Monday, November 21, 2011

Cell Phones and Sects

Were our forefathers encouraged to burn their land-based telephones? I ask because a yeshiva in Telshe Stone ran an event last week, at which students were encouraged to toss their mobile phones into a bonfire.

Here's the story via TWBITW*
After a schmooze from the mashgiach of the yeshiva, HaRav Yerucham Schechter, the talmidim collected their cellular telephones and placed them in a collective fire to remove the evil influence from their midst.

According to Chadrei Chareidim, rabbonim of the yeshiva took part in the event, labeled a Seudas Kiddush Hashem.

Rav Zechariah Gruenwald, the founder of the yeshiva added, “A number of years ago, I was involved in a serious vehicular accident and I was spared. On my way here I wondered what saved me. I immediately received the response, that Hashem merited me to see just how students are MeKadesh Shem Shomayim”.
(I'd provide a link to the YWN story, but you're likely to get a seizure from all the Flash animation on that site. I can't be responsible for your medical bills.) 

I think events like this announce the surrender of what is politely called authentic Judaism. When Jews burn cell phones, what they are really doing is waving a white flag and saying, "We can't live in the world." Such a statement, is of course, permitted, but let's not pretend there is anything "authentic" about it. Jews, going back to our earliest stories, lived in the world. Abraham couldn't imagine a righteous person dwelling anywhere but "in the midst of the city" from where he might influence non-believers; Bar Yochai was criticized and banished to a cave  for disrespecting ordinary work-a-day compromises; and the great Levi Yitzchak of Berditcher earned his immortality by framing those compromises as expressions of piety and devotion.

The fierce denunciation of anything secular or electronic is something new under the Jewish the sun. Those who make such denunciations are the fathers of a new Jewish sect. Though I agree that the emergence of new sects are, in some ways, a sign of the mother religion's health and vigor, I must point an accusing finger at anti-sectarian men like Yitzchak Alderstan and Avi  Safran. The two of you are quick to complain when Judaism inclines toward the left. Where is your protest when similar, if not identical, forces cause it to lean to the right? If OpenOrthodoxy crosses into the category of Kariasm and Saduccism the moment an OpenOrthodox Rabbi announces he no longer intends to say a blessing, what rabbinical act takes CharediJudaism into the same place?

*The Worst Blog in the World

Additional point: Rabbi Greunweld arrogantly believes God reached into the world and saved him from death so that he might live to see his students destroy their phones. Does the fool not understand that cell phones also save lives? Maybe God really wants him to spread the gospel of responsible cell phone use. Maybe God wants him to, you know, function as a spiritual leader and teach his students how to withstand temptation and make responsible choices. For that matter, maybe God wants him to retire to a beach in South America with a harem of super-models. How would we know in either case?

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here, here!

Isn't burning cell phones a bad idea for the environment as well...