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Is the Internet Evil?

Is the Internet Evil?

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Question:

I've heard that internet is "banned" by the rabbis in various Jewish religious communities—it is considered one of "Satan's tools." Obviously, however, Chabad does use the internet as a tool to serve G‑d. What does the Torah say about using this medium?

Answer:

Based on the teachings of the Tanya1 and the Rebbe's statements regarding modern media,2 one can say that the internet in and of itself is neutral. Other than those entities specifically banned by the Torah (whether the Written or Oral Law), such as un-kosher foods, the status of every object is determined by the way it is used.

A knife might be a good analogy. It has the capacity to do much harm, and has killed many, many people. But when used properly it also has the capacity to make life more convenient and even to heal the dangerously ill. And despite knives' negative potential, we continue to use them in our homes—though we exercise caution and make sure they don't fall into the hands of children.

There is no doubt that with regards to Jewish outreach and educational opportunities, the internet is peerless in its ability to disseminate Torah information and values. Never before has the average Jew – even those living in the remotest communities – had access to such a wealth of Torah knowledge. As a member of the Chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team, I've personally had the opportunity to share the Torah's message with Jews from the most unusual and exotic locations (and situations) imaginable, which would have been nearly impossible without the internet.

As such, it is no wonder that Chabad – whose mission it is to touch every Jew by spreading awareness of our beautiful heritage – has invested so heavily in the internet.

This idea is rooted in the belief that "Everything that G‑d created in His world, He did not create but for His glory" (Ethics 6:11). The internet, too, is G‑d's creation—intended to increase His glory; to bring the world to a greater awareness of its Creator.

However, the above should not be misconstrued as a blanket endorsement for the internet. Unfortunately, there's much that is wrong with the internet – no need to elaborate on this point – and we must take appropriate measures to protect ourselves and our families from harmful sites and activities available at the click of a mouse.

So, should you or I allow internet into our homes? That is a personal decision that every individual must make after a careful and honest analysis of their unique situation (often a rabbi or wise mentor can help with such an evaluation). And I certainly understand why certain rabbis strongly oppose internet use. Personally, I only use the internet at work, and I do not have access at home. At times this is a sacrifice, but for me the risks outweigh the benefits at home. Those who do have it at home should certainly have appropriate controls and filters installed. According to the FBI, "The most important factors in keeping your child safe on-line are the utilization of appropriate blocking software and/or parental controls, along with open, honest discussions with your child, monitoring his/her on-line activity."3

But this has no bearing on the importance of using this incredible medium to disseminate Torah and Judaism.

Footnotes
1.

Chapter 7. Click here for the text.

3.

"A Parent's Guide to Internet Safety" (http://www.fbi.gov/publications/pguide/pguidee.htm).

Rabbi Moshe Goldman is the Director of Chabad of the Waterloo Region in Waterloo, Ontario. He is also a member of the Chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team.
© 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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Anonymous April 12, 2017

I hate to bring Religious Science into this matter but my answer here will hit home.

Religious Science defines evil as a misuse of power.

So therefore if people misuse the Internet like for cyber bullying, hacking, launching missles into other countries, stealing identities, making false profits....then yes that is evil.

Just like a belt. A belt is used to hold up ones pants and now a days looks professional. But yet parents use this to whup their kids for discipline. Reply

Gregory Poughkeepsie May 14, 2015

I'm reminded of Professor Sheldon Epstein, who taught an engineering ethics class at Northwestern University. He showed his students a blueprint diagram and explained that the item shown in the diagram was an engineering marvel, one of the most efficient devices ever created, one which obviously required a great deal of skill to create. He then asked his students if they knew what it was. It was one of the ovens used in the Holocaust.

The point was that engineering is an important tool that can be used for either good or evil. You can design technology to save lives or technology to end lives. The internet is the same way. It's up to us to decide how to use it. Reply

Anonymous February 23, 2015

all is as G-d wills it As the above statement goes, it holds truth. What comes into being is either by His will or allowed by His will.

There is a reason for the internet's existence. Whether it is a device to save or enslave is another matter that only Our Father comprehends.

However, the internet like all sciences and technologies can be turned into a tool for evil. Our words, actions and intentions, should they be for good and holiness, will glorify God and His people.

It should be a tool used for the good. So should nuclear power. Human weapon disarmament is a requirement for ensured survival. Reply

Anonymous Pasadena, CA May 4, 2010

Internet Somewhere in Isaiah it is written, " ...and they shall speak upon the web of spiders, and lay among the eggs of vipers." The translation may have been inaccurate, but the intent is there that one day in that prophets' future, man would be connected in speech as through a web woven by spiders. I guess he saw it as it is today. The tool is being used to gather and transmit information as never before in man's history. Lately, instant translation is even available to us. But I do remember that man had once built a tower when they had a single language. The tower of Babel came crashing down due to man's arrogance thinking to replace G-d with his own technology. I hope and pray that this will not be repeated. [Alas, but it will. When the target of the secular world switches from the fundamentalists in the caves of Pashtun to the Jewish people, which it will (as it had many times before) then this invention shall indeed be used for evil.] Hold fast to Torah, the true internet of spirit. Reply

Anonymous London, UK December 1, 2008

danger of the internet As was said, don't blame the tool, it's the user who is responsible. If you say that which should not have been said, does this not reflect more on your mental control and self-discipline than on an unknowing and uncaring machine? If you give in to temptation, it really does not matter whether it is in public or priivate. Maybe the public aspect will encourage users to exercise more control over themselves - so a worthwhile result is achieved.
Just a thought. Reply

Anonymous Worchestor, US June 25, 2008

How come we can have internet and not TV? Reply

Thomas Karp New Haven, Ct. May 16, 2008

The danger of the internet It's fair to say that one danger the internet poses is that which concerns lashon hara:

The internet makes it that much easier to give in to saying things that might have better been left unsaid;-

even if they are true.

What's more is that when one sits before their computer on-line, they may do so under the temperament of being personal (from the comfort of their own home), or at least semi-private, and forget for a moment that they are addressing potentially millions of people worldwide;-

and so it's not just one person or so whose taken what you say wrongly. There can be very damaging consequences of that.

Just as there are warning labels on cigarette packets, perhaps there should be warnings on websites: Do you really want to post what you about to post here? Do you really want to say to the whole www what you about to say?

Beware of lashon hara.

Shalom. Reply

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