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What've You Got Against TV?

What've You Got Against TV?

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Question:

What is it that religious Jews have against television? Aren't you a bit cut off from reality? How do you know what's going on in the world without a TV in the house?

Answer:

I would say that it's the other way around—TV cuts you off from reality. Whatever you are watching, whether it's the news or entertainment, you are missing out on what's going on in the real world. The news is a distortion of what's going on other people's lives, and the entertainment is a distraction from what's going on in your life. "Reality TV" is an oxymoron.

The TV news is simply reporting the facts - right? Wrong. It is only reporting the facts that are visually captivating, will maintain the ratings, conform to the prejudices of the viewers (not to mention the station owners), and fit into neat little segments - as if there has never been a story too complicated to report in three minutes....

But it's not only the news that distances us from reality. Just as TV news replaces the facts with a contrived opinion, TV entertainment replaces real human interaction with somebody else's fantasies. Those who spend their hours following soap operas are missing out on the days of the lives of their own family and friends. The sitcom junkies are oblivious to the hilarity of everyday living. And the fans glued to "reality TV" are blind to the reality happening in their own home.

Could it be that TV is a major cause of the relationships crisis we face today? Apart from the time wasted in front of the box, there is a deeper effect the media is having on our generation of TV addicts. So many people are complaining that they can't find somebody to love. How often do we hear, "I just can't find the right person." Well, to a couch potato, it's no wonder no one is "the right person." Who can compete with the beautiful, funny, interesting and witty characters that strut the screens and fill their minds every night? Never mind that it's all contrived and staged. How many people do you know who fit TV's narrow definition of what is considered attractive? Of course no one in the real world matches up.

Personally, I feel more in touch with reality without a TV. You may not be ready to throw yours out the window. But at least ensure that it is you that controls the television, and not the reverse. Make sure you are not missing out on real relationships in favor of imaginary friends. Life was not meant to be lived only during commercial breaks.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
Artwork by David Brook. David lives in Sydney, Australia, and has been selling his art since he was in high school. He is currently painting and doing web illustrations.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Chabad.org Staff via chabadone.org July 12, 2016

To Anonymous Yes they may own a radio. Some are selective as to which programs they listen to. Reply

Anonymous July 11, 2016

Are religious Jews permitted to listen to the radio and own a radio? Reply

Samantha Leon July 16, 2015

Some might argue that when one goes to a theatre to see a film it's not much better than TV. But when you see a film you're actually getting out of the house. Reply

Anonymous March 19, 2015

I think It would Be very interesting if 90% of the channels teach the Torah and the way Jews live their lives. By this I think the TV addicts Will be close to G-d.

Tovy Reply

Sheri Eldersburg, MD February 20, 2015

This is so relevant for today and so correct. Thank you. I would like to distribute this to every elementary through high school student and parent in every public school in this country. Reply

Anonymous Toronto November 28, 2014

TV never regret throwing it out!!! there is also emissions of waves regardless of what is considered the norm or okay to have from many devices TV's have gotten very very large. They turn the living room focus from a family engagement into an entertainment studio where you are now mostly an observer and opinionated much conformed to those ideals you watch. Which went from Archie and Edith Bunker in separate rooms to now Jersey Shore ( catastrophe) it is responsible for a lot of desensitizing not just of youth or violence. It rushes through family tribulations and solves in 30 mins. Making people actually intolerant in our microwaved 3 min world many want to wait for nothing. Those emissions probably have an addictive quality about them in itself. Reply

Eleazar Shlomo ben Yakov Goldman GUANAJUATO, MEXICO January 18, 2013

Television and the internet Television has been and is used in the USA as a mechanism of "socialization" in which government plays a big part in determining the kinds of programming and movies which suit their ideas of social control. The internet can also function in much the same way, and even more dangerous, is a portal through which ANY subject whatsoever can enter your mind and influence a person for good or evil, or a mixture. Many people, especially the young, are addicted to TV or their laptop and/or cell phone which substitutes for a REAL life in the REAL world, All these technological advances have a place, can be useful tools, but are very unhealthy when used indiscriminately. Reply

Bremmer New York January 18, 2013

No more news There is no news any more on television only advertizement opinion programing. Reply

Jeff G. Springfield, MO/USA August 21, 2012

TV vs real life This summer I started keeping th tv off and sitting out of my porch more. When I first moved in here 12 years or so ago the main selling point at the time was it opens right out onto the pool area. Beautifully kept lawns, lottsa trees and gardens, very much a resort in appearence. I didn't say to the landlady showing me the apartment, "I love the walls and carpet." The apartment itself is not that great, but it's the view that made my decision. When I actually sit outside and enjoy it I not only feel better, but I feel much closer to Hashem. I've likened it to not having the electronic distractions and being able to feel real ground beneath my feet, hear the wind through the leaves, feed the birds and other critters we have here. And yes, talk with the odd passing neighbor (gasp! You TALK to neighbors?) :) If our faith is to enhance us, it should enhance those around us. I still watch tv a lot, but it isn't my main source for entertainment any more. When winter comes, well, we'll see. :) Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA via jewishriverside.com January 17, 2012

There is a big problem in America, in that Our people are more obese than ever in history, and the children are more obese and less active. Could it be that sitting for hours on end (and usually eating while you watch TV) with eyes glued and brains turned off is one of the contributing factors? Yes, I do have a TV at home, but now, it is gathering dust. I realized I am killing myself by not walking, moving, and exercising. So, how can I fault someone for wanting people to experience real life instead of a fantasy one? One sort of good thing about having a TV on is that you can hear right away if there is a nuclear or other disaster coming your way, as they do cut into normal programming to announce emergency information. Reply

quiet Kansas City, MO January 16, 2012

educational is best on demand For those that want to say tv is something to do together or that tv is fun to watch a game with friends, I say- you are not really interacting with each other. Not really. Try an interaction without it and see what I mean. To those who say how educational it is, I say you need to watch educational programming on demand, not because it is scheduled and it might have something you've never seen. This means, watch something specific online or rented because you want to learn about that subject. But really,don't you have ANYTHING better to do? Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA via jewishriverside.com January 16, 2012

I have to kind of chuckle. I didn't think that this article meant anything to me, because I am not a Chassidic Jew and don't follow Halacha laws. However, it must have made a deep deep impression, because I have begun to not want to watch the programs. This one is boring, that one is a waste of time, the writing is bad on another, the grammar is atrocious, too many commercials, etc, etc. I just keep thinking, "Ugh" and have other things to do. So, I called my cable company and said, "Look, I never hardly watch TV and I'm a senior. Either you lower my bill considerably each month or I am stopping service with you." They did considerably lower the bill. Hahaha. So, thank you. You helped me in ways you couldn't imagine! If there is ever a show I want to watch, I just look it up on the internet and if it is free, I watch it. Now, I mostly like to listen to music and do dance/exercises at home alone to exercise tapes. Reply

SHLOMO ben YAKOV GOLDMAN LEON, MEXICO January 3, 2012

I absolutely see the clarity in TZVI'S CHASSIDIC p I totally agree with Tzvi about television for not only the reasons that Tzvi shares with us on this topic, but the fact that much that is found on television is sexualized, violent and disturbing imagery and words/songs not only for children, but adults too. It's nearly everything that tends to drag the nefesh and mind away from HaShem and down into gross sensuality or worse.

Even when you can get cable, most of it is worthless, at least in my opinion. There are many many Jewish and other elevating DVD's, even movies, etc that one can watch on television when one wishes to have some occasional time with the TV, by using a DVD player, rather than immersing one's (and one's children's minds) in mostly pre-programmed junk. True, some secular movies and programs can be interesting for both kids and adults but one has to be discerning. Reply

Ellie Pikesville November 1, 2011

Television isn't the be all end all I understand why people don't watch television. It's not the be all end all. TV is not all bad. Why you can't set aside one hour a day for you or your kids to watch television. And you can also set parental locks. Or explain to your kids, why they shouldn't watch certain things. Whatever works. There are so many educational shows on television, you just have to find them. Reply

Yakov October 6, 2010

Television I had ended my television addicition long before I sought a Jewish way of life. I didn't even know why. It went against my feeling of well being. I think that deep inside of us we have the knowledge of what is truly valuable in life.
This article touched me, and articulated what I could not quite put my finger on. Reply

Stephen Weinstein Camarillo, CA via chabadcamarillo.com July 9, 2010

"Addiction" Alcohol is also something about which you could say what "Anonymous, delhi, india" did: It "is very normal but a strong inclination can make a person an addict. A large number of people especially kids are suffering from this addiction. An addicted person spends most of their time [doing what the person is addicted to doing]... It becomes their psychological problem and creates a bad effect on life."

The only differences is that alcohol addiction causes liver failure, which is ultimately fatal, unlike "hearing and eyesight defects", which are not, and that alcohol addiction tends to lead to drunk driving, which kills others, not just the addict.

Do we stop saying Kiddush and having wine at seders because a person could become an addict and die? No. Because we recognize that -- in moderation and at approiate times (for example, not when driving) -- it is not going to cause these problems. Reply

juniper raytown, mo July 8, 2010

sucks the life right out of you! TV sucks the life right out of you. REally! I have an advanced degree in Electronic Media and Journalism and part of my studies were the effects of TV on the brain. Lets just summarize by saying that with the conclusions I've drawn, we don't even have one hooked up in our home. For us, it's not that the programming isn't interesting or educational. It's that choosing to never watch tv forces us to find better things to do with our time. Since I am an artist, I think it much better to choose to spend my time on creative stuff. My family reads, gardens, plays board games together. And very importantly for my children: they are not exposed to advertising messages. We all know that these are slick lies specifically made to sell products that often we don't actually need and the fastest area of advertisement growth is in advertisements geared to children. Over the years there has been discussion about government regulation regarding them, but they so far have the $$ to keep going. Reply

Anonymous delhi, india May 20, 2010

Telivision addiction in kids The habit of watching television is very normal but a strong inclination can make a person an addict. A large number of people especially kids are suffering from this addiction. An addicted person spends most of their time watching T.V. It becomes their psychological problem and creates a bad effect on life. Some of the common television addiction effects include hearing and eyesight defects. Reply

Elizabeth via chabadofbakersfield.com August 10, 2009

Response to Ms. Ezza Amitai I had to laugh when reading your post. TV is an addiction and depends on how you use it. I know a grandmother of 74 that has the TV on for 18 hours a day. She watches political news, movies, and the programs on KCET and others. She is constantly on the phone, enjoys her breakfast, lunch, dinner at the local restaurants and meets people. She has scheduled her time well.

I would suggest if you consider this, that you can arrange your time by reading books, going to libraries and taking some classes that you like, meeting people at the local synagogue, watching news, or listening to radio talk shows on how they debate their point of views. If you have a laptop, you can spend time reading and actively getting involved like you just did when you posted your comment.

TV should not be considered as your sole purpose of living. Keep the TV and try not to use it in order to practice disciplining.
After a while, the piece of equipment might be considered as your vacuum machine.

Like that? Reply

Ms. Ezza Amitai August 8, 2009

Loneliness I don't want to watch TV. When I was living with a friend, I never watched it, and just turning it on felt like poison. At night I tended to listen to audio lectures on Jewish themes, and have learned so much in a short time.

But currently I am living alone, in a town where I don't know anyone, doing a house-sitting job. Now I turn the TV on and waste many hours in front of it (although mostly I watch DVDs). I feel that I'm missing out on real life. The thing that prevents me interacting with the community is that I have to move in 3 weeks, so I've kept myself unattached to people, so that it's easier to move when the time comes.

I much preferred my other way of living. But I get lonely, and seeing 'people' tricks the mind into having company. It's not good, but there you have it. I'm curious as to how I'd cope here alone if I threw the owner's TV away. Or just kept it turned off...? Reply

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