Haaretz has an article about how ultra-Orthodox rabbis, primarily hasidic, are continuing their war against smartphones. The phones are being blamed for some of the worst ills in haredi society.
“Dear Jews, I am saying this to you in pain and with a broken heart, and in the name of hundreds of hurting families who have lost the head of their family,” the rabbinic leader said.
“Young children are roaming depressed and neglected in the most terrible way because their fathers have left them on their own. Parents are weeping over their sons who have deviated from the straight path amid the chain of generations cut down by the thrust of technology’s blade.”
As the rabbi put it, “I urge you, those of you who are with the Holy Name, come to us! Anyone who has a connection to the corrupting devices should know that he is losing all connection to us, removing himself from the camp of those who fear and are in awe of the word of G-d!!”
Some hasidim are feeling the pressure.
A member of one of the major Hasidic sects who asked not to be named says that for the first time in the rabbis’ longtime battle against technology, he is feeling pressure to bid farewell to his iPhone, which he uses intensively for business. So far, a blind eye was turned to his cell phone use, but recently he was told that due to new regulations, his daughter will not be allowed to attend the local seminary unless he gets rid of the device, or at least installs a stringent screening app.
“It’s a difficult dilemma,” he says. “I’m trying to fight the principal to at least allow me to use a less stringent screening app. They know that some Hasidim need their iPhones to make a living. I don’t want to reach a point where I secretly own a second device. First of all, I don’t want to lie, and secondly, I admit, it has become a little scarier to possess a non-kosher device.”
But a new unspoken deal seems to indicate that the rabbis are loosening their grip… or losing it.
If they had their druthers, the rabbis would return us to the age of the common telephone, but they realize that smartphones are here to stay and not every ultra-Orthodox Jew obeys the rules.
So they’re offering a new deal, even if it’s not stated explicitly: a forbidden smartphone won’t get you shunned by the community, but it will deny you certain rights.
Call it an upgraded phone in exchange for downgraded status without expulsion from the community. For many Hasidim, that’s a good deal.
About a week ago the ultra-Orthodox Behadrei Haredim site reported that the Admor of Belz refused to serve as the godfather at the circumcision ceremony hosted by one of his disciples. Why? The father had a “nonkosher” phone in his pocket.
The Gur Hasidim have declared that smartphone owners will be denied certain privileges like grants for grooms, while the Vizhnitz Hasidim have announced that smartphone owners may not read aloud from the Torah at holiday time.
The common telephone? I imagine there was a time when that device was condemned as the technology most responsible for the spread of lashon hora (evil speech/gossip). And somehow the telephone has survived and evolved. Hasidim have survived too. Evolved, not so much. But at least they’re not burning witches.