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December 10, 2016 / 10 Kislev, 5777
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Internet Challenges: Blessings In Disguise?

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I understand the feelings of the men who gathered at Citi Field to proclaim their united position against the Internet. The problem, as we know, is the proximity to filth that we can introduce into our lives whenever we open a browser window. Those who gathered at Citi Field want us to junk our computers because we tend to gravitate toward what is forbidden—and in huge, heartbreaking numbers.

But is this the best solution?

Chava, after all, ate the apple in spite of her desire not to. She even put up a geder, a fence, for herself. In effect, she threw away her computer: If you recall, it was her idea to tell the snake that G-d had told her not to “touch” the tree (Bereshis 3:3). She meant well – but she failed.


Certainly, the answer is not to stop building gedarim. Rather, it seems that we must think clearly and deeply as to what, exactly, Hashem wants of us when we build them. Only then could we be legitimate in saying, “This geder came from HaKodosh Baruch Hu.” But how are we to know what Hashem wants?

Allow me to share a personal story for a moment, and you may see where I’m going. When I was a child, my parents could not afford yeshiva tuition and reluctantly put me in public school. When I was in 6th grade we visited the United Nations. Now, every child in my class – and my teacher – was Jewish. Nevertheless, we went to lunch at a non-Kosher burger restaurant. Now, I was basically a goody-goody. I was respectful of adults; I certainly did not challenge them. And I was hungry. I have always had a healthy appetite. But I stood outside. I would not go in.

The teacher came begging me, to no avail. I “knew” – don’t ask me how – that going in to that treif (non-kosher) place was wrong. I had never heard of the concept of ma’aris ayin (not to look inappropriate). Yet, at all of 11 years old I “knew,” and I went hungry.

Where did I get this from without a yeshiva education? I don’t recall my parents saying anything about it. Obviously, they weren’t thinking about this possibility or they would have sent me on the trip with my own brown bag!

But I have the answer. Looking back on my childhood, I can tell you precisely: My parents, z”l, taught me to love G-d with all my heart. It’s that simple. And that complicated. I can remember a bright spring day when the weather was warm and my father and I happily set out for the park. “Take off your shoes, Debbele,” he suggested, “and feel how Hashem makes the grass so soft and cool on a warm day.” I did and I delighted in its coolness, privately thanking Hashem for His brilliant creation.

My father took very literally the words of the Shema which require that we speak of Hashem when we get up and when we walk on the way and when we lie down. My father brought the Holy One into our conversations all the time, and in doing so, made Him an integral part of my life. I would not want to disappoint Him or lose my connection to Him. And my father wasn’t alone. My husband and I passed down this love and constancy of Hashem to our children and we see the fruit of our efforts when our grandchildren speak. I have no doubt that they would pass the same test that I did.

How does a parent do that? The first step, of course, is for the parent to examine his own heart. When he davens, is he rushing to get it over quickly or do the words speak to him? Does he feel Hashem’s support when things are tough? Is he connected? Only when the answers to these questions are favorable does he have something concrete to pass down to his children.

You see it’s all about internals, not externals. The gedarim we create for ourselves must come from inside our hearts. They are not about whether we may touch the tree but whether we care more about eating the fruit than connecting with G-d.

External restrictions will only go so far and then the Satan will figure out a way for us to fall into his trap. That’s inevitable.

I can hear someone out there saying, “But it’s too late! I’m already in trouble. I didn’t have the benefit of growing up with this kind of love for and connection to Hashem. Now what?”

And I have an answer for that, too.

If you slipped on the street on a rainy day and your wrist suddenly hurt intensely, what would you do? It’s obvious, isn’t it? You would hurry to the doctor to see if you broke it. If the x-ray showed that it was broken, you would say, “Baruch Hashem for the pain which led me to finding out that my arm needs to be set in a cast.” Had you not had that pain, how would you know to take care of it?

If someone finds him- or herself watching pornography on the Internet or doing any other forbidden thing and he feels even a little bit of shame, then good. Baruch Hashem for the shame and the pain; they are warning signs that something is very much amiss in his life. What is he missing? Does he not love himself? His spouse? Does he not respect himself? Is his life meaningful? Fulfilling? Is he still suffering from the trauma of his childhood? These are the vital questions. Baruch Hashem that he went on the Internet so he could learn that he is missing something – as long as he fixes the problem.

If he is past the shame, then surely his loving family or community must get him help so that he can be whole.

And what will be the nature of that help?

Real help is to build up his internal fortitude. It’s not about resisting the Internet’s lures.

The true mark of overcoming an addiction is to no longer be attracted to the substance of choice. There is nothing to resist because the attraction is gone. The healing process must build up both internal control and connection to G-d.

Sure, this is a lot harder than simply saying that the Internet is off limits, but it is a real solution. It’s the solution that has kept the Jews alive through all our travails and will continue to do so.

“Dr. Deb” Hirschhorn, LMHC, holds a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy. Her forthcoming book, The Healing Is Mutual: Marriage Empowerment Tools to Rebuild Trust and Respect—Together will be out this summer. DrDeb is accepting new counseling clients: individuals, couples, and families.

Dr. Debbie Hirschhorn

About the Author: “Dr. Deb” Hirschhorn, LMHC, holds a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy. Her forthcoming book, The Healing Is Mutual: Marriage Empowerment Tools to Rebuild Trust and Respect—Together will be out this summer. DrDeb is accepting new counseling clients: individuals, couples, and families.

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