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August 22, 2014 / 26 Av, 5774
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A Tale Of A Recovering Internet Addict

Friday, August 17th, 2012

What exactly is the definition of an Internet addiction? Just how out of control does one have to be to qualify as having a true addiction?

I don’t know the answer to that question but if I don’t have an Internet addiction, I have something close to it. That’s why I can never go online for any reason even for a short time. I can’t go online for the same reason a recovering alcoholic can’t have even one drink. I have no control and once I start…

My Internet habit began years ago when we got Internet access in our home for valid reasons. One of the first things I got involved with was a small frum e-mail discussion group. We were a small group of women living in various locations across the globe, who were forming a bond with each other in cyberspace. The more I met with them online, the more I felt a kinship with these new friends whose faces I didn’t know. It quickly reached a point where they were my first waking thought, and I could barely wait to get together with them.

Sadly that discussion group closed, but I soon discovered other e-mail lists. Eventually I was on more than one. Unlike the first which had few members, now I was involved with e-mail lists that had many members, and many e-mails to read or delete. This took a lot of time, leaving me with less time to attend to things in my real life.

After a while I discovered message boards and chat-rooms. I couldn’t tear myself away. On a typical day, I’d start by going online and checking my e-mail. Oh those pesky junk mails! Delete, delete, delete. I would respond to e-mails and send out new ones.

Then I’d go to one of my message boards. After spending way too much time there, I’d think to myself, “Maybe by now somebody responded to my e-mail.” I’d go to check my e-mail again. After spending time on my e-mail, I’d think, “Maybe by now someone responded to what I wrote on the message board.” Thus I went back and forth between my e-mail and the message boards.

My relentless checking for responses didn’t necessarily end when I got off the computer. I would find myself repeatedly going back for another quick check to see if anybody e-mailed or responded. It was as if I were tied to the computer by an invisible leash.

Chat-rooms were even harder to tear myself from. How can anyone tear themselves away from an interesting conversation going on in real-time? How could I leave in the middle of the party?

I had no sense of time in cyberspace. Hours would go by without my accomplishing anything. By the time I finally got off the computer, my shoulder and neck were aching. I also found if I’d stay on the computer too long, I’d feel nauseous and dizzy and I had to lie down. I believe this was due to prolonged close-range exposure to computer glare, but I can’t say for sure.

These negative consequences, the time wasted, the muscle aches, and feeling ill were certainly reason enough to try and kick this habit. But the problems didn’t end there.

I was getting too emotionally involved with strangers I met online. For example, sometimes someone on one of my e-mail lists or message boards would share a personal problem, asking for advice.

When I got off the computer, I couldn’t just put the suffering soul out of my mind and go on with my life. I would spend time and emotional energy on the person’s problem, while my own problems were left on the back burner.

Then there were the kinds of people I met on the Internet. Truth to tell, I did meet some wonderful people, some of whom I’ve formed relationships with and have invited to my simchas. But there were many other people I deeply regret having come across.

I didn’t form relationships with these people but I did read their comments online. “Intellectual” atheists who look down at us silly wishful-thinking believers from their science-educated pedestals. In my naïve pre-Internet days, I thought atheists just weren’t thinking at all. I actually thought if someone would point out to these atheists that nobody in their right mind could believe something as complicated, orderly, and purposeful as nature could create itself, they would wake up from their dream.

Three Israeli Universities Rank in Top 100

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, and the Weizmann Institute of Science were ranked in the top 100 universities in Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s authoritative 2012 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU).

The Hebrew University achieved the highest rank – 53rd, with the Technion in 78th place, and the Weizmann Institute coming in at 93rd. Significantly, this is the first time that more than one Israeli university made the top 100.

The ARWU has conducted the rankings since 2003, and is regarded as one of the most influential international university rankings. Over 1200 universities are considered and the top 500 are ranked.

Topping the list was Harvard University, which has done so in each of the ten years that the rankings have been conducted. Altogether, seventeen US universities made the top twenty; the UK’s Cambridge University(#5) and Oxford University (#10), as well as Japan’s University of Tokyo (#20) also made it into the top twenty.

Hebrew University jumped four spaces since last years rankings, and has improved considerably since the first ranking in 2003, when it was ranked 94th. The Technion and Weizmann Institute experienced a significant jump in their rankings, with both breaking the top 100 for the first time; in 2011, both ranked in the 101-150 bracket in 2011. Ranked according to specific fields, the Israeli universities fared even better: the Weizmann Insitute ranked twelfth in computer sciences, the Hebrew University ranked sixteenth in Mathematics, and the Technion ranked 29th in chemistry.

Altogether, six Israeli universities made it onto the list: Tel Aviv University ranked in top 101-150, while Ben Gurion University and Bar Ilan University ranked in the 301-400 bracket.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, commenting Wednesday on the publication of the rankings, said: “This ranking proves that our Government’s unprecedented investment in Israeli academia has led to results. We are investing NIS 7 billion in universities, in a multi-year plan, in centers of excellence, in bringing Israeli minds back home, and our efforts are bearing fruit.

“I am especially happy over the high ranking of Israeli institutions in computer science – with four Israeli universities among the 30 leading institutions in the world,” he continued. “This is another sign that Israel is continuing to establish itself as a global high-tech power. My Government will continue to invest in education – from pre-school to higher education.”

Devarim: Like The Sand Of The Sea

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Moshe’s blessing to the nation of Israel is interesting in that a similar blessing, which Hashem had given Avraham and Yizchak, had already been fulfilled. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, observes that among the greastest blessings is abundant offspring, and therefore this blessing was particularly auspicious – even the third time around.

“Hashem your G-d has caused you to increase, and behold: you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven” (1:10): This very important statement by Moshe declares that the prophetic promise given by Hashem to Avraham (Bereishis 15:5, 22:17) and to Yitzchak (ibid. 26:4), that their seed would be as numerous as the stars, was already actually fulfilled by this time. If we should include in the count all men even over 60, and all women and children, the total would certainly be two million. (The additional blessings given here by Moshe that they increase a thousandfold, has not yet been fulfilled but it is proper to believe that the kindly and pious blessing by Moshe will eventually be fulfilled by Hashem.)

This declaration is part of the list of kindnesses Hashem bestowed, and it is used as a preface to the rebukes Moshe subsequently voiced. (The stars actually number more than two million, but, “The Torah speaks in the language of men” – Berachos 31b; and when the intention was to express a very large number, the comparison to the stars was employed.) The mention of their numbers is also intended to encourage them to be more bold in the conquest of Canaan.

We read later: “Yehudah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea, in multitude” (I Kings 4:20), but we find the prophecy which was said long afterward: “The number of the sons of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted” (Hoshea 2:1). Thus it is evident that the original promise to Avraham (Bereishis 13:16), though fulfilled in the days of Moshe, included even more for some day in the future. This additional increase may perhaps be due to the prayer Moshe now said: “Hashem, the G-d of your fathers, should make you a thousand times so many more as you are, and bless you, as He has promised you” (1:11).

This hoped for increase in the numbers of the holy nation is one of the most desired wishes of Hashem and also of our great fathers. Nothing can equal the blessing of a huge multitude of the holy people. The Presence of Hashem increases in proportion to their numbers. Every ten Jews gain the Shechinah (Sanhedrin 39a), and a greater “Shechinah dwells upon 22,000 Jews” (Yevamos 64a); and when 600,000 assembled, Hashem came down upon Mt. Sinai.

All of the benefits that are enumerated (which Hashem had bestowed) were for the purpose of the great conclusion: “Fortunate are you Israel; who is like you” (33:29) – the very last words of Moshe.

“That Hashem your G-d carried you just as a man carries his son” (1:31): This is a most significant declaration. Israel, and Israel alone, is Hashem’s son, as He had declared, “My son, My firstborn is Israel” (Shemos 4:22); and “Send forth My son” (ibid. 4:23). All the severe castigations and the heavy chastisements were the strongest demonstrations of Hashem’s love: “And you should know with your heart that just as a man chastises his son, does Hashem your G-d chastise you” (8:5).

Though that generation, more than any other, was privileged to see and to be close to Hashem, the principle that Hashem bears Israel in His arms as His son continues to hold good for all their generations. This is an astonishing statement, which we ourselves would never have dared say; yet Hashem declares openly for the entire world to hear that the loyal and observant Jewish nation is held in His arms as a father holds his beloved child. This is repeatedly stated, as in Yeshaiah 49:15-16 and elsewhere.

This Tisha B’Av, be inspired by the thought-provoking words of Rabbi Avigdor Miller. Access free streaming lectures from your computer or smartphone at www.simchashachaim.com/tisha-bav.html or bit.ly/rabbimiller9av.

Matos-Masei: Virtue Of Men, Virtue Of Nations

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

In the confrontation between Israel and Midian, the Torah reveals the great void of virtue that separated the two nations. While Israel had fallen to great depths in the challenge of the Peor, Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, points out that it had risen again to great heights in the ensuing battle against a nation steeped in immorality.

“And Moshe said to them: have you allowed all the females to live?…Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, by the word of Bileam, to be disloyal to Hashem in the matter of Peor. And now kill every male among the little ones” (31:14-17).

Twelve thousand men participated in the expedition (31:5) against Midian, and not a man was missing when they returned. But a still greater wonder was that no man committed any misdeed (Shabbos 64a) with the captive women.

If among 12,000 men there had not been one instance of such behavior in a time of war, the nation demonstrated thereby its supreme superiority over all the peoples of the world. Certainly, the destruction of the 24,000 (25:9) had exerted an effect; yet the fact remains that this expedition now gained for Israel a great perfection.

This explains why Hashem had sent them against Midian instead of sparing them the effort by His own action to punish the Midianites. The females of Midian had exerted themselves previously to ensnare the Sons of Israel, and it is certain that now when the Midianites were attacked, their women had done their utmost to seduce the Israelites. But not even a single son of Israel yielded. This was indeed an atonement for the sin of Peor and the daughters of Midian.

Opponents of Israel point accusingly to this extremely harsh incident in which all male children and even babies were slain. But they must note that the sons of Israel had no intention of doing this, as is openly stated (31:9). The sole reason the children were killed was because of Hashem’s command (31:2) by the word of Moshe.

It is evident from the Scriptures that the sons of Israel were reluctant to destroy the conquered nations. Hashem found it necessary to admonish them again and again to have no compassion upon the peoples of Canaan (Shemos 23:32-33, 34:12; Bamidbar 33:55; and elsewhere), and the Scriptures blame the Israelites for their tolerance of the nations among them (Shoftim 1:27, 29, 30, 31 ,33, 2:2-3, and elsewhere).

But Hashem judges nations collectively and they are rewarded or punished together, with their posterity included in the national reward or punishment. Just as a murderer is put to death and as result his potential unborn children are also destroyed, so too are entire groups of mankind sentenced together. (In this instance, only part of Midian was sentenced for destruction. A remnant remained and became a full-fledged nation again.)

We are surprised to learn that Bilam laid this plot against Israel after he had spoken such noble words in their praise. There is no question he was certain his praises of Israel were true, for he was willing to forfeit the great reward Balak had offered him to curse Israel. But here we see again the principle enunciated above (16:1) – that even one who has attained excellence in awareness of Hashem must also contend with the even more difficult task of conquering envy and similar flaws of character.

It was because Bilam knew the greatness of the Israelites that he came to be inordinately jealous of them. Inflamed by this jealously, he sought to induce Israel to sin so that they should fall from their greatness and be rejected by Hashem. But this fiery jealousy actually enhances the value of his unsurpassed praise of Israel.

This Tisha B’Av, be inspired by the thought-provoking words of Rabbi Avigdor Miller. Access free streaming lectures from your computer or smartphone at www.simchashachaim.com/tisha-bav.html or bit.ly/rabbimiller9av.

Mazel Tov, Rabbi Tzvi Fishman!!

Monday, July 9th, 2012

An amazing thing happened to me last night! While I was sleeping, an angel appeared in a dream and told me to start a new Jewish religion.

“A new Jewish religion?” I asked, bewildered.

“That’s right,” he replied.

I was certain that I was hallucinating because I had fasted yesterday and that my mind was playing tricks. So I went back to sleep. But the angel appeared once again and told me to start a new Jewish religion.

Two times is already a sign that a dream is true, so I was really at a loss for words.

“Why me?” I asked.

“You have a nice beard,” the angel replied.

“Lots of people have nice beards,” I answered.

“You have a nice smile, too” he said. “Looks are what matters these days. If you want to have lots of followers, you have to look the part.”

It sort of made sense. But who was I to start a new Jewish religion? True, Orthodox Judaism, while showing a definite resurgence in recent years, still wasn’t pulling in the masses. And all the breakaway movements hadn’t done anything to stem the tsunami of assimilation which was eating away at Diaspora Jewry. So there certainly was room for a new movement that would inspire the Jewish People back to the fold.

Needless to say, after my middle of the night encounter with the angel, I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got dressed and sat down at the computer to print out an official Rabbi diploma. After all, if I was going to start a new Jewish religion, I’d have to be a Rabbi. So I typed up a very distinguished looking certificate with a picture of Jerusalem and printed out another 500 copies, figuring I would have to have a lot of assistant Rabbis to help me spread the new movement all over the world. Plus, I figured, I was going to need money to publicize the new Jewish agenda, and by selling official Rabbi certificates to as many people as I could, I could generate funds for the operation. So, if anyone would like to become an official Rabbi, and help out the cause, all you have to do is send me $5000, and I will mail the certificate to your home, and you can be an official Rabbi too.

When my wife woke up in the morning, I asked her to please start calling me Rabbi.

I won’t tell you what she answered, but as they say, no man is a prophet in his own home.

“At least just for show, honey,” I begged. “I’m going to become the new Internet Rabbi. Soon, I’m going to be world famous.”

“Famous, shmamous,” she answered. “Did you pray Shachrit yet?”

“No, I’ve been busy,” I admitted.

“Well, go pray, and then you can worry about saving the world.”

Why bother to pray, I thought? After all, going to minyan three times a day can be a big burden, and formalized prayer can turn a lot of people off. If I was going to start a popular new Jewish religion, I’d have to attract as many followers as I could, and any whiff of coercion was sure to keep people away. Tefillin too would have to go. What enlightened person wants to put a little box on his head and walk around with tzitzit? Ever try to make a pass at a shiksa wearing tzitzit and a kippah? They were a big turn off too. In fact, all of the Torah’s commandments were too heavy and time-consuming to expect people to follow, so why not do away with them all? The Jewish holidays too. Why should Jews feel different from their gentile neighbors, with separate Jewish holidays? The progressive and reform liberal movements still pretended to have some sort of parve Jewish holiday observance, but why continue the masquerade? It only served to separate us from the goyim. In my new Jewish religions, there wouldn’t be any commandments or holidays at all. Everyone would be free to do just what he or she wanted, and they could still be Jews. If anyone wanted to be a Jew, even gentiles, just wanting to be a Jew was enough. No need to study. No tests. No primitive mikvahs and ritual immersions. What’s important is feelings, right? If someone wants to be a Jew, or feels like a Jew, all he or she has to do is send me $2000 a year for a yearly membership in the new Jewish religion, and they will receive an official certificate that I will print out stating that they are 100% Jewish.

The Flame Virus

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

The full story has yet to be told, but even talk of the so-called Flame virus carries an important message. Certainly the widespread belief that Israel was behind this and earlier computer viruses that wreaked havoc on Iran’s nuclear efforts – a notion hinted at by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon – should be taken as evidence that all things being equal, left to its own devices Israel is quite capable of taking care of itself. But there is an added dimension.

As The Jerusalem Post put it, the Flame virus “effectively turns every computer it infects into the ultimate spy. It can turn on PC microphones to record conversations taking place near the computer, take screenshots, log instant messaging chats, gather data files and remotely change settings on computers.” The New York Times reported that the computers of high-ranking Iranian officials appear to have been penetrated.

The bottom line here is that the truth about Iran’s nuclear program is doubtless no great secret to the U.S. and Israel, a fact that looms large now that the Obama administration has effectively cut Iran some slack by agreeing to an extended period of negotiations. The obvious question: If the U.S. knows Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapons capacity, why doesn’t it just come out and say so? Apparently the reverse is true, which is why the U.S. is trying to get Iran to mend its ways.

The last thing Iranian leaders want is for their country to suffer an American attack. Given the implications of the Flame virus, the Iranian leadership can’t exactly be sleeping easily these nights. The time is now for President Obama to draw a dateline in the sand for Iranian transparency.

Facebook! Gevalt!

Monday, May 21st, 2012

I was very pleased to read in The Jewish Press about the 50,000 packed Asifa gathering held yesterday in Citi Field in New York against the dangers of the Internet. Boker tov, brothers! I say this because some 7 years ago, we started the first website www.jewishsexuality.com which dealt with this terrible plague in a direct and open manner, in order to warn Jewish surfers and educate them how to escape – adults, children, and teachers alike – from the nefarious clutches and seductions of the net.

Years ago, before coming to Israel, I ghostwrote a book on gambling addiction for a major U.S. publisher. Using this knowledge, I applied it to the growing addiction to Internet pornography, and opened a “Pornoholics Anonymous” section on our website which has received thousands and thousands of hits. A booklet, “Shmirat HaBrit”, which can be downloaded free, discusses the issues straightforwardly, explaining why looking at immodest images is so detrimental to the Jewish soul, and presents concrete advice how a victim can escape from the sexual transgressions that evolve from it. The Questions and Answers which are posted cover just about every topic on the issue of Jewish Sexuality, and I translated dozens of important Torah articles, including the Laws of Marital Relations by Israel’s former Chief Rabbi Modechai Eliahu, of blessed memory; many selections from writings of Rabbi Kook; and the long and important confession which follows the “Tikun HaKlali.”

Every time a person sits down at his computer, he is tempted with the very same test that Yosef faced in Egypt. Thousands of seductive women are just a finger click away. That’s why, today, the Internet is Potiphar’s wife.

We who don’t have the same exalted fear of God that Yosef had, where will we summon the strength to overcome the temptation? For us, Divine assistance comes in the form of an anti-pornography filter. Thank God, there are many on the market. Many can be downloaded for free. They afford vital (if only partial) protection from the overpowering temptations of Internet surfing. I say partial because most teenagers today know ways of circumventing filters, such as USB Wireless attachments, 3rd generation cell phones, iPhones, MP4 players, and the Bluetooth copy program.

So grave is the danger of Internet-watching that Torah authorities have ruled that Internet surfing without an anti-porn filter is a violation of the Torah commandment, “Thou shall not put a stumbling block in front of a blind man.” Erotic pictures on the Internet, whether they be in ads, on the Yahoo home page, or in adult sites, cause a person to violate a long list of Torah commandments, including:

You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy!” (Vayikra 19:2)

Thou shall not turn astray after your hearts and after your eyes which lead you astray.” (Bamidbar 15:39)

Therefore shall your camp be holy, that He see no unclean thing in you and turn away from you.” (Devarim 23:15)

And you shall guard yourself from every evil thing.” (Devarim 23:10)

Do not turn astray after their gods!” (Vayikra 19:4)

You shall not walk in the customs of the gentile.” (Vayikra 20:23)

Thou shall not bring an abomination into your house.” (Devarim 7:26)

Our Sages have long told us that sexual transgression causes a terrible rift between the Jewish Nation and God, causing exile and national destruction. Our enemies know this and therefore muster all of their cunning, material resources, and technology to bring us to sin. This has been the strategy from the time of Amalek, Midian, Greece, throughout history down to the zillion dollar industry of Internet pornography today. Today, this terrible enemy has, like the Trojan Horse, entered our innermost sanctums and been afforded an honored place in our homes. So if you want to join in the fight and help win the battle, save yourselves, your children and the entire Jewish Nation – and expel this cruel and crafty enemy from your homes, if not by throwing away the computer, then at least by installing a reliable filter.

And while we’re on the subject, another thing is worth mentioning. Until recently, I didn’t bother with Facebook, thinking, why waste my time with the superficialities of social networking when I could write much deeper articles and books? Then, after all the publicity which Facebook received over its role in international demonstrations and revolutions movements, I figured, why not give it a try? I thought that maybe Facebook could help spread the message of aliyah to Jews around the world. So I started making friends….

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/facebook-gevalt/2012/05/21/

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