Open and shut

This story – about a large gathering of Orthodox Jews in New York discussing the internet – amused me, bemused me, and enthused me.

Amused me? The headline summary is: Rabbis tell 60,000 in NY: Get rid of the Internet if you know what’s good for you. But….

Officially, there was no Web coverage — for obvious reasons — yet numerous live feeds sprang up online enabling people around the world to see the event. The feeds were furnished by attendees who used smart devices to record and upload the proceedings, and many of these people were sending out tweets on Twitter describing the goings-on, to the extent that the hashtag “asifa” (the term used to describe the gathering) was high on Twitter’s trending topic list while the event was taking place.

As could be expected, many of the tweets were furnished by skeptics, with enough to populate a list of the funniest, like this one: “Were it not for social media I would not be able to keep track of the asifa.”

Ha!

Bemused me?

Several of the speakers stressed the “historic significance” of the day, with one, Rabbi Efraim Wachsman of Yeshiva Meor Yitzchok in Monsey, NY, telling the assembled that the event was a “historic crossroads. Your strength and resolve today will decide what Judaism will look like in a few years from now.”

It bemuses me how people can take themselves this seriously, and expect others to do the same. Prediction: Judaism will look the same in a few years from now.

Enthused me?

Rabbi Mattiyahu Salomon of the Lakewood Yeshiva, who was the driving force behind the event, emphasized in his remarks the importance of protecting Jewish children from the ravages of the Internet, which destroys their intrinsic holiness. He also asked members of the audience to pray for the protection against “the great danger in Israel that a law may be passed to draft yeshiva students into the army. We know the Torah is the protection of the Jewish people,” he said. “[Yeshiva students] are the army, and to take them from their studies” would bring tragedy to the Jewish people.

I am delighted people like this Rabbi are fearful Yeshiva students may be conscripted. Perhaps that means this will happen, and I for one among millions, believe that will be a very good thing. Perhaps real change in this arena is on the way; I certainly hope so. And yes, I even pray for it.

I believe the massed ranks of the haredim need to break free of their leadership, and play a fuller role in the affairs of this country – giving as much, if not more, as they take. I am not alone.