful where you go, and better yet, to filter out all the negative stuff. My idea is to copy/rewrite all the stuff of value that Orthodox Jews might need on the web. Make agreements with certain big service providers to do it directly through our portal. Have tons of Jewish only sites, including medical, parenting, travel, forums and blogs, etc. I know it's a BIG project. Does anyone have any advice?


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34. Link to JO article     12/18/07 - 2:04 PM
Yehoshua

I found an online copy of the JO article, linked by Hirhurim (who says he has permission http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2007/12/frum-blogs.html/) http://www.yasharbooks.com/JOonBlogs.pdf

The article at the end clearly recommends a "zero-tolerance policy" for blogs. He applies this even to Yeshiva news blogs and shul blogs. This blog would be no exception in the author's eyes. The troubling part is the author claims this is the view of the Gdolim as well.

Boruch Horowtiz: You can't claim this JO article allows any room for this or any other kosher blog. To continue blogging, as I will, are we now outside the pale of the Charedi community? Do we now need to go underground?

These are serious questions I think.


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35. view of the gedolim     12/18/07 - 3:11 PM
Anonymous

Does he specify who those gedolim are? Let me guess ... he doesn't.


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36. I Still Think This Is Not a "Blog"     12/18/07 - 7:37 PM
Baruch Horowitz - Brooklyn, NY - borhowitz@yahoo.com

"To continue blogging, as I will, are we now outside the pale of the Charedi community? Do we now need to go underground? "

I still think this is not a "blog". I, actually, have an real "blog", and I think I might be (one of the lesser) targets of the JO article, not you, if you writer on this forum. As I said, I don't think the JO means this forum, but you can always ask the author !


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37. To Yitzchok # 27     12/19/07 - 10:30 PM
Sherree Belsky, Director, Kids

What didn't you understand about my post? Is there anywhere in it where I said one should not support their Jewish Shomer Shabbos stores? Do you not know how to read English? Did you not read the whole post where I suggest your choices should follow Torah values or do you not know what Torah Values are? So before you tell me to "shut up" and get back into my seat which is extremely rude, why don't you take your very eloquent but not very well written speech and get off your soap box.


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38. To Yitzchok # 27     12/19/07 - 10:34 PM
Sherree Belsky, Director, Kids

What didn't you understand about my post? Is there anywhere in it where I said one should not support their Jewish Shomer Shabbos stores? Do you not know how to read English? Did you not read the whole post where I suggest your choices should follow Torah values or do you not know what Torah Values are? So before you tell me to "shut up" and get back into my seat which is extremely rude, why don't you take your very eloquent but not very well written speech and get off your soap box.


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39. 2 Questions     12/20/07 - 3:12 PM
Sherree Belsky, Director, Kids

I have 2 questions:

1. If we can't have internet how would we get these great articles distributed to so many people as well as have this great open forum for comments?

2. As far as the blogs and bashing goes I am more concerned about why there is so much frustration and need to make these comments than these rude comments in the first place. People are hiding behind their anonymitiy on these blogs but these comments are coming from a place of pain, anger, frustration and resentment and that is the real issue that needs to be addressed. Assuring the blogs or shutting them down is another way of sweeping it under the rugs. I just heard yesterday that another very choshov BP Chashidish Rosh was arrested in L.A. for Tax Evasion, money laundering, etc. The FBI swooped down on him and his entire operation. These are todays facts, sweeping it under the rug by stopping blogs and other means of communication is ridiculous.

I don't believe in loshon horah, and I think that people can find a way of speaking their minds without being rude and abbrasive. But there is a reason why the K'lal is upset and rightfully so. Although we do have to keep in mind that we have no idea how many kids are getting onto the internet and reading what we are writing so we should keep that in mind while blogging. We should also keep in find not to be offensive to other readers but we should be able to voice our opinions and share with others in order to vent and heal.


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40. Real Issues     12/20/07 - 7:01 PM
Baruch Horowitz - Brooklyn, NY - borhowitz@yahoo.com

"People are hiding behind their anonymitiy on these blogs but these comments are coming from a place of pain, anger, frustration and resentment and that is the real issue that needs to be addressed"

That was exactly my point regarding the root causes of blogging in comment #31.

No, I don't think everything which goes on in blog forums is the correct way to do things, but there is a need which should be addressed.

Perhaps the solution is either to make serious changes in many of the blog forums(on my own blog, I try to focus on issues rather than on people, keep it as "clean" as possible, attract quality commenters, and learn from experience), or to find alternative non-blog ones, but one needs to deal with issues in some way.


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41. Internet exposure     1/16/08 - 12:13 AM
A - Teaneck

Rabbi Horowitz, yasher koach for raising this issue regarding teens on the internet. Most parents are completely oblivious to what their kids are doing online. They think that it is ok when they are chatting with "friends", oh, if they only knew. Parents, PLEASE get informed, become savvy and do everything that you can to find out what your children are doing online. YOU WILL BE SHOCKED!


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42. To Sheree Director-Kids     1/22/08 - 11:46 PM
Ohaiv Shalom

Sheree- The comment you seem to be upset about is not directed at you at all. It speaks to those wanting to sue Wal-Mart. Thats how I read the comment by yitzchock, he wasn't being rude to you. He does come off as very liberal though.


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43. I like Walmart     5/7/08 - 4:01 PM
Anonymous

Walmart is the only place I can afford shopping in my little town. There is no "Amazing Savings" where I live.

A Yid should be wise with where to shop, no?

The Internet is the equivalent to the "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil", as is defined in the Zohar. We are living in the era very close to redemption. All the good and evil are displayed and you have a choice of where to gravitate towards.

Do yourself a favor and talk about redemption. Write about redemption.

Even if we have no Internet, we have the public library, where it is also a place of knowledge of good and evil.

This website has a presence on the Internet. If you don't like the Internet, why are you here?


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44. The Internet is here     3/11/10 - 6:11 PM
Anonymous

Yes the Internet is a precarious place for everyone but does it have to be assur except for "business purposes"? It seems to me we have to teach our teens and children about the spiritual impact of what their eyes see and their ears hear and how to view and properly process the availability of information in the world out there with HEALTHY Torah hashkafas. We've heard of the addictions to terrible internet sites that has plagued even the most "esteemed" rabbeim and adolescents. What is going on here? Perhaps we should be addressing this type of addictive behavior in general and try to determine is so missing in these "Torah observant lives" that these men fall victim to the trash and pritzus. Yes, filters. Yes, stringent guidelines. But why do we have to call it ALL bad/assur? Look at all the Torah Websites and resources out there that are used for Kiddush Hashem! Isn't it wondrous that I can go out of town and print up a dvar Torah for my Shabbos table, find out the zemanim for that area, search for kosher restaurants, etc.?Moderation and diligence are key here. We have to find the middle path. I eagerly await some of the ideas that Rabbi Horowitz's 'committee' comes up with.

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