Is the Internet Evil?

internetevil

An exploration of what the Torah might say about spreading Jewish messages via online technology

by Moshe Goldman

The Q&A below was reprinted with permission from Chabad.org.

Question: I’ve heard that internet is “banned” by the rabbis in various Jewish religious communities—it is considered one of “Satan’s tools.” Obviously, however, Chabad does use the internet as a tool to serve G-d. What does the Torah say about using this medium?

Answer:

The stance of Chabad, based on the teachings of the Tanya1 and the Rebbe’s statements regarding modern media2, is that the internet in and of itself is neutral. Other than those entities specifically banned by the Torah (whether the Written or Oral Law), such as un-kosher foods, the status of every object is determined by the way it is used.

A knife might be a good analogy. It has the capacity to do much harm, and has killed many, many people. But when used properly it also has the capacity to make life more convenient and even to heal the dangerously ill. And despite knives’ negative potential, we continue to use them in our homesthough we exercise caution and make sure they don’t fall into the hands of children.

There is no doubt that with regards to Jewish outreach and educational opportunities, the internet is peerless in its ability to disseminate Torah information and values. Never before has the average Jeweven those living in the remotest communitieshad access to such a wealth of Torah knowledge. As a member of the Chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team, I’ve personally had the opportunity to share the Torah’s message with Jews from the most unusual and exotic locations (and situations) imaginable, which would have been nearly impossible without the internet.

As such, it is no wonder that Chabadwhose mission it is to touch every Jew by spreading awareness of our beautiful heritagehas invested so heavily in the internet.

This idea is rooted in the belief that “Everything that G-d created in His world, He did not create but for His glory” (Ethics 6:11). The internet, too, is G-d’s creationintended to increase His glory; to bring the world to a greater awareness of its Creator.

However, the above should not be misconstrued as a blanket endorsement for the internet. Unfortunately, there’s much that is wrong with the internetno need to elaborate on this pointand we must take appropriate measures to protect ourselves and our families from harmful sites and activities available at the click of a mouse.

So, should you or I allow internet into our homes? That is a personal decision that every individual must make. And I certainly understand why certain rabbis strongly oppose internet use. Personally, I only use the internet at work, and I do not have access at home. At times this is a sacrifice, but for me the risks outweigh the benefits at home. Those who do have it at home should certainly have appropriate controls and filters installed. According to the FBI, “The most important factors in keeping your child safe on-line are the utilization of appropriate blocking software and/or parental controls, along with open, honest discussions with your child, monitoring his/her on-line activity.”3

But this has no bearing on the importance of using this incredible medium to disseminate Torah and Judaism.

*To look up footnote materials for this article, visit http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/675087/jewish/Is-the-Internet-Evil.htm.

About the Author

Moshe Goldman
Rabbi Moshe Goldman is the director of Chabad of the Waterloo Region in Waterloo, Ontario. He is also a member of the Chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team.

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