While senior Haredi rabbis are intensifying their battle against smartphones, and have begun as of late to levy personal sanctions against people using these devices, ostensibly to isolate them so they cannot inflict their cultural/spiritual damage on society – one notable and extremely influential Haredi star, Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak, continues to use this dangerous device unheeded.
Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak claims that Torah sage Rabbi Aaron Leib Steinman granted him and his assistants special permission to use the iPhone “for the purpose of hachzara b’tshuva,” encouraging people to return to observance of Torah & mitzvot.
Of all the people I disagree with ideologically, Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak is by far my favorite. When I’m feeling down I go to You Tube and pick a clip of his at random and let it run for thirty minutes or so. For me, it cures the blues. Because the good rabbi never cowers before anyone, and if he thinks he’s right he is visibly happy to let out the most unpopular statements, if only to watch the heads of his detractors explode with frustration.
One of his favorite sports is to pick up off the cuff debates with people in his audience, many of whom come specifically to duke it out with him. Not all of them pose much of an intellectual challenge, but I’m sure the outspoken rabbi can hold his own against anyone.
So I was curious to read his reaction to the allegations regarding his use of the verboten instruments, after social media users and several websites publicized pictures of him with the little box that made Steve Jobs king.
Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak addressed the issue on his own website, “Shofar,” calling his critics “fools” and saying they insult God.
He cited our sages, who warned that “anyone who doubts his rabbi, it is as if he is doubts the Divine Presence.” He then added another warning, citing the sages who taught that “he who casts suspicion upon the innocent will receive bodily punishment.”
Referring to the topic at hand, Rabbi Yitzchak published an ad on his website titled “Clarification to Eliminate Stumbling Blocks and Slander,” with the explanation: “Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak is against the iPhone and similar devices. Regarding the question of stupid and uninformed individuals, who ask how come Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak uses an iPhone, let it be known that the eminent Torah sage Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman gave personal permission to the rabbi and to his staff to use iPhones for the purpose of bringing Jews back to Torah observance.”
Last week, Rabbi Moshe Tzadka, dean of Yeshivat Porat Yosef, gave an order to smash the smartphone belonging to one of the boys in the yeshiva. Before breaking the phone, Rabbi Tzadka remarked that this is fulfilling the commandment of sanctifying God’s name and the act of destroying the device is like the Torah passage referring to idol worship: “And their altars you shall shatter and their monuments shall be broken.”
After the owner of the phone broke it in two pieces with his own hands, the rabbi called upon all present to declaim the passage together with him, “So shall all your enemies be smitten, God.”
An “iPhone smashing” ceremony was held several weeks ago, in the Maayan Shalom synagogue in the Pardes Katz neighborhood of Bnei Brak, where another smartphone was smashed to pieces. Presiding over that ceremony was Rabbi Lior Glazer (the Magid Meisharim) who peppered his words of rebuke with loud pounding of a wooden gavel, and called the religious users of the various “impure” smartphone devices despicable, villainous abominations.
The anti-smartphone forces in the Haredi world compare it to something like a house of ill repute right inside your pocket. But, much like the folks over at Chabad.org, Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak has devoted his life to loading positive, God fearing and extremely enjoyable messages online.
Which is why the “Shofar” website, that serves as an enormous archive of Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak’s articles and videos, also celebrates the fact that from now on subscribers to the website as well as free users (for a limited time only) will be able to get pocket versions of the rabbi’s wisdom.
“With mazal tov, we’re on our way: the Rabbi in every pocket. You can watch the films of the Rabbi, may he live long, on iPhone and iPad as an application in the new website under the category of Edited Films. Enjoy!”