Rabbi Viener on Internet Security

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Zman Magazine was asked to put together a magazine for follow up to the Internet Asifa. The following article by Rabbi Yosef Viener appears in the magazine. Here, too, is a PDF (Rabbi Viener – Family Security) of the article that you can feel free to download and distribute to others. You can read a scaled down version here and listen to a lecture that the article was based upon here

Question

I have internet in my home and office, and a friend of mine claims that if I do not filter or monitor the content, I could be violating the issur of lifnei iveir lo sitein michshol (“do not put a stumbling block before the blind”). He argues that my allowing unrestricted internet use by my family and employees will no doubt cause them spiritual harm, and the responsibility for the damage will be partially my fault. This concept is new to me. Is it indeed necessary for me to install the proper filtering software, or is it merely a suggestion for those who want to be machmir?

Answer

We are going to discuss an issue that might seem like an old topic, because there have been many gatherings to address the issue. Much to my surprise and chagrin, however, the message does not seem to have hit home. The security we will discuss is that of the sanctity of the family, which is currently suffering from the most insidious and dangerous attack ever leveled against it: the internet.

If you are about to turn the page because you feel that you have heard all there is to say on this subject, please bear with me for a few pages. First of all, I doubt that you have heard everything. Second, even if you do not think that the subject pertains to you, you might learn in the course of the essay that it does. In my years serving the frum community, there has never been a burning issue that affects the community at large as profoundly as this one does. If I may borrow a term, the internet is the “silent killer” of the neshamah. It is very silent – it can be used in the privacy of a closed room in the home or office – and it’s very deadly. One can commit spiritual suicide, and those around him will be none the wiser, until it is far too late. No one can know whether this problem affects a neighbor, a tablemate in shul or a chavrusa sitting across from you. As we will see, if it affects someone in your close circle of acquaintances, then it affects you as well.

Yet, people are either oblivious to the danger or are deliberately choosing not to focus on it.

Years back, when the initial gatherings regarding the internet took place, the Lakewood mashgiach, R’ Mattisyahu Salamon, shlita, would travel from one community to the next and warn people about the danger. I would take the opportunity to “interview” friends and members of my shul who attended those gatherings. I would ask people what steps they would take based on what they had learned at the gatherings. To my dismay, a common response was, “I’m sure that this problem exists in other people’s homes, but baruch Hashem, my home is safe.” Another response that I would hear is, “I think that the Rabbanim are exaggeratingin order to scare usinto action.”

Unfortunately, the real story is no exaggeration. Rabbeim, rabbanim and community leaders will tell you that not a week goes by without having to deal with an internet-induced shalom bayis problem, chinuch problem, or with a very fine bachur – or at least what’s left of one – who calls crying and begging to help him extricate himself from the tentacles of the internet.

In discussing this topic, I will present an approach toward the internet geared to those who either absolutely need the internet or don’t have the courage to get rid of it. Before I do so, however, I must issue a disclaimer: If you are among the lucky members of Klal Yisrael who do not have internet in their homes, please do not change that because of anything I am about to mention. Ultimately, the best response to the internet remains, and always will remain, not to have any access toit. If you don’t needit, then don’t haveit. Not at home, not at the office, not on your cell phone and not anywhere else. Thatis the best security policy of all. Many people convince themselves that they need internet access, but if they would honestly assess the reasons that they are connected to the internet, they would realize that they could get by without it.

A case in point: some claim they save $30-$40 per month shopping online rather than going to the mall. That claim is debatable. Many husbands who track their expenditures have told me that the built-in shopping mall at home actually costs a lot more thanit saves, because shopping becomes so easy thatit encourages over-consumption. But even if the savings were significant, it’s difficult to justify the danger of having the internet at home just for the convenience and possible savings of shopping online.

The Torah states that when we go to war, the Shechinah (Divine Presence) joins us in the battle and enables us to be victorious. But the Divine escort is contingent upon one factor: “V’hayah machanecha kadosh – your camp shall be holy” (Devarim 23:15). The Torah warns, “V’lo yir’eh b’cha ervas davar, veshov mei’acharecha – He shall not see a shameful thing among you and turn away from behind you” (ibid.). Ultimately, then, one ervas davar costs us more than all of the savings and benefits we have from the internet. If we don’t have the Shechinah with us, we cannot succeed in any of our endeavors. And the internet does not come with the potential for only one “ervas davar.” Rather, it affords access to thousands of them each hour.

My first pleais, therefore, that every person who has internet access should reevaluate the decision he made when he brought the internetinto his home. He should determine whether he truly needs it, or if he can dispose of the potential pitfall – at least in the home, where it is most dangerous.

The rest of the advice in this essay is addressed to those who must have internet access.

No One is Immune to Harmful Influence

Before we move onto the practical realm of how to deal with the internet,itisimportant to address those people who feel that their families areimpervious to the temptation provided by the internet.

In Parashas Vayeira, the Torah relates that Sarah Imeinu saw Yishmael interacting with Yitzchak in an inappropriate manner, and she implored Avraham Avinu to banish Yishmael from their home. The Torah states, “Vayeira hadavar m’od b’einei Avraham al odos b’no – The matter greatly distressed Avraham regarding his son” (Bereishis 21:11). Simply understood, “his son” refers to Yishmael – i.e., Avraham was greatly distressed that he would have to banish his son from his home. The Chasam Sofer explains this verse differently, however. He says that Avraham was greatly distressed because of his son Yitzchak. My Yitzchak, the holy Yitzchak, is susceptible to the influence of Yishmael? Avraham wondered. There must be something wrong with him if he cannot withstand the likes of Yishmael. But Sarah Imeinu knew better. Hashem told Avraham, “Kol asher tomar eilecha Sarah, sh’ma b’kolah – whatever Sarah tells you, heed her voice” (ibid. 21:12).

Sarah Imeinu taught us aninvaluable lesson. No matter how pure and holy a person is, when he is exposed to temptation he is liable to fall prey to it. And if that is true about the relatively innocuous temptation embodied by the presence of Yishmael in the otherwise spiritually uplifted environment of Avraham and Sarah’s home, how much more true is it about the presence of the internet which contains temptations that are so powerful and incredibly accessible.

One lesson we learn, then,is that no one can claim that heisimpervious to the temptation of the internet. We must all seek ways to protect and distance ourselves from this threat to our spiritual security.

But thereis anotherimportant lesson that we can learn from the story of Yitzchak and Yishmael. All of the forms of security we are about to discuss will help only for our own homes. The safeguards we put into place will not help if we do not know where our children are at all times, with whom they are associating, and what those children are exposed to and able to access.

While the problem of harmfulinfluence from bad friends has always existed to some extent, a decade or two ago we could suffice with the knowledge that our children weren’t playing with “real bums.” But today, even the mostinnocent looking children, from the best families, may have access to the worstimagesimaginable.

Your son will tell you, “I’m just going to Motty’s house.” Sounds safe enough. Motty’s a nice boy, you tell yourself. He doesn’t watch movies or hang out with the wrong people. Little do you know that within minutes of being in Motty’s house, your son can sink to the lowest depths of Gehinnom. Itis still an unfortunate fact that many Jewish homes have internet connections that are unfiltered or unmonitored.

Parents naively supply their children with media devices (such as iPad and most MP3 players sold today), without realizing that they all come with full internet capabilities via their wireless connection. It is the parents’ responsibility to thoroughly investigate the phones, media players and games that that they are providing to their children. One can download damaging content to be viewed withincredible ease, and erase the evidence shortly after viewing, thus leaving no visible trace of the damage that has been caused.

A fellow I know once came running to me, frantically seeking my advice. “My son went to his friend’s house,” he said, “and they saw some veryinappropriate things. I thoughtit was a good home. I can’t understand what happened to this generation!”

“Did you check out the home before you allowed him to play there?” I asked.

“Check out the house?” he asked incredulously. “I sit next to the father in shul. My son is in a wonderful yeshivah, and this boy is his classmate. I already checked out the shul we daven in and the yeshivah I send him to. I know the father personally. How much more checking must I do?”

“I’m sorry,” I countered, “but you have to start asking whether a homeis protected from the dangers of the internet before sending your child to play there.”

“I can’t ask that question,” heinsisted. “I’m afraid to hurt people’s feelings. I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes!”

This response was astounding, considering what this fellow does for a living: he’s a trial lawyer. All he does all day is step on toes. He breaks a few, injures others… but for his son’s sanctity and safety he’s afraid to step on toes. He spends his workday being aggressive, but when it comes to this subject, he’s afraid to be branded a “frumak,” so he’d rather blameit on the generation than face reality.

The reality today is that part of your job as a parent is to make sure you know which houses are protected from the internet and which are not. It is a very delicate issue, and it can cause bad feelings, butif you are not willing to checkinto what your child’s friends can expose your child to, you are not doing your job as a parent. If you arein doubt, thenit’s better to err on the side of caution. When you consider the grave damage that can be done to your childin seconds, you will probably agree thatitis better to disassociate from those who are willing to take a risk, rather than have your child caughtin the “Net.”

So while we will discuss what can be done to protect our own homes, it is equally vital that you know where your children are going each time they leave the house. It sounds wearisome, but a momentary lapse in your vigilance can introduce them to a yetzer hara thatis extremely difficult to fight.

The Case of Shloimy

A bachur – we’ll call him Shloimy – once called me to request an appointment, several days before he was scheduled to return to yeshivah after Pesach bein hazmanim (intersession). Shloimy entered my study, closed the door, sat down and began to cry. He spent the next 25 minutes crying. I couldn’t make out any intelligible words from what he was saying, but the torture that he was going through was expressed clearly without words. When he finally drew himself together, he told me that less than half a year earlier, on Thanksgiving weekend, his parents went away for a Shabbos and left him home alone.

The word “downhill” does not do justice to Shloimy’s trajectory over the eight or nine weeks that followed. His interest in learning went into such a tailspin that his rebbicalled the parents to discuss it. “What happened to my star talmid?” he asked in concern. “I ask him questions during shiur and I realize that he was daydreaming; he hasn’t been doing chazzarah (reviewing)…”

The parents didn’t know what to make of Shloimy’s downturn. Rather thaninvestigate the possible causes, they reasoned that children have their ups and downs, and they figured that Shloimy would eventually come out of the rut on his own. Shloimy – by his own admission – continued to spiral ever-downward for the rest of the winter.

Shloimy comes from an amazing family, and their entire home is run al taharas hakodesh. There are no magazines in the home, no television – nothing that can lead a person astray – except for one thing. Shloimy’s fatheris a businessman, and he feels that he needs a computer with internet accessin his home. And on that fateful weekend, Shloimy began a descent on the slippery slope that has felled so many.

A while after my conversation with Shloimy, I managed to have a conversation with Shloimy’s father without betraying to him that his son had spoken to me. Shloimy’s father mentioned that he had been to two of the gatherings discussing internet access.

“What action did you take after you left those gatherings?” I asked him.

He said that he understood that it was important for other families to have the systems that I encourage people to install, but in his family it was absolutely unnecessary. “You have to know your kids,” he said. “Each one of my children is a bigger tachshit (loosely translated: gem) than the next.”

“Besides,” he added, “I onceinstalled a filter for a few days, andit blocked out too much, so I removedit.”

I add this last detail because aside from the naïveté regarding how powerful a yetzer hara we are dealing with, I found the lack of patiencein this case to be a bit odd. When we are talking about the spiritual success or failure of our children, is a system that blocks too much so bad? Andifitis too much of a pain, why go without any system? Try another one, and then anotherif you must, but don’t go without anything!

Finally, with Shloimy’s permission, I told his father what had been going on for the previous five months. “It’s a shame that you didn’t accept the message from the asifos that you attended,” I said, “because now we have a broken person to deal with, and we can only hope to get him back.”

I said we could only hope to get him back because, as Shloimy told me during his “confession,” not only did he feel terrible guilt for the aveiros he had already done, but even as he tried to do teshuvah, he simply couldn’t concentrate because of the images floating around in his head.

Certainly, Hashem gave us a gift called teshuvah, and just as a computer has a delete button, Hashem can help a person delete those images as well. However, if the proper precautions are not taken, a relapse is possible at any time. An integral part of the teshuvah process is ensuring that the proper steps are taken to help mitigate the possibility of transgression.

Issur Yichud with a Computer

I have had tens of cases just like this one. Young, budding talmidei chachamim who were at the top of their respective classes in yeshivah became broken and dispirited because they were left in a vulnerable position by parents who were too proud, or too naïve, to acknowledge that their son might be tempted by the impurity that is so readily available on the internet.

For those who feel that they or their children are immune to the temptation posed by the internet, a quote from Rambam should dispel that notion. The Rambam (Hilchos Issurei Biah 22:18-20) writes, “There is nothing as difficult for the majority of the Jewish people as [the mitzvah to refrain] from illicit relationships… Our Sages taught that theft and illicit relationships are sins that a person is drawn to and desires… Therefore, it is worthwhile for a person to subjugate his yetzer in this area, and to train himself to act in a holy manner and have only pure thoughts, and to plan properly to save himself from [such sins]. One should refrain from yichud, because it is the greatest cause [for sins of this nature].”

The Rambam is teaching us that the yetzer hara that people are falling prey to on the internet is the most difficult one to withstand. It is foolish to try to fight the most difficult yetzer hara on its “home turf.” We must try to avoid this yetzer hara altogether by getting rid of the internet, or at least diminish the possibility of falling prey to it by having the correct systems installed. Indeed, we must treat the computer with the issur yichud that the Rambam names as the greatest cause of sinsin this realm.

I know that this last statement will sound outlandish to some people. After one gathering regarding the internet, I asked someone who attended, “What do you consider the most powerful line you heard at the gathering?”

He smiled and said, “I know what the most powerful line was, but I think it was a great chiddush. HaRav Mattisyahu Salamon said that if the internet was around in the times of Chazal, they would have enacted an issur yichud upon it. How can there be an issur yichud with a computer – it’s not a living being!”

The Mashgiach’s words were certainly not novel; in fact, they reach the crux of the issue. He understands how powerful this yetzer hara is because he has dealt with the fallout. Dealing with the fallout has shown that being with a computer, alone, leaves a person very vulnerable. In fact, we might argue that in an ordinary yichud situation, we are typically dealing with two people who can have a variety of reasons for resistinginappropriate behavior: pride, fear, etc. In the case of the internet, we are dealing with one person, with no culpability. The computer will not protest or say anything to anyone later on. If the person’s conscienceis unable to stop him – as unfortunately seems to be the casein an overwhelming number ofinstances – heisin a serious predicament.

On the very morning that I delivered a shiur on this topic, Hashem sent me yet another case. This time, a father called me up and said, “I have a very open relationship with my son, and he discussed something with me that I think you can help us with. We need to talk to you together.”

I spoke to the father for a few minutes, and then I asked him whether I could speak to his son privately. I knew that the situation would cause an untold amount of embarrassment to the boy, and I wanted him to be able to face his father afterward. The father agreed, and when the boy entered the room, the first question he asked was whether I had ever heard of the problem before. This boy was under the impression that he was the only one with this problem. I assured him that he was far from the odd man out. “You are very normal,” I said. “What makes you different is that you told your father, and I am very impressed that you did. Otherwise, you are unfortunately a prototypical case of a person left alone with unlimited access to the internet.”

I could see that it took a load off his shoulders. That doesn’t mean that I caused him to view the situation lightly – far from it. But it was comforting to him to know that he was struggling with a normal yetzer hara, and that he was not crazy.

This boy explained that when he started failing in this area, he sank into a deep depression, certain that he was depraved and that no one else was struggling with this desire. Once I explained thatit was normal, he felt that he could deal withit.

Realize, however, that what I told him was the truth: the sort of honest relationship he has with his father is extremely rare. Most parents will have no idea of what their children are up to at all, and even if they do find out, it will be at a stage at which it will be very, very difficult to undo the damage. Bachurim come to me many times to discuss this problem on the condition that I not tell their parents. After hearing the extent of the damage and the frequency with which they have been falling prey, I often ask, “Don’t you parents know anything?” The answerisinvariably, “They have no clue.”

The good news in those cases is that these boys are seeking help. (I can just imagine how many other boys are in similar situations, but are too ashamed to seek help.) The bad news is that I can’t tell the parents afterwards, because I have been approached in confidence, so I just have to hope that they attend a gathering on the subject and decide to eradicate the problem from the home without my intervention. Unfortunately, even when parents of boys that I have met with do attend a gathering, their reaction to what they hear is usually, “I think that it was a very important d’rashah. I’m going to tell my neighbor about it the next time I see him.”

If the situation I portray seems frightening, it’s only because it is. We must make internet security a community priority and a societal norm, to the extent that no one would consider having unfiltered and unreported internet access.

Filtering and Accountability

Let me outline the system that I feel must be in place on every computer that has internet access, whether at home or in the office. Again, the best solution is still to have no internet access in the first place, but in cases where that is not an option, we need to have a two-tiered security system comprised of filtering software and reporting software.

There are dozens of programs available, with varying levels of efficacy. Interestingly, many well-meaning non-Jews realize that the moral fabric of this country is decaying because of the terrible impact of the internet, and they are inventing software to combat the problem. So concerned are they about the problem that they are making their software available for free or for a nominal fee of $10 or $20 a month – a small price to pay when we realize whatis at stake. Some programs do both filtering and reporting, and some do only one of the two; you can install more than one program on your system to provide comprehensive coverage.

Let me explain the purpose and operating method of each of the two types of software.

Filtering Software

The purpose of filtering softwareis to blockinappropriate material from reaching your computer screen. Most filters will allow you to “white list” the websites that you need to use, so that you can confine your internet access to the minimal number of websites that you really need. You can also “blacklist” specific sites that you don’t want peoplein your home to access. Aside from the white lists and blacklists, the filters use frequently updatedinformation and advanced technology to scan websites and block those that contain offensive language and objectionable material.

Unfortunately, though, the people who are attempting to spread tumah are very determined to get their filth through the filters, and they will stop at nothing. They create thousands of sites each day, many of which are designed to “outsmart” the filtering systems.

In addition, a determined child (or adult) can figure out a way to work around a filter so that he (or she) can get to theinappropriate material, or he can stumble on the password for the filter and disableit.

Itis thereforeimperative that you add the second layer of protection: a reporting system.

Reporting Software

Reporting software can track anything on your computer, down to each keystroke and click of the mouse if you set it up to do so. Its most important function, however, is to track website visits and searches. The software then generates a report and sends it to you and someone else via email. It is imperative that you send the report to someone who you will have difficulty facing if the report is unfavorable – a chavrusa, a Rebbi, or a rav.

I have made the following offer in public, and it stands for anyone reading this essay: if you cannot find someone with whom you are uncomfortable enough to send the reports to, I am willing to read your reports, as long as you are willing to accept some warm divrei mussar if I find something troublesome on a report. I already receive numerous reports each morning, many of which are for internet use of people I don’t even know. Each report takes me only a few seconds to read, because the first few lines of the report contain a brief synopsis – something to the effect of “looks good,” “report needs review,” or “report needs close review.”

Employing this two-tiered system is the only way to have internet access without presenting a clear and present danger to the sanctity of our homes. Many people who have suffered from an internet addiction have been cured after installing such software and being forced to face a rav or Rebbi who actually took the time to read the reports and contact their mispallel or talmid and discussit, thus successfully weaning him off of the addiction.

A case in point is a fellow who came over to me after Maariv one night and asked to speak to me in private. He waited until all the other people who were waiting finished asking their sh’eilos, and then he sat down and said, “I am a regular, card-carrying member of the frum community. My children attend good yeshivos, I’m professional, I make plenty of money, I learn daf yomi each day, and… I have been addicted to the internet for several years.”

“I’m a lawyer,” he told me. “It is not considered strange for me to stay in the office until 11 or 12 o’clock at night. Little did anyone know that I usually finished my work much earlier (due to the downturn in the economy) and I spent the rest of the time tearing apart my neshamah.”

Quite a résumé. I had to give him credit for comingin person. Most people with this problem call and discussit anonymously over the phone.

“I need your help,” he continued. “I want to have the reports of my internet use sent to you.”

“I’ll be happy to have you send them to me,” I said, “but only on the condition that if I call you up and give you mussar, you’ll listen to me. If you are going to hate me forit or avoid my phone calls, then we are not going to accomplish much by having you send me reports.”

“I’m aware of the consequences,” he replied. “But I’ve heard from others using the system that it works very well, and I need help!”

This man has been on the filtering and reporting system for two months. The good newsis that many of the reports were good. That bad newsis that several weeks ago, the headline on the page read, “Report needs close review.”

I sent this man an email, “Please contact me ASAP.”

He wrote back, “I am having tremendous bizyonos (embarrassment) because of this, andit’s going to get better.”

I’m happy to report thatit did get better. The last few reports have been much better.

Does this mean that he won’t cave to his yetzer hara ever again? No. But he knows that if he does slip, he’ll have some explaining to do, and that is a very powerful deterrent. It is a perfect application of R’ Yochanan ben Zakkai’s blessing to his students, “Yehi ratzon sheyehei mora Shamayim aleichem kemora basar vadam – May it be [Hashem’s] will that your fear of Heaven should be akin to your fear of a human.” Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to muster up enough mora Shamayim when it comes to this yetzer hara, so we had better employ ‘the fear of getting caught’ (mora basar vadam) to boost our immunity.

I cannot overemphasize the need for the reporting software. Filtering is simply not enough. The people who invent these reporting programs consider it so vital that when you set up the options for the frequency at which the reports will be generated, you will notice that one of the options is to have a report sent every hour. If the team that created this software realized how dangerous the internetis, how much more so should we.

A Word on Passwords

One more important point regarding filtering and reporting software:

In order to set up these systems, you have to apply a password that allows you to control the level of filtering, the websites that you want to enable access to, and other features. It is imperative that the people most susceptible to this yetzer hara not be the ones to set up the password. If a lonely husband spending summer nights alonein the city finds himselfin the vulnerable position of having access to a computer on which all he must dois enter a password and change the filtering levels, then we haven’t gained much by setting up the filtering system. One possibility is to have the husband and wife each enter a few of the characters in the password, so that neither of the two can make a change to the password without the other one’s knowledge. If that is not practical, have a neighbor or friend set up the password.

Toward Greater Productivity: Internet at Home

The art of “killing time” has been perfected through internet use. A simple search often turns into hours of nonsensical activity. It should be obvious that as frum yidden we must realize that our job in life is to utilize all the precious time given to us for the avodas Hashem that we were created to do. Wasting time surfing the net, even if nothing improper is viewed, and no lashon horah is read, is akin to committing suicide with an installment plan. It is a crime to waste precious time on endless net-browsing for men who have precious little time for their daily learning, and for busy women who struggle to find time for their children, davening or chessed.

Toward Greater Productivity: Internet in the Workplace

One fellow who came to discuss the problem of the internet with me is a lawyer who owns a large law firm. I told him that aside from the internet security system he must set up in his home, he must also put a security system in place in his office. If an employer has a computer system (for Yidden in the office), he may be transgressing, “Lifnei iveir lo sitein michshol” if he does not have a filtering and accountability system in place.

Although lifnei iveir applies only when it is certain (or very likely) that another person is going to sin because of your actions, in the case of the internet it is almost guaranteed that those working on an unprotected system will be misusing the computer. The misuse will not only be limited to improper viewing. Wasting company time also involves serious issues of g’neivah as well as loss of potential revenue for the firm.  And if these sins are not in the realm of Even Ezer (which includes the sins associated with viewing improper sites), then they will be in the realm of Choshen Mishpat, because employees will waste company time surfing the net if they are left to their own devices.

It took a few weeks of intense nudging to convince the managing partner of the law firm to install an elaborate security system on his computer network. But once the system wasinstalled,it took only a few days until he called me and said, “RabbiViener, I don’t know how to thank you.”

Baruch Hashem!” I said. “You have the tz’nius under control?”

“Not yet,” he said, “but I already fired three people. They were caught spending over 30% of their time on the internet — on my dime!”

I don’t see why the CEO of any company – frum or not – wouldn’t rush to install a filtering and reporting system on their computers. If for nothing else, it keeps honest people honest, and productivity will naturally go up — hopefully to the levels that it should be at in the first place.

Similarly, if you are an employee in a firm and you sit alone in an office with a computer that is not filtered, make sure to get the computer technician in your office to place a filtering and reporting system on your computer. If it is impossible to make such changes in your office, perhaps it is time to reevaluate your working there. Remember, turning the Shechinah away from you will only hurt your parnassah prospects.

A Note to Women

Chazal teach that women lead the way when it comes to maintaining the sanctity of the home. In Parashas Bo, Pharaoh offers to allow the men to go serve Hashem in the wilderness, as long as the women and children would remain in Mitzrayim. In Divrei Aggadah, Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv explains that Pharaoh realized that if the men were allowed to serve Hashem on their own, they would not last long. They could only succeedif the women were backing and supporting themin their efforts.

Harav Elyashiv cites a Midrash as proof. The Midrash states that a righteous man was married to a righteous woman, and they did not have any children. They decided to divorce and they each married another person. The man married a wicked woman and he became wicked. The woman married a wicked man and she made him righteous. We see, concludes the Midrash, that “everything comes from the woman.”

Women: I cannot overemphasize the difficult yetzer hara that the internet presents for your husbands and children. I don’t want to cause shalom bayis issues, but trust me it is far easier to prevent the problem than to deal with it when it turns into a real issue, chas v’shalom.

Please do not assume that you are not in danger as well. Although women are generally not as susceptible to the yetzer haras that plague men, the enticing nature of the web can (and unfortunately does) ensnare both genders.

Nashim tzidkaniyos! Insist that the internet be removed from your home if it does not need to be there. If you must have internet access, see to it that a filter and reporting system be installed on all computers, Blackberries and iPhones. If your husbandis resistant, speak to his Rav as soon as possible, because your husband may already bein trouble. If he doesn’t have a Rav because he frequents too many shuls, make sure he finds one. Very few can win the battle without the help of a spiritual mentor.

Finally – and I address this exhortation to both parents and children – daven. Daven that your efforts to maintain k’dushas habayis by protecting yourselves and your families from this terrible danger should succeed. Only with tefillah can our hishtadlus to raise frum ehrliche Yidden be met with hatzlachah.

I will end on an optimistic note. The fact that the yetzer hara has grown so strong in our time, in large part due to the influence of the internet, is a sure sign that Mashiach is on his way. Just before the time comes for the yetzer hara to be eradicated, Hashem is allowing him to unleash every tool in his arsenal to try to lead us astray. It is up to us to neutralize the yetzer hara’s most powerful weapon, so that we merit to greet Mashiach with pure eyes, hearts, and minds.

A small sampling of the many filter and reporting programs available

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