|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Iphones and You
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From: Ruben Safir
Date: Thu, 17 Aug 2017 23:27:05 -0400
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Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Iphones and You
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Data Plan: Who Decides =E2=80=93 You or Your iPhone?
Rabbi Eliyahu Safran
A father is obligated to do the following for his son: to circumcise
him, to redeem him if he is a first born, to teach him Torah, to find
him a wife, and to teach him a trade. Others say: teaching him how to
swim as well. =E2=80=93 Kiddushin 29a
Obligated to teach a son to swim? What is one to think of this?
Certainly the great Gaon Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv was baffled as to why
teaching =E2=80=9Cswimming=E2=80=9D per se is an obligation a father has to=
Every =E2=80=9Cdanger=E2=80=9D posed by swimming is posed by any number of =
So too any benefit swimming might bring.
So what is it that makes swimming unique?
In Divrei Aggadah, Devarim 14:9, Rav Elyashiv presents a compelling
interpretation. He begins by asking, What does =E2=80=9Cswimming=E2=80=9D =
Certainly, if one were to drop a piece of wood in a river it might
remain above the surface of the waters but no one would suggest it is
=E2=80=9Cswimming=E2=80=9D. It is merely floating along; passive and at th=
e mercy of
the river=E2=80=99s current.
His point is that people cannot merely float and to swim is to be
actively engaged, to willfully employ skill to counter the physics of
the water, of their environment. After all, to do otherwise, to =E2=80=9Cn=
swim=E2=80=9D is to sink and drown.
This then is fundamental to what the Talmud is teaching us. A Jew must
be a swimmer. He cannot be passive. A father must teach his son Torah,
a trade, help find the right life partner =E2=80=93 but to assure all this
happens, that it all =E2=80=9Cworks=E2=80=9D a Jew often has to willfully o=
physics of life, he must swim else he drown.
A Jew must be in control. He cannot be swayed by the worldly currents
and cross-currents that buffet him. Society, culture =E2=80=93 life and
experience =E2=80=93 these are turbulence, they are threatening and
destabilizing currents. To live a Jewish life, a life of Torah, is to
do more than merely stay afloat; to go wherever the currents carry you.
To live a life of Torah is to swim against these currents.
Rav Elyashiv takes this obligation and its lesson even further. The
Jewish people are compared to the creature most associated with
swimming, to fish. V=E2=80=99yidgu larov =E2=80=93 =E2=80=9Cand may they p=
like fish within the land=E2=80=9D (Bereishit 48:16) In addition to the
ability to swim, what distinguishes kosher fish as a creature? To be
kosher, a fish must possess two attributes; it must have both fins and
scales. Its fins propel and guide the fish through the water. That is,
fins give the fish the power (analogous to the inner strength a Jew must
possess) to go against the current.
This is the essential lesson in the Talmud, that a Jew must be master of
his movement in the world; he cannot allow himself to be swayed by
The second attribute of the kosher fish is its scales. Scales protect
the fish from harm. They are a defense. So too, the Jew must have
=E2=80=9Cscales=E2=80=9D that protect him from harm. For Jews, these =E2=80=
=9Cscales=E2=80=9D are Torah
learned and mitzvot performed.
V=E2=80=99yidgu larov. The verse poses an insight and a puzzle; an insight=
Jews can be compared to fish; a puzzle in that, =E2=80=9C=E2=80=A6prolifera=
ting as fish
within the land=E2=80=A6=E2=80=9D is counterintuitive. After all, shouldn=
proliferate within water?
The answer to this puzzle speaks even more powerfully to our point. In
order to be as the kosher fish, with its fins and scales, a Jew must
possess inner strength and armor to remain kosher regardless of the
environment where he finds himself. No matter the currents, a Jew=E2=80=99s
=E2=80=9Cfins=E2=80=9D must find him you swimming in the true direction thr=
No matter the =E2=80=9Cslings and arrows=E2=80=9D of life and experience, h=
protect him and his soul.
Another aspect of fish that distinguish it from other kosher creatures
is that other creatures can become non-kosher =E2=80=93 through improper
shechita or any number of other treifos. Not so fish. Which is why
Yaakov blessed them, v=E2=80=99yidgu=E2=80=A6b=E2=80=99kerev ha=E2=80=99are=
tz. Be fish-like,
everywhere. Remain in your original state no matter where you end up.
Do not let who you are be affected or influenced by the cultural
currents swirling around you.
Stay in control=E2=80=A6
* * *
There are so many aspects of life that demand that we know how to
=E2=80=9Cswim=E2=80=9D; so many instances when we must remain in control de=
countless diversions, distractions and circumstances that seek to demand
our attention. Our forebears, our teachers, our sages anticipated and
provided guidance against so many of them. There is, however, one
=E2=80=9Ctool=E2=80=9D, one =E2=80=9Cdevice=E2=80=9D, one =E2=80=9Cgift=E2=
=80=9D for which those who came before us
could not protect us because they could not even have imagined it. How
could they have conjured up this wonderful, demanding and damning
device? How could they have imagined a palm-sized device that would
allow us to speak instantly with loved ones across oceans and time
zones, get news, play games, or interact with millions of people whose
faces and concerns we can never really know? How could they have
foreseen such a device and how it has transformed its immense potential
into a damning and addictive diversion, calling like a mythical Siren
and seducing us from our path and our goals.
The iPhone (and its many competitors) has sapped us of our strength; it
has insinuated itself within our inner, intuitive workings, and snuck
past our natural, Torah defenses.
So insidious has the iPhone become that it no longer =E2=80=9Cmerely=E2=80=
our waking hours (studies suggest that the average cell user checks his
phone 35 times a day; that 56% of parents own up to checking their
devices while driving; 75% of smartphone users admit to have texted
while driving at least once=E2=80=A6) but it also affects our =E2=80=9Crest=
More than half of all smartphone users check their phones within an hour
of going to sleep and nearly three-quarters reach for it as soon as they
get up. 61% of users sleep with their phone turned on under their
pillow or next to their bed.
I=E2=80=99ve been in restaurants and seen a table of diners each sitting at
their table looking at their phones rather than the real live, in the
flesh people seated next to or across from them!
We have ceded control!
Many years ago, a Marshall McLuhan said, =E2=80=9Cthe medium is the message=
suggesting that the medium was at least as important as the content of
the message in how it is perceived. This is surely the case with
smartphones. In raising the alarm about smartphones, I am not focusing
on content. Yes, the Internet can be a dark place of truly horrific
messages and content. But, as I suggested above, it is also a place
where one can find endless shiurim, where Torah knowledge is available
at the tip of one=E2=80=99s fingers, where it is possible to engage our gre=
sages anytime, anywhere.
It is not the content but the thing itself which has robbed us of our
=E2=80=9Cfins=E2=80=9D and our control. Yes, it is possible to maintain ou=
while using our smartphones; to engage in Torah learning. But we must
remember that our obligation is to teach our sons to swim; to use their
fins and to be in control.
My focus is obviously not the online experience per se for that can be
uplifting and profound. My focus is on the device itself, the thing we
have entered into an unwitting and self-destructive relationship with.
It is easy to dismiss the man who went to Las Vegas to =E2=80=9Cget married=
his phone (in truth, he did it to make a point) but it is harder to
dismiss the truth that as a practical matter for too many of us our most
demanding, fulfilling, engaging and satisfying relationship is with an
object that we carry in our pockets.
We text endlessly and incessantly. WhatsUp. Snapchat. FBing.
Instagramming. Twittering (we even have a =E2=80=9CTwitterer in Chief!) W=
it all. All the time. Even when there is a living, breathing,
engaging, wonderful person within arm=E2=80=99s length of us!
Our lives are determined by FOMO (fear of missing out). We suffer
anxiety attacks if we are separated from our phones for even a short time.
The behavior is exactly analogous to an addict. And no one is more
indicative of someone who has lost control than an addict.
The Torah-driven, Jewish life is to be exactly the opposite of the life
of an addict. It is to be a life of meaning, of engagement, of control.
And yet I almost never see a Jew =E2=80=93 shomer Shabbas, mitzvah perform=
Jews =E2=80=93 without a smartphone. I have seen good, observant mothers
pushing strollers not engaging with their children. I know of fathers
taking phone calls as soon as they=E2=80=99ve walked into the house, seemin=
forget that there are children there that need and deserve their attention.
* * *
V=E2=80=99Yidgu=E2=80=A6 We are meant to be fish all the time, in every en=
Fish cannot be rendered non-kosher. Other animals can be. We need to
be kosher fish, not any other kosher animal. The smartphone is
insidious and seductive, it is brilliant in its intuitiveness. It can
be a lifesaver =E2=80=93 literally. It can be a wonderful tool =E2=80=93 w=
control it, rather than allow it to control us.
But there is no way to look at smartphone use and not see that it is
Test yourself. Can you turn off your phone =E2=80=93 really turn it off, n=
just put it on vibrate or airplane mode? Can you ignore it for two
hours? Five hours? Can you sit at the table with friends or family and
not slip it out of your pocket to just =E2=80=9Cglance at=E2=80=9D?
If trying to do these things causes you stress or anxiety, you need to
=E2=80=9Cswim like the fishes.=E2=80=9D Strengthen your fins. Swim! The c=
treacherous. The safe harbor is a ways away. Swim!
So many immigrant groups have swept through our town
that Brooklyn, like Atlantis, reaches mythological
proportions in the mind of the world - RI Safir 1998
DRM is THEFT - We are the STAKEHOLDERS - RI Safir 2002
http://www.nylxs.com - Leadership Development in Free Software
http://www2.mrbrklyn.com/resources - Unpublished Archive
http://www.coinhangout.com - coins!
Being so tracked is for FARM ANIMALS and and extermination camps,
but incompatible with living as a free human being. -RI Safir 2013
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