Itâs Not Just About The Internetâ¦
Weâre Creating Apathetic Robots
by Allan J. Katz, M.S. CRC
The Orthodox Jewish world continues to seesaw back and forth about the pros and cons of the Asifa on Technology at Citified in New York, shown in communities around the world. Debates abound about the best filters, blocks and technological band aids which will surely repair the dangerous environmental influences of the outside world. Letâs ban or block the Internet and suddenly our children will be less distracted, our communities more heimishe and our learning and davening more for the sake of Heaven instead of rote blabbering to get it over with.
In 1944, Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler said in Strive for Truth (v.3, p.143) âHuman beings believe, in their arrogance that if they continue developing the world on the basis of ever expanding technology they will eventually achieve an environment that will afford everyone unlimited gratification of the senses and a life of ease and pleasure. So long as people remain "takers,â their efforts will inevitably be directed toward selfishness...â
With the advance of technology and the ease of availability, the temptation of distraction has become a daily struggle for Jews across the spectrum to remain upright even in their own homes. But the Internet is only part of the problem. Go into almost any shul today and youâll find congregants reading their emails on their cellphones and leaving davening to answer their phones, with their Talis over their heads and Tefillin perfectly squared. Attend any Dâvar Torah, graduation ceremony, wedding or bar mitzvah and youâll find people texting instead of being present. The real problem is chutzpah and selfishness and parents are teaching it to their children by their own actions, then wonderingâ¦ what went wrong!!!
Rabbi Bachya says in Duties of the Heart: "Their evil inclination induces them to abandon the spiritual world wherein lies their salvationâ¦ it makes self-adornment more attractive to themâ¦ it impels them to gratify their desires for self-indulgenceâ¦ until they are sunk in the depths of its seas."
In the rush to satisfy our thirst for instant gratification, information and acceptance, weâve created a Jewish society devoid of cohesiveness and spirituality, full of chutzpah and apathy. As Rabbi Dessler said 68 years ago, âThey persist in thinking that soon, very soon, they will hit the right formula, and if not in this generation, then in the next, universal happiness will come. And so they bring up their children to study nothing and think of nothing but technological advancementâ¦â (Strive for Truth, v.3, pg. 152).
It seems as if children and adults 68 years ago were also steeped in the excesses of technology, though it is not as insidious as today. Unfortunately, Jews today are becoming apathetic robots. In their quest to look frum with their starched white shirts and impeccable Borsolino hats; in keeping up with the Schwartzâs, they have truly collapsed into a materialistic society, all for the sake of Heaven.
Consider the case of Yaakov who goes to the store to buy a pair of expensive shoes on sale at a national chain department store, known for its lenient return policy. There he meets his friend Shimon who has just bought the exact pair of shoes Yaakov wants. Shimon relates to Yaakov that he âpurchasedâ the $300 pair of shoes for only $200 by switching the price tag while no one was looking and Yaakov can have them for $250, thereby saving $50 and Shimon will make some money on the deal. Shimon is very proud of himself and Yaakov gets a great deal. Where I come from this is called stealing.
Or consider the practice of Reuven going to an outlet store to buy fancy white shirts for Shabbos, to sit and learn in one of Americaâs finest Yeshivos, where he wouldnât dare stand out wearing a blue shirt. Lo and behold, Reuven ends up at the local department store return counter telling the clerk the shirt is imperfect and he wants to exchange the shirt or get a refund.
Why would religious people, steeped in Torah learning, resort to lying and stealing?
The Orchos Tzaddikim in Sh'ar Hasheker says, âAlchemists turn copper into gold where even the experts cannot tell the difference. So it is with the mind of the charlatan. He rationalizes and justifies his lies until they appear even to him as truth.â Alan Morinis in Every Day, Holy Day says, âWhat could possibly cause you to vary from the truth? Probe your motivations and you will encounter some other trait like envy or laziness - seeking its own satisfaction. You deviate from the truth when some inner trait wants to bend reality to its own purpose (p. 344).
As you see, envy fueled by chutzpah and engineered by selfish materialism causes people to steal and lie, all for the sake of Heaven; so they can join the âin-crowdâ and look like everyone else with fancy shoes, exquisite hats and starchy, imperfect white shirts.
Not surprisingly, the men and women Rachel Shteir, author of âThe Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting, spoke to also talked differently about shoplifting. The men sounded as if they saw themselves as heroes in video games; one described the excitement of racing through the aisles of Target, outwitting the sales staff, security people and cameras. People want to self-enhance and feel good about themselves. People want to be seen in a respectable light by their friends. When this can be accomplished without deception, people are usually honest.
Yes, the Internet and hand held technology are to blame for seriously deteriorating the holiness of Jewish society forever, destroying relationships and distracting us from what is truly our purpose in life, to serve Hashem by doing HIS mitzvos. Even secular psychologists, who once were technology advocates, are now decrying the lack of one-to-one communication and the compulsion to check our hand held devices in spite of danger, social awkwardness and rudeness. Fortunately there are more mitzvos besides guarding your eyes. Number eight is âthou shall not stealâ and number nine is âthou shall not lie.â
What is the answer? Another type of filter. We cannot expect
people to live in caves and never have access to the outside world. Our computers need filters desperately but whatâs
next, putting filters on womenâs heads so men will no longer be tempted to look
in the street? No. The answer is to filter our own minds and
heads by becoming role models for our children in shul, at home and in business. By dressing properly ourselves, by
understanding that being holy is about respecting ourselves enough to feel good
about our own personal strengths, instead of looking outside ourselves for
validation, the latest styles, gossip and news. The answer is bringing up our
children to understand that they have a G-d given soul and direct them to
understand their strengths instead of teaching them what they do will lead them
straight into Gehinnom. To teach our
children from a very young age about G-d, faith, trust and the privilege of
being G-dâs chosen people, not a nation that has to rely on the whims, customs
and fads of others to feel good about ourselves. This is truly the test of our
generation but weâre too busy churning out apathetic robots who could care
Allan Katz, M.S. has a Masters Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling, working toward licensure and his certification as a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist with the International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Professionals. He is the author of Mask in the Mirror, a motivational book for healing from sexual compulsivity. (http://allanjkatz.com). For the past 4 years he has been the moderator of the U.S. hotline for religious Jews suffering from sexual compulsivity and Internet addiction as well as a phone group leader with Guard Your Eyes.com. He delivers lectures and workshops nationwide to schools, synagogues and organizations who want to spread awareness and protect their members from this epidemic which is destroying the moral fabric of our people. He can be reached at http://firstname.lastname@example.org or at 901-359-8299
norms continue to creep into Orthodox Jewish society, the plague of internet
addiction to pornography has now begun surfacing in the Torah world as well.
Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, Dean of the prestigious Ramat Gan Yeshiva, estimates that 80 to 97% of Internet users in the modern Orthodox community have fallen victim to the porn epidemic and will occasionally seek out pornographic sites. He maintains that the temptation is so great to look at forbidden material that a person should not sit down at a computer alone. With the advance of technology and the ease of availability, this temptation has become a daily struggle for many religious Jews from across the spectrum to remain upright even in their own homes. To protect our children we must become aware of the insidiousness of this predicament and encourage everyone to get involved.
For years, this subject was taboo and many in the Yeshiva world preferred to "stick their heads in the sand.? However, as the phenomenon of Internet addiction continues to take its toll in the frum community, Rabbanim, Roshei Yeshivos and Orthodox Counselors are now alerted to the fact that this disease is wrecking marriages, destroying families and wasting thousands of dollars that could be put to use for much greater, nobler causes.
Rabbi Aharon Kotler said many years ago regarding this matter: "I want to awaken you to a painful and shocking matter about which many people err. There are many people whom refrain from speaking about these things under the pretext of modesty. May Heaven help us! In such a fallen and licentious generation as ours, where everything is exposed without shame in the open - to speak about holiness and modesty, this is considered an affront to modesty?! Can there be a greater deception on the part of the evil inclination than this?! On the contrary, it is an absolute obligation to speak about these matters in public!"
The Internet Is Just Part of the Problem
The internet is just part of the problem. Yaakov* (all names changed to protect anonymity), attended prestigious Yeshivos in both Eretz Yisroel and America. He spent 9 years learning in Kollel. Pornography had always been a problem. But usually it didn't stop there. The addiction to pornography is so insidious, it becomes progressive. What used to be enticing and exciting, becomes boring and the addict needs new, and more adventuresome avenues to explore. But clearly, the Internet, reduces the shame and guilt one has at being discovered on the street, when it is so accessible privately in one's home or office.
Sexual addiction is a relational compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes conflicts within one's self, family, friends, loved ones and work. Addicts are willing to sacrifice what they cherish most in order to preserve and continue searching for a spiritual and emotional connection.?
Addiction is an illness of escape into fantasy. Individuals can begin to heal by working on mindfulness, regulating their emotions, becoming more effective communicators and learning how to minimize the effects of stress and resentment in their lives.
What Causes This Disease?
Most addictive behavior stems from a strict, authoritarian home environment where the child does not have his own voice, is severely criticized, abused or emotionally abandoned and does not feel worthy of pleasure. It can also stem from an environment where a child's emotions are not validated. Only acting out sexually or with fantasy can this person override the inhibitions to pleasure. The appeal of connection, whether real or imagined is so strong that the addict will turn to fantasy to relieve the pain of not being worthy of pleasure. This is often the appeal of pornography.
Why People Cannot Stop
Ahron*, who first encountered pornography when he was 10 or 11 was always considered a "good bochur". He writes, "I went to another Yeshiva and spent my night seder listening to recorded shiurim on tapes, which never actually played. Instead pornographic radio talk shows absorbed my night while an open Gemorra sat in front of me. The interesting thing is that I can recall thinking,' Oh, I can handle pornography. I'm in control. Obviously that was the Yetzer Hora talking, not me. I obviously couldn't handle it. In fact I was a lot weaker and very vulnerable."
The forces of temptation caused by the Yetzer Hara are so strong the Talmud (Succah 52a) says,?A person's yetzer hara grows stronger every day, and if Hashem would not help the person, he could never overcome it.? When this particular addiction is a person's nisoyan, he cannot overcome it, no matter how hard he tries without Hashem's help.
In the frum world today, bochurim and adults don't know where to turn. Most walk around feeling they are the only ones who live with this taboo secret they want so desperately to stop. Many teenagers who suffer silently for years think that if they could just get married, the urges will stop and they can begin to do a complete Teshuva. But it usually doesn't work that way. Marriage can sometimes make the situation worse. Because when a spouse finds out it is almost always a devastating blow to their self image. Spouses feel it is their fault, that if they would have just done things differently, their spouse wouldn't have to look elsewhere. Here's what a wife, Rivka, had to say, 2 years after almost getting divorced, upon finding her husband's addiction.
"As Tzvi* spoke about these changes in our marriage, I stepped back from the lime-light and took a look at him for a long moment. In him, I saw a man who had unveiled a terrible and omnipresent temptation; a man who had faced his own humanity and sinfulness; a man who had chosen to fall in the arms of G-d and obey Him step by step, even when the choices were tough. This was a new man: a new husband who inspired me to become a new wife, one who would honor G-d, respect her husband, listen to wise counsel, and immerse herself in a family and community that would help her to build her home well.
With professional help, spouses come to understand that it is not because of them that their spouse has an addiction; it is a disease unlike any other, yet private.
The Road to Recovery
Rabbi Dr. Twersky is a strong advocate of the 12-step programs for people who have fallen into addictive behavior. In his book, Self-Improvement? I'm Jewish?, Rabbi Twersky makes a strong case for every Jew to use the 12 steps to overcome self-defeating behavior.
A reader of the http://GuardYourEyes.com forum once asked Rabbi Twersky, "Why can't I stop this addiction by learning the classical mussar seforim? Rabbi Twersky answered: "I have attended many mussar shiurim. Everybody understands the importance of mussar, but I doubt if many people walk away with the feeling, "If I deviate from this, I'm dead!" A person sincere in recovery realizes that his very life depends on following the program, not theoretically, but very practically. If people would accept mussar that way, it would work. No one in any mussar shiur I attended has ever spoken up and said, "I tried to do things my way, and I fell right back into my old ways. That helps bring home the message that one's life depends on following the program. No one in a mussar shiur shares strength, hope and courage. These things are what makes the difference.?
The Therapy Option
While the 12 step programs are the foundation for recovery, many addicts find they need more intense therapy to work through abuse, neglect and trauma issues. Most clients are able to heal from these issues by getting in touch with their core emotions. This involves working toward not just cessation of unhealthy behaviors but a life of emotional sobriety, trauma reparation, forgiveness and inner child work.
Why is purity in these areas so important in Judaism? Our sages call Shmiras Habris "Yesod", meaning "Foundation". The foundation of a building is "underground" and no one sees it, yet it holds up the entire building! Shmiras Habris is the hidden part of a Jew, it's the real you. If the foundation of a Jew is weak, his whole spiritual structure is fragile and in grave danger of collapse.
The strengthened awareness of these resources hopefully will inaugurate a first time joining together, for ourselves and for all future generations, to strengthen the foundations of our people!
Allan Katz, M.S. has a Masters Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling, working toward licensure and his certification as a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist with the International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Professionals. He is the author of Mask in the Mirror, a motivational book for healing from sexual compulsivity. (http://allanjkatz.com). For the past 4 years he has been the moderator of the U.S. hotline for religious Jews suffering from sexual compulsivity and Internet addiction as well as a phone group leader with Guard Your Eyes.com. He delivers lectures and workshops nationwide to schools, synagogues and organizations who want to spread awareness and protect their members from this epidemic which is destroying the moral fabric of our people. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 901-359-8299.