Tag Archives: internet

Yelling Till You’re Pink

29 Nov

The Jblogosphere reports that speeches at the recent Agudah convention were focused on bashing things like the internet and something called post-haredism. Speaking of people yelling angrily about things they don’t quite understand, what the hell happened with Pink?

A long time ago, Pink had a genuine hit. My theory is that Pink didn’t quite understand what exactly the hit factor was in that song, and since then has been on a quest to figure it out. With increasingly embarrassing results. Her latest idea (still on the radio for some unfathomable reason) is to repeat phrases she hears the kids saying with no attempt at understanding them first.

Seriously: ‘Party crasher, penny snatcher, call me up if you are gangsta’?? Why isn’t there some manager or someone to say, “No, Pink, no.”

“Oh, but I keep hearing everyone say, ‘Gangsta’?”

“Yeah…no. Just go on.”

“Why so serious?-“

Sighhhh. “No.”

“Ok, I know you’ll like this, “Nitty gritty, dirty little freaks?” Hah? Hah?

The manager’s holding his head now. “Uhhhhhh. Very good, Pink. Um, yeah. Go on.”

“If you’re too school for cool”.

“No. No, no no. Just sit, sit! We’ll get someone else to write it, and you just put on your angry face and sing it. OK?

“Hey dude, I’m an artis-“

“Don’t you-don’t you fucking finish that word! Just shut the fuck up right now!”

The Internet: Just What We Needed

13 May

The Ami magazine article on Jewish Orthopraxy (The Imposters Among Us) blamed what the author sees as a rise in Orthopraxy on, as usual, the internet. The OU, in a previous Jewish Action, convened what they termed a ‘symposium’ to defend the idea of Mesorah. I can only assume it came as a response to the infamous krumbagel video. The website Vos Iz Neias was banned for a litany of speech offenses. I don’t want to reopen the discussion of the article, the video or VIN now. But I do want to talk about the vital place of blogging and anonymous videos in modern-day frum Judaism.

On the one hand, establishing Mesorah is very important in order to keep Judaism authentic. With no central establishment, allowing change can rapidly spiral off into incorporating foreign ideas into Judaism. Just look at the various mutations parading under the banner of Yiddishkeit, from Reform to Yehuda Berg, to outright Christianity. The original message is easily lost with no-one to delineate between the ‘Ikar’ and the ‘Taful’.

On the other hand, designating one group as the Delineators, and handing over all the keys to power, invites corruption of another sort. The lives of the congregation outside of the select few in power is not considered, and they are forced to follow the dictates of the few regardless of how incompatible it is to their life. Aside from the practical problems with this situation, it is against our true Mesorah.

Judaism has always been unique in it’s requirement of everyone to learn the Torah. There is no secret book that a few privileged characters have to dictate laws for the true believers. It is our Torah, everyone participates. If anyone, respected Rabbi or otherwise, says something, they are required to let you know the reason (see Ohr Hachaim, Devarim 17:9). This ensures that Toras Emes is not corrupted to benefit the few. It is also probably one of the main reasons why Judaism has survived, basically intact, till today.

Today, we see Yiddishkeit being rapidly transformed into an antiquated, frozen set of rules that doesn’t match up with reality. The Torah is seen as something that must be protected from the real world, because it won’t survive exposure. Harsh measures are taken towards dissenters. But God, as we know, prepares a refuah to the makah. And in this case, it appears to be the internet. Here, in this anonymous universe, Judaism is a part of life. And it can, and is, being explored, questioned, and learned thoroughly- without fear, as it was meant to. In this open marketplace of ideas, bloggers have taken up the sacred role that the Prophet, and the court jester, took in ancient times. To challenge authority, not for the purpose of overthrowing it, but as a counter-balance, to set it on the straight path.

I want to end off by mentioning the story of Amos and Amatziah, Kohen of Beis-El (Amos 7:10-17) because it strikes me as an awesome parallel to our frum world today. In a time of corruption, Amos, a well-off, common man, was chosen by God to prophesy. The story told in these few pesukim is singularly poignant and although it would be too long to quote in a blog post, I urge you to look at it.

Maimonides on Internet Censorship, Martyrdom, and Hanging Corpses

8 May

The newly proposed internet ban by some choshuvah askanim (http://frumfollies.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/the-kol-koreh-to-silence-all-voices) leaves me itching for some actual Rabbinical guidance. But where to look? Of course! Sefer Hamitzvos, Negative Commandment #66, the Mitzvah of not leaving corpses hanging overnight. Let’s see the Rambam:

When someone worships idols or curses God according to specific requirements, he is killed and his corpse is hanged. However, it can’t be left hanging till the next day. The Rambam’s reason for this commandment is that someone will see the hanged man and think of the curse that he said, thereby repeating it in a way. How about idolatry? The Rambam brings a verse from Bamidbar which proves that ‘idolatry’ is also called ‘blaspheming’ in the Torah.

A few questions come to mind: Why would someone repeat a curse of a hanged man in his head? Assuming he would, why wouldn’t he do it on the first day as well? And how would one repeat an act of idolatry by thinking about it?

It seems clear to me that the Rambam’s rationale has to do with the power of suggestion. A person living under a government that punishes harshly for cursing God or worshiping idols might very well be scared into obeying. If a person caught doing those things is killed and hung up, another citizen’s initial reaction will be shock and probably a strong subconscious reaffirmation of what not to do.

But when the person sees the guy a few more times and gets over the shock, he might begin to have other thoughts. Like, Hey, there is another side here. This guy had an opinion and stood up for it. That’s wrong, but kind of respectable. And who tells me what I can or can’t do? Just because you have power and I don’t? Well, you can’t control my thoughts, can you? I’m gonna think about it right now. Hey look, nothing happened. That’s interesting. And like that, dissent is spread amongst the ranks.

Now, since I believe that the Torah is divinely mandated, I also believe that it’s laws, which are true and just, should be protected. But I don’t think that banning sites from speaking about molestation and corruption has any basis in the Torah. Consequently, a ban on the internet, using the tactics of going after the advertisers, will simply make more martyrs like Vos Iz Neias, and in the end, just cause more dissent among the rank and file.

Fortunately for all of us, in the age of the internet, the only way to cut down on negative speech is by attacking the problem, not the speakers.