Delete the App

This article was originally published in a Encounters Publication by The Chicago Community Kollel and an edited  version of this by the Yated.

by Rabbi Yitzchok Broyde


Deep under the surface of the street, it begins with a tiny trickle, a small but constant stream of water gradually eating away at the earth underneath. Slowly, the cavity expands, silent, invisible and deadly. Even as the support for the road above grows dangerously weak, the drivers remain blissfully unaware. The trucks buses and cars keep driving merrily over the growing crater underneath. Everything seems just fine – until one morning rush hour, it isn’t. With a terrifying roar, the sinkhole opens its ugly mouth wide, swallowing cars and people, as an entire section of the road implodes into itself.

In  every  area  in  life,  there  is  the  high  ground,  and  there  are  the  low  insidious  areas. There are the posh Ritz Carltons and there  are  the  seedy  motels  where  your  money and very life may be at risk. There are beautiful  wealthy  neighborhoods  where  people  take  drives  to  admire  the  beauty  of  the  homes  and  landscaping,  and  there  are the dirty dangerous neighborhoods where  you  would  never  venture  at  night.  There is the world of high finance presided over  by  famous  business  magnates  and  there  are  the  sleazy  businesses  governed  by slick and shady characters. The world of technology is no different. There  is  the  world  of  productive  and  necessary  commerce  and  data,  and  then there is the sordid digital underworld, the bane of the conscious, thinking human. We  are  not  referring  to  explicit  sites.  We  are  not  referring  to  malevolent  sites.  We  are  not  referring  to  illegal  sites.  We  are  referring  to  a  whole  new  world,  a  world  where everything seems fine – until it isn’t. Where the essence of the human character slowly erodes away, until one day, like the sinkhole, it implodes into nothingness. Where deep, pure hashkafos, carefully implanted and cultivated for years, are traded in for cheap ‘likes’ and hashtags. We are referring to the world of social media. Imagine someone who spends his days and nights lurking around the streets peeking into people’s homes, watching how they prepare supper, how they interact with their spouses, how they shop, how they put their children to bed, how they celebrate special occasions. He does this day after day, night  after  night.  How  would  we  describe  such  a  flawed  maladaptive  creature?  But  imagine  going  a  step  further.  Imagine  this  character installs a microprocessor into his  mind  which  automatically  downloads  everyone’s opinions and thoughts about all and sundry, straight into his own mind.  About  emunah,  about  how  to  cook  chicken,  about  our  gedolim,  about  politics,  about what to buy your wife for a birthday gift.  Imagine  how  frightfully  twisted  and  contorted  his  mind  becomes  in  no  time  at  all. This,  my  friends,  is  the  life  and  mind  of  the social media junkie. The  holy  battle  waged  by  our  gedolim  against internet in our homes and smartphones in our pockets has met some stiff  resistance,  as  some  feel  they  have  no  option.  Indeed,  in  some  cases  that  may  be  true.  But  very  few  people  have  a  genuine  need  for  social  media.  K’shmo  kein  hu,  it  is  social. It is entertainment. It is not necessary, productive,  or  important.  It  is  all  cons  and  very few (if any) genuine pros. Social media takes so much away from its users and gives  back  nothing  but  a  fleeting  feeling  of  pseudo  friendship.  It  easily  morphs  into  a full-blown addiction stealing so much precious time from crucial relationships. Has  there  ever  been  a  heter  issued  by  any  posek or gadol sanctioning recreational use of social media? When  being  called  up  for  an  aliyah, some are referred to as ‘Reb’, some are called up  as  HaRav  or  Moreinu,  while  others  may  be called up as Hachaver. Some receive the  honorary  postnominal  of  HaCohen  or  HaLevi. Can you imagine sitting in shul and hearing  the  gabai  call  up  the  next  person  prefaced  with  the  title  HaRasha?  Yet,  that  is  precisely  the  title  we  may  be  earning,  chas  v’shalom.  The  Gemara  states  that  one  who  chooses  a  path  that  involves  the  risk  of  seeing  immodestly  clad  women,  when  there  is  another  route  available  is  called  a rasha.  Even  if  they  never  actually  look!  The very  fact  that  there  was  a  less  risky  path  available  and  ignored,  qualifies  him  as  a rasha. As there is rarely a compelling reason to  be  on  social  media,  with  all  its  pritzus, lashon hara and questionable hashkafos, there is always a darcha achrina – simply to avoid  it  in  totality.  The  frightening  logical  conclusion  is  that  one’s  mere  presence  on  social media may earn him the title of rasha. The  Gemara  in  Brachos  refers  to  one’s  wife as dasha braissa; the outer door. Rashi explains that the woman of the house protects  the  home  just  like  a  strong  front  door  prevents  unwanted  intruders.  She  is  the  one  charged  with  the  responsibility  of  creating  and  maintaining  a  ruach  of  Torah  in  the  home.  A  woman  who  maintains  a  presence on social media batters down that  door  and  compromises  the  integrity  and  authenticity  of  her  Torah  home.  How  much  value  can  a  door  riddled  with  holes  have?  The  women’s  entire  raison  d’etre  is  compromised. When Rabbeinu Hakadosh was  dying,  he  lifted  his  10  fingers  towards  heaven and declared that they were used only for Torah, never for personal indulgence. Will we be able to likewise proclaim  that  we  used  our  fingers  to  plug  the  holes  in  the  dikes  that  preserve  our  insular holiness? Or were they used for countless  swipes  and  clicks  of  the  screen,  inviting  a  tsunami  of  lashon  hara,  leitzanus  and  inuendo  to  invade  our  most  holy  and  private space? The Lakewood Mashgiach, Rav Nosson Vachtfogel zt”l testified that he has a mesorah ish m’pi ish from the Maharil Diskin that  the  only  ones  who  will  be  saved  from  the last, terrible war which will occur during chevlei Mashiach, will be the ehrliche Yidden. What is an ehrliche Yid? Rav Nosson defined an ehrliche Yid as one who remains separate from  the  goyim  and  uninfluenced  by  the  prevailing culture. Maintaining physical separation from the goyim while joining them  socially  online  is  like  licking  the  floor  of  your  local  supermarket  while  carefully  wearing a mask. So  what  should  we  do  now?  How  do  we  extract  ourselves  from  the  malaise  of  social media? The Chofetz Chaim was once approached  by  a  talmid  who  had  become  successful  in  business. The  talmid  confided  to  the  Chofetz  Chaim  that  while  he  always  imagined he would give so much tzedakah when he makes it in business, it became so difficult to part with his money. The Chofetz Chaim  advised  him  that  like  a  pool  of  cold  water,  he  needs  to  just  jump  in.  Give  large  amounts  without  thinking.  Just  do  it.  The  same holds true with this nisayon. Just delete  the  app. Delete  every  social  media  app  on  your  phone.  And  while  you’re  at  it,  delete  about  a  dozen  more  apps  that  are  not  necessary  or  conducive  for  an  Ehrliche Yid whose focus is on growth and Kedusha. Just delete, and then delete again. And again. Granted, there may be some who truly need social media for their business. These people  are  presented  with  a  very  difficult  choice,  parnassa,  or  a  pure  Jewish  home.  However,  there  is  a  way  out. This  has  been  dubbed by TAG as the two-phone solution. A filtered smart phone is used only at work, and  only  for  work  purposes.  Then,  leave  it  there. Don’t take your guns to town! Come home with only your flip phone. Of course, a Rav or Moreh Derech needs to be consulted with this shaila. An additional solution may be  to  hire  an  outside  company  to  manage  the social medial aspects of the business. R’  Tzadok  Hakohen  writes  that  where  one  faces  his  greatest  nisayon,  he  also  can  find his life’s calling. A lucrative opportunity for  exponential  growth  lies  just  under  the  surface  of  the  most  intense  adversity.  The  sefer  Kav  Hayashar  brings  the  story  of  an  honest  tailor  who  asked  on  his  deathbed  that  his  worktable  be  converted  into  his  coffin  and  that  he  be  buried  with  his  tape  measure  in  hand.  He  explained  his  strange  request,  saying  that  his  lifetime  of  growth  stemmed  from  his  scrupulous  honesty  in  never  keeping  any  extra  cloth  for  himself.  When  we  delete  those  apps,  we  will  open  up  new,  previously  undiscovered  avenues  of growth. We will see bracha in our biggest challenges, and we will be true ehrliche Yiddin.

Rabbi  Yitzchok  Broyde,  is the Rav  of  Bais  Medresh  Torah Utefilla, Ateres Shmuel and head of the Mikva Association, and  is an alumnus of the Chicago Community Kollel.