Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Orthodox Judaism, instant messenger and cams!

With new technologies comes new issues.  The internet has been around for a while and the Orthodox world has taken two approaches to it:  adopt it and use it to educate- or completely ban it.  To help those who don’t want inappropriate viewing various filters are available (or just turn your parental control on in Norton etc) and there is even a Kosher search engine http://www.koogle.co.il/English/

One interesting discussion is over the usage of interactive messenging.  As a tool for keeping track of family around the world, being able to talk in real time, it is fantastic.  At the same time though, it is also a tool that can be heavily abused for illict interactions, especially once cam (cameras connected to your PC/Laptop for thise who don’t know) are utilised.  I talk to friends and family  around the world, I have fun seeing them and their kids- yet those of us using such tools also know the frequency with which we get spam and “invitations” to rather inappropriate material and liaisons!

Some communtiies go so far as to ban these interactions, others see the good they can do and encourage their usage- but caution responsibility.  I prefer the second option; as with anything we can always behave inappropriately; we don’t ban magazines or books because inappropriate material can be found, nor should we ban new technologies.  Of course the argument can be advanced that books and magazines don’t wander into our homes uninvited- spam and invitations on tools like Yahoo!messenger or windows Live messenger  frequently arrive unasked for.   On this note I would just say:  like everything else- no email should be opened from am unrecognised source; no invitation from someone you do not know should be accepted unless you recognise the person.  If they know you, let them send an email first and ask to connect.  As with everything on the interent- cauthion and safety are imperative!

 The argument against cam usage is stronger- interaction and teaching is possible with just text or voice, video is an unnecessary luxury.  Should we use IM?  Cam? Personally I think they can be very useful tools- both just for general communication and for teaching and we would be foolish to ignore the benefits because we fear the possible consequences of irresponsible usage.  I would thumb up IM, but remain neutral on Cam.  Limited usage when talking to family etc is of course fun and helps to keep those conenctions alive in a world where people are frequently continents apart; but for interaction with others- especially between a man and an unrelated woman in a private setting- there I would have to agree with the conservative approach and say to not use it.  Why invite temptation? Of course, I am hardly the posek hador- so as with anything I say- check with your Rav and go with his psak halachah.

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November 13, 2009 Posted by | Random, Torah | , , | Leave a comment

Reflections on the past…

Recently a friend of mine returned to a forum where I wa sonce active.  I left it in disgust at the start of august last year.  Why was I disgusted?  The blatant anti-Semitism and promotion of anti-semitix by the a supposedly neutral moderators there.  So I left, stopped posting- and found that that months after I had left- I had been banned.  All very amusing- banned a couple fo months after I made my last post there?  Seems that they wanted to make sure I would not return to vex them!

So, as I said, a friend of mine decided to go back to post there and dropped a few well wishes off at friends till there on my behalf.  What gets me is that he reports the same drivel as always is going on- blatantly anti-Semitic posts can be found int he religion section; the Israel bahing continues (though it seems there is an equally strong pro-Israel contingent), and the same faces appear. While I am no longer active there- I regret one thing- that I made some serious posts about Judaism there- something I regret doing.  Why teach anti-Semites about Judaism?

Si why mention this? This morning I decided to try out Paltalk.  You se eit mentioned and I thought- why not?  Maybe it will be fun.  So there I was, new ID in hand, and I joined one of the Jewish discussion groups.   A discussion was held over the role of the anti-missionary groups and if they are doing a good thing or a bad thing.  Personally I support them- yes, they really succeed in bringing Jews back to Judaism- and often end up teaching the missionaries about Judaism, letting them appear more authentic later on.  But at what point do we say “Give up- just let the people go,” as oppossed to counting the fruits of saving even one Jewish soul from apostasy?

For myself, I thnk about the dictum that murdering one man is murdering an entire world, and similarly saving one man is saving an entire world and the answer seems clear:  we need to take the chance that the missionaries will learn if it means saving just one individual.  but the opposite argument carries a lot of weight- we may save that one soul, but how many more do we imperil?  How many do we place at risk if we let the missionaries learn authentic Judaism?

And it extends beyond that:  what happens with prisoner exchanges?  we may save that one life, but how many more are imperilled by the thousand prisoners set free?  How many of those will return to attack us after they are freed?  The same thing goes when you consider negotiating with kidnappers, paying them off to free a victim:  how any other people are being endangered by them being succesful in extorting money?

Thankfully, I am not a posek having to answer such sheilahs, but to me it seems that saving a life now, saving a soul now, takes precedence over a future possible, but not proveable event.  It may be short-sighted, but sometimes we have to do something because it is the right thing to do.  We see it with the kidnap victim:  halachicly we have to free the victim.  A husband has to free a kidnapped wife- its not optional- it is considered is obligation!  So is the physical safety of the soldier or the spiritual well being of the convertee any less important than the kidnap victim?  All are in peril, all face either a physical or spiritual death; as such, my regret that I cannot remove my posts on religion don’t bother me too much.  Who knows- maybe some person browsing them will be intringued enough to study proper Judaism and return home to be embraced by all klal Yisrael.

February 11, 2009 Posted by | Messianic, Random | , , | Leave a comment

Jews4Jesus, Messianic Judaism and Kashrut

So, like many communities in the world we get the “messianic jews” and Jews for Jesus bothering us from time to time.  Not as much as in some parts of the world- but we have had a recent blitz from them.  Bus shelter advertiements and intensified campaigns of them appearing in predominantly Jewish areas handing out pamphlets and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Most of the time they don’t even get a glance or noticed much, but a recent incident left me very amused.

A local shopping centre in a very Jewish area is getting frequent visits from the Jews4 Jesus bunch.   Easily recognisable in their blue T-Shirts with rip off sof the Microsoft logo with “Jesus made me Kosher” on the back, you see them, sigh, and hope they will just ignore you since it gets irritating having to glare at people all the time!  Anyways- there I am walking into the shopping center, and there are a bunch of our local Jews4Jesus recruiters drinking coffee at a coffee shop- a non-Kosher one (and yep- there are kosher alternatives in this center).  Well- at least they weren’t up and handing out pamphlets so one bonus- but then I heard it.  A friend of one of my kids (in Grade 2) with his mother saw these guys, looked at his mother and said “How can they say they are Kosher if they are eating in an un-Kosher place?”  From the mouth’s of babes…

Of course their lack of Kashrut is far beyond the mere obvious of them eating treif (non-Kosher foods).  But to the mind of an eight year old the thing about them wasn’t their belief in Jesus (Going to a Yeshivah school the name is probably one he has never heard before and chances are he does not know what it implies)- but the fact that he knows that Jews can’t be Kosher and eat at a non-Kosher restaurant.  As adults we tend to focus on the big issues- we engage the missionaries when necessary to save other Jews from their influence through showing why we disagree with their proofs, how Christianity is not compatible with Judaism, how the Torah and Tanakh (yeah, I know the Torah is part of the Tanakh) should be understood- but this friend of my son’s observation illustrated something else- a dichotomy between belief’s and actions.  You can take on a mantle of Judaism, you can adopt the terminology, you can even mimic our behaviour, prayers, rituals and beliefs- but in the end, if the actions do not fit with the Torah, you are not Kosher.

Perhaps we can use the allegory of Kashrut to discuss the various Christian movements looking to convert Jews:   Jews4Jesus is blatantly not Jewish- their dress, behavior, rituals etc do not look Jewish or sound Jewish.  In essence they are the obvious non-Kosher group- just as it is obvious that dog, cat, horse etc is not kosher because it does not have a resemblance to a Kosher animal.  When it comes to “messianic judaism”, we have a different scenario- they look Jewish.  They adopt Jewish customs, Jewish prayers, Jewish rituals.  They use Hebrew and make their services look as Jewish as possible.  But they are not Kosher- on the inside they miss the belief’s, the driving force behind Judaism, the truth of the Torah and the law that G-d gave us for all eternity- they are like the pig when it comes to Kashrut- Kosher on the outside, treif on the inside.  And we see how the pig is villified- it is considered deceitful, pretending to be something it is not- trying to pass itself off as something Kosher.  So do Jews view “messianic judaism”- a deceitful movement trying to pass itself off as something it is not in order to attack the souls of the Jews.

So, Mazel Tov to those in groups like Jews for Judaism that do such fantastic work in helping to bring back lured in by the missionaries of these movements and to prevent others from making such an error.

January 21, 2009 Posted by | Messianic, Random, Weekly Question/Issue | , , , , , | 36 Comments