That Serpent the Internet

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – translated by R. Blumberg]


The Internet really is a serpent. It’s the evil impulse. That serpent in Eden looked friendly. It promised things that were very fine: “You will be like G-d” (Bereshit 3:5). Yet all of that is the counsel of the evil impulse. Just so, the Internet looks friendly, but it is the evil impulse.

The Internet makes for a lot of problems. Yet the worst problem is the plethora of filthy videos which have gotten so bad that the paper is ashamed to bear their description. A study done a year ago at Tel-Chai College revealed that 90% of youth watch those videos, in other words, high school age boys between fourteen and eighteen. True, it says on the side that viewing is permissible only above age eighteen, but in actual fact nobody is checking and many boys start watching at age ten. True, girls watch it less, but they watch it as well, and religious youth are no exception.

All this involves a two-fold evil. First, the very watching involves a severe prohibition, as is explained in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 307:16, which states that it is forbidden to read books that provoke the evil impulse. This applies all the more so to those vile videos, whose prohibition does not just constitute a stricture but an outright law to which every upright Jew and every upright non-Jew will agree. Second, those videos truly do arouse the evil impulse and corrupt the thoughts of youth, creating a distorted image of women. These videos encourage men to view women as sexual objects, entitled to offer themselves sexually to many men. They likewise encourage men to mistreat women sexually. Instead of learning what the pure and moral relationship between a man and a woman is from their parents or their school, the youth learn it from these deviant videos.

At one time people knew that one’s home is a shelter and the street is dangerous. Now, the Internet has brought the street and its filth right into the home.

Moreover, social networks such as Facebook have also taken the home outside, spilling

the trash from one’s home into the living room of another. The book Mesillat Yesharim warns us that the greatest moral danger is corrupt society (Chapter 5.  See also The Vilna Gaon in his Igeret).

Our conclusion must be that we take the Internet and throw it out of our homes.

True, it has some good things in it, but it also has evil, and what we gain is worth far less than what we lose.

We managed throughout the generations without it, didn’t we? True, it’s got Torah lectures as well, but it’s a source of sin, and you don’t do a Mitzvah at the cost of committing a sin. Sexual license is not the only sin involved. There is also forbidden gossip, violence, insult and falsehood, not to mention the awful waste of time. True, theoretically speaking the Internet can bring a blessing. After all, G-d’s ways are upright, the righteous follow those pathways and the wicked stumble on them. Here, however, we’re not dealing with theory, but with the sad reality.

So, the best thing is to cut oneself off from this modern device. This is the ideal. Many people, however, need to use it for work, for study, etc. In that case, one has an outright obligation to use one of the filter programs, and, obviously, without the possibility of going around it.

There are various programs, each with its pluses and minuses.

-- Moreshet (with five levels).

-- Rimon, with its five levels: 1) Protected 2) Protected Plus 3) Protected Squared 4)

Guarded and 5) Hermetically Sealed. Besides these options of Rimon, there is also Etrog, the most sealed of all.

-- Incognito.

-- Webchaver, in which every unconventional site visited is reported to a friend. That recalls the Talmud in Berachot: “Who sees me?”

-- There is also a simple solution: a password, half of which is known to one spouse and half to the other. Only with your spouse's knowledge can you thus access the internet.

Yet even all of this is not enough. All this is only a ruse. Amidst all of this, you need inner fortitude as well.

When the Vilna Gaon was going to set out onto street, he prepared himself psychologically by learning the four chapters of Mesillat Yesharim dealing with Zehirut - Caution, Chapter 2-5.

So everyone should write a summary appropriate to himself, and read it before he goes on the Internet - just like the officer who recites the same instructions each day before battle.

And indeed, this is a battle. It’s war.

One should write himself a prayer before entering that battle: “G-d and G-d of our fathers, help me to remain pure.”