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Behar: Sinai and the Internet

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Should we ban the Internet? And if not, how should we protect our young – and ourselves – from the vices (which are many) of cyberspace?

This question is now being debated in many circles. And tomorrow, some 40,000 frum men (women not invited) are expected to pack Citifield Stadium in New York – an interesting venue to condemn modernity – for an emergency meeting about the evils of the Internet.

What should our attitude be to all this? Should we ban the Internet from our homes? Is that even possible? And then, why not ban mobile devices and other electronic communication tools that can also lead someone astray? And finally, and most importantly, what is the Torah’s attitude to technology? What did the rabbis of old do when, say, the printing press was discovered in the 15th century? Did they ban books?

So what should be our approach to new ways to access information – good and bad – when we cannot really filter out one from the other?

This question is surprisingly not new. The first information revolution – which took place 3,324 years ago, and which we celebrate next week as the holiday of Shavuot – has for us some astonishing lessons about dealing with today’s information revolution.

What does the Internet have with Sinai rings like the opening question on this week’s Torah portion: What does Shemitah have with Sinai – which is similar to the question what is a Greek doing in a Sukkah? The Greeks, the Germans and an empty pit – all add up to a formula for dealing with our challenges today.

As we prepare for the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, we read this week’s Torah portion, whose opening words about Sinai offer us powerful lessons about managing the Internet and our fast changing world.

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