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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Dr. Twerski Column in Hamodia

Last week Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski published a letter in Hamodia from an 'Internet addict'. In his response Dr. Twerski warned him strongly on the dangers of the internet, and told him to contact Hamodia for a book. (I cannot provide a link for you to read the letter and response yourself because Hamodia does not publish on the web or use the word 'internet' as a matter of policy)
Here is a letter from a member of this blog in response to the column (Seeking Solutions):

Dear Dr. Twerski,

Two individuals referred me to your letter which appeared in Hamodia on 1/12/05 pg 85.

Prior to the meat of my letter, permit me to refer you to the blog, ‘Orthodox Jews and the Internet’, (
http://frumnet.blogspot.com ). It is an honest, serious attempt to confront the issues of which you speak.

My heart goes out to your writer. Any individual suffering as he is, or from any other addiction, is deserving of our sympathy and maximum help.

However, your answer left me perplexed. While I certainly recognize your upbringing, education, experience and age give you great authority, it is difficult for me personally to deal with some of your points (unless they were edited away from your initial meaning).

Firstly you mention curiosity. Did you grow up without curiosity? Would you feel it is normal not to be curious? If an individual wants to see actual pictures of the tsunami, for example, a once in a lifetime event, or a giant squid should he therefore feel guilt ridden and dirty?
Yes, I firmly agree certain curiosities can be poison. Let us educate our children and address those lusts vigorously and proactively. But let us remember that most advances in knowledge, both Torah and l’havdil, mili d’olma start with curiosity.

Have I personally been confronted on the internet by sights unsuitable for a Yiras Shomayim? Absolutely! Was it difficult dealing with them? Of course! But I have had similar and greater nisyonos elsewhere in life , and while we must bear in mind ‘al taamin b’atzmecha’ our job in this world is to go out and set limits and react appropriately to the tests we are sent.

As the internet becomes more and more of our lives, it will become impossible to have a normal range of knowledge and contact without it. Let’s deal with it sooner, rather than sticking our heads in the sand. Chances are that the internet will eventually be in peoples’ homes.

Dr. Twerski, does the fact that you are an expert in addictions mean that you support a re-enactment of Prohibition? Would you prevent hundreds of thousands of Jews from drinking wine for Kiddush or l’chaim in shul because of the small percentage whose proclivities make them extra susceptible? I presume not!

Finally, your positive suggestions are a support group and a book. Your writer is resistant to a support group because of the possibility his identity will be revealed.

A possible solution is the very same internet. Could setting up a ‘blog’ monitored by an addiction professional be an excellent way of anonymously coming together with like minded individuals and seeking help? This approach has been extremely successful elsewhere.

The founder of ‘frumnet’ made a minimal attempt to set up just such a forum at
http://mychevra.blogspot.com , but thus far it has not succeeded. A professional, however, could do much more and much better.

I believe if you or an associate feel that these positions are wrong, frumnet would be delighted to have an alternate point of view and would give it prominent billing. Most open-minded people are open to persuasion.
I personally subscribe to a Jewish filtered service and have been on filtered services for years. But my e-mail return addresses don’t indicate that most chareidim do the same. Why not support a minimal attempt to deal with these issues?

Finally, while not an addiction professional, it is extremely impressive to me that your writer did give up the internet for months and even a year once. It seems to me that he has great strengths, and just needs a bit more assistance to live a life of purity, with or without the internet.



PS: I may turn this letter over to frumnet in a few days. However, in deference to you, I will not do so if I receive an e-mail back asking me not to.

This week the column did publish three letters regarding last weeks' question and answer. Taken together, they: (1)felt the original letter writer's pain, (2)assured him that he could always do teshuva, and (3) said they would pray for him.


Blogger TheProf said...

Leapa my friend, your answer to Dr. Twerski hit it all right on the head. We have been tossing this about for some time in here. You can't put a complete blanket issur on this. But somehow, possibly thru discussion, we can come up with an answer. And a complete answer will never happen. Just as there will never be an answer to alcohol addiction, there will never be a complete answer to the internet "problem".

4:57 PM  
Blogger Frummer????? said...

See my take on the subject on my site.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Frummer????? said...

I've received an email from the Hamodia, and I've more to say on this subject.

Read it here.

9:02 AM  

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