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Technology – Playing with Fire

on Wednesday, November 18 2015. Posted by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg

The Fall 2015 issue of Klal Perspectives addresses Technology and the 21st Century Orthodox Community. The following is my article in the journal.

There is no denying that technology has significantly improved our lives. The proliferation and increasing sophistication of appliances, gadgets, electronics, devices and software provide ever-greater convenience, comfort and enjoyment. And technology has enriched our spiritual lives, as well. Torah learning opportunities have exponentially increased, and access and exposure to Torah personalities have blossomed. Technology has enabled immeasurable advances in the coordination of chesed activities and tzedaka projects, as well as facilitated global prayer efforts. Through technology, friends have been reunited, and family members living across the globe can share and participate not only in each other’s lifecycle events but in daily life, as well.

With all of its benefits, however, technology is also replete with dangers, risks and challenges. It is seductive, intoxicating and, for some, addictive. Ideas that are both spiritually and socially destructive are now readily available. Similarly, without much effort and often without even trying, we find lewd images flashing before our eyes, compromising our holiness, as well as the health and integrity of our relationships and our attitudes towards intimacy.

The dangers of technology have been well documented. While internet filters and connectivity time regulators are both imperative and invaluable, internet access poses threats in content and risks of excessive use that no filter or program can eliminate. In fact, even the most noble and virtuous use of technology often presents unintended adverse consequences.

Rejecting technology entirely, however, is no longer a viable strategy. Such rejection would be as practical as eliminating telephone use because it can be the conduit of gossip or vulgar speech, or swearing off cars and buses because they often transport passengers to inappropriate places. While communal calls for the wholesale rejection of technology may be effective in messaging its dangers, these calls surely cannot be undertaken with an authentic aspiration for success. Moreover, if successful, elimination of the use of technology would deprive the Jewish community of enormous advances in Torah, avodah and gemillus chasadim.

The community, thus, confronts a conundrum. The benefits of technology are enormous, but tolerating unbridled and unregulated access by oneself or one’s family is reckless and irresponsible. Car travel is invaluable, but it would be inconceivable for a responsible society to allow everyone, regardless of age or training, to drive anywhere, at any time and in any manner or speed. Non-regulation would be grossly negligent and most certainly result in injuries and worse.

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