Sunday, December 04, 2016

Israeli Chasidic Rebbe Permits Use of Filtered Internet, Smartphones 

According to Rabbi Boruch Meir Yaakov Shochet, the Karlin-Stoliner Rebbe, Jewish Law is not in conflict with technology, and this includes innovations such as the Internet and smartphones which almost universally prohibited in Haredi, especially Hasidic circles, according to news website Behadrei Haredim, citing Rabbi Shimon Spitzer, a representative of the Rebbe.

In the Karlin-Stoliner Rebbe’s opinion, a draconian, sweeping prohibition on electronic communications creates a situation where many break the law in secret and are exposed to dangerous content, when a more permissive approach would have encouraged open use with filtering of inappropriate content.

The Rebbe established a rabbinical committee to debate the issue and gave his certification to a store in the largely Chasidic Beitar Illit that sold sanctioned Smartphones. At the time, the city erupted in protest, but the Rebbe eventually won the day.

Rabbi Spitzer has now been sent as the Rebbe’s emissary to promote his position to the multitudes of Chasidim, delineating the following four principles:

1. According to Torah one cannot prohibit something which may also be used for positive ends.

2. As technology is becoming more advanced every day, it makes no sense to issue frequent prohibitions which would surely be eliminated by new prohibitions following the next innovation. This belittles the image of today’s sages and results in fighting symptoms rather than the real problem.

3. A rabbinical decree which the people are unable to abide by is no help at all. A high percentage of Haredim are using the Internet, and turning a blind eye on the problem is bound to cause harm. The Internet cannot be prohibited, much like the use of a car–which may result in an accident, cannot be prohibited.

4. Finally, the Karlin-Stoliner Rebbe is by no stretch of the imagination a liberal, emphasizing that he only permits using the Internet through massive filters, and also pointing out that just the way some people should not be allowed to drive a car, some Chasidim should not be permitted to own a smartphone.


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