Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman

Asifa Impression #3: The Reason for the Ridicule

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A man went tubing up the Delaware River with a group. What a relaxing experience it was! Feet dangling over the sides of the inflated rubber tube, rhythmic sounds of the river… It was so relaxing that he closed his eyes and dozed off…. When he opened them he realized he was in trouble… big trouble…

After writing about the universal appeal of the Internet Asifa and the widespread negative reaction of much of the media – including downplaying the content and/or using the event to launch into Orthodox Jew-bashing – the question is: Why the attempt to blunt the message?

I’ll answer that from a story I heard from my good friend, Rabbi Label Lam.

A man went tubing up the Delaware River with a group. What a relaxing experience it was! Feet dangling over the sides of the inflated rubber tube, rhythmic sounds of the river, an occasional splash of cool water as he gently paddled…. It was so relaxing. In fact, at one point he decided to just close his eyes for a few moments and take in the wonderful rays of the sun.

This is the life, he thought to himself. No worries. No cares. Just relaxing.

It was so relaxing that a few moments turned into a few minutes… which turned into a few extra minutes… which turned into…. Oh my God! He opened his eyes and no one was around. They were way upstream, and he was drifting downstream. In fact, what was that sound? He was heading toward a waterfall!

That is life, Rabbi Lam explains. Growth – psychological, physical and especially spiritual – requires work. Going against a current. Exerting oneself. Sometimes more, sometimes less – but exerting oneself. Some people think they are living the life. They don’t need to work too hard. Take in the rays and relax like me, they tell people.

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Impressions of the Internet Asifa – #1

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Notice the police facing the crowd. However, as Rabbi Wachsman reached the crescendo of his speech expressing the dangers of the internet (especially to children) many of the policemen and policewomen suddenly turned their gaze toward the rabbi with the long white beard…

Among the many lasting impressions I came away with from the Internet asifa at Citi Field was the image of non-Jewish policemen and policewomen turning to face the dais in centerfield as Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman delivered one of the most passionate parts of his speech.

Throughout the event, police ringed the field, looking up at the stands as part of the special security measures. There were even snipers on the roof and NYPD helicopters circling above. No beer or alcohol was sold at the event; the police were not looking for unruly, drunken, brawling fans who might charge the field. Rather they focused their gaze up into the stands for possible terror threats – and, baruch Hashem, there were none, thanks in great part to their efforts.

Rabbi Wachsman’s English is flawless and eloquent: “Like the fly who enters the web of the spider,” he explained, “little strands of the spider’s web that don’t even equal a fraction of the weight of the fly [attach themselves], but another strand and another strand and another strand [get attached], and before he knows it he’s caught in the web, in the net….”

At times his voice was so powerful that it rose above even the roar of commercial jets that periodically flew overhead: “The internet is about the moment. It’s about the instantaneous; about the artificial, about the superficial. It’s about if you’re bored you click on something else. It’s about being fleeting and empty. Even secular educators and psychologists have been decrying the children are being turned into click-vegetables!”

As he continued he gradually increased the pitch of his voice: “You can see it in the ebbing of the light in the vacant eyes of the younger generation, of the jittery inattentiveness of our children, in the flippant and callous language and attitude, the cynicism … and the unbelievable breaches of [modesty]….”

Then he reached his crescendo.

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