Question & Answer With Reb TiVo - Television & Orthodoxy
A Simple Jew asks:
Watching broadcast television in a religious home is essentially permitting the viewing of continuous infomercial that is attempting to sell secular society. Within minutes of turning on a television a man encounters numerous sights which halacha forbids him to look at and sounds that he is forbidden to listen to. Yet, there is still a large segment of Orthodox Jewry that doesn't seem to regard this as an issue. What would attribute this to?
Reb TiVo answers:
I hate arguing halacha because it isn't my strong suit. There are many things that our current rabbinic authorities are banning that may not actually be assur al pi halacha, but which may be related to forming extra gedarim to prevent people from getting into trouble. Music is one, the internet is another, and TV has long been the old fall guy.
I guess I don't want to answer this because what it really means is that I choose not to be under full rabbinic authority for certain aspects of my life, particularly for areas for which there isn't a good substitute.
Kashruth: Yes, it's hard but with minor adjustments to your menu you can still continue eating.
Shabbos: I love my Shabbos, but it is a major obstacle for many career paths. However there are other ways to make a living, and if you’re creative it doesn’t have to limit you that much.
Nidda: There are times when I wonder why WHY for the love of everything WHY?!!! But the other half of the month is…pretty good, y'know?
Banning something outright, like all entertainment, whether it is music, books, magazines, movies or TV, without an ample replacement is just a recipe for disaster, and what I consider "normal" people (people I can sit around a table with and have an interesting dinner conversation) will leave this religion in droves.
I think it's possible to be engaged in the real world, whether professionally, intellectually, or socially, and still be an Orthodox, kosher, Torah learning Jew, and make real contributions to making the world a better place. Pretending the outside doesn't exist doesn't solve any problems.
If one were to follow the premise of your question, one would have to conclude that you can never read a newspaper, never open a magazine, never read a secular book, never listen to the radio, never watch TV, rent a movie or go out, never go to work lest one see or even speak to a woman, and unless you live some place like Bnei Brak, never leave your home between the months of April and November when skin may be seen. I choose not to live that way. It makes Judaism into a negative religion, one of restrictions. It becomes a list of rules about what you can’t do, instead of a positive way to live your life.
I guess I can still remember the days when you could run into a local rabbi at the movies with his wife, or when the cool rebbes could quote Star Trek and Monty Python, and these are the people who inspired me to become frum, because I could see that they lived in the real world and yet were passionate about their Yiddishkeit. It seems to be a type of Judaism that's disappearing and frankly, I prefer it to what I see emerging now.
For the sake of clarification, my view of television can be read in this posting.