Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Question & Answer With Chaim Of Life-Of-Rubin - American Pop Culture

A Simple Jew asks:

In a sicha from Rosh Chodesh Elul 5714 / 1954, the Lubavitcher Rebbe said,

"Certainly we need to control reading material coming into our home and what we hear on the radio. But the most potent influence even upon adults, certainly upon much more impressionable children and teenagers, are the visual media: television, movies, for these grab our total attention. "

While the Lubavitcher Rebbe certainly promoted the use of television to spread Torah teachings, from the above teaching it appears that the Lubavitcher Rebbe did not promote a person - and certainly not a chassid - watching whatever television program he or she desired. As a chassid who lives in the heart of Crown Heights, do you ever feel pressure from your community to curtail your exposure to American pop culture?

Chaim answers:

The Rebbe wanted us to use new technology to help spread Torah and encourage people to do more Mitzvos. The problem was/is that there are too many people who are themselves influenced by pop culture. It's not easy for a person to be exposed to popular culture and not become attracted to it.

The challenge that the Rebbe presented to us is therefore that much greater. Not only was he asking us to use these tools, but to somehow make ourselves stronger by facing our taivahs and still attempting to avoid them.

Before a person does anything they need to know themselves. It's important that if you are not strong in your own Hashkafic convictions you don't immerse yourself in something that will tempt you. The reward from using something like TV to spread Torah is huge. One person can go into the street, but he can only speak to one person at a time. Even if a person has a public shiur he still can't effect more then a couple hundred at best.

When a person goes on television he can reach millions of people in the same time it would take a person an entire lifetimes.

Just as a person has to know his or her own limits and how strong they are spiritually. People also have to be able to know how to use anything the right way or the wrong way. It's not just TV or the Internet. Anything can be used the wrong way or the right way. Take Tzniuis for instance. Today's fashions allow for a women to dress traditionally Tznius but not within the spirit of Tznius. Women can have their elbows and knees and hair covered but wear whatever new tight fitting top or slinky skirt that Gap or Express is debuting with the new Fall Fashions.

You can see that anything can be done in a good way or a bad way. Here is another example. Men who go out to Shiruim till very late at night. Learning Torah is a very important thing. But Shalom Bayis and being a part of your home family is also very important. If you are out early in the morning for Shachris and then go to work all day, then maybe coming home for dinner for 30 minutes. Then going back out to a Shiur for 2 hours is not the best idea.

You have to know how much of a good thing is too much. Maybe only go out one night, or two nights. Make sure that your home for a significant period of time before you run back out. Do homework with your children. Learn with them. Make sure your wife doesn't need you for anything. Being at home is sometimes more important. I've seen too many times these situations where the wives are overworked and angry because their husband is never around.

We're all so upset about the "at risk" problem. Have we ever once stopped to think that maybe if fathers spent more time learning with their own children it would be better? Yes, we send our kids to school for a reason but the time you spend connecting with your children will make a major difference as the grow up. If all they remember is a father who was home for 30 minutes for dinner (if even that) then they will need to bond and look to outside sources for that connection.

That's really taking this on a tangent, but I felt like it was an important point to address. Getting back to the main discussion here. Just like a person can take a seemingly good thing and use it wrong. We can also take a seemingly bad thing and use it for good. The trick is just being honest with yourself and knowing if you can make the distinction. In a way it's great because it allows us another chance to better ourselves. If a person can use TV or the Internet to channel it only for good and not be tempted or influenced by its negative effects. How much stronger will we be?

A person will never know how strong he us until he has gone into battle. This rule applies to being spiritually strong as well. I think The Rebbe had tremendous confidence in us and truly believed that we could use something like TV without becoming a couch potato. So when I see either myself or people around me losing that battle and being influenced by "pop culture" I just try to remind myself that so much good has been done through new technology. We just have to be strong ourselves and try to avoid the pressure you speak of.


At August 21, 2007 at 10:15:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

A related posting with Chabakuk Elisha's view can be seen here

At August 21, 2007 at 11:11:00 AM EDT, Blogger DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

I don't think we can trust ourselves with a TV. I don't think the TV should be available in the house. Even the stuff that's clean is a waste of brain power. If someone personally happens to do kiruv on TV, let them do it in the studio and not have one at home!

-Dixie Yid

At August 21, 2007 at 11:33:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After a period of indecision, we ditched TV during the 1990's after the picture tube died.

Nothing was lost except that our degree of familiarity with degenerate popular culture diminished---not a bad bargain!

The kids adapted well; they had never really been glued to the tube beforehand.

There are more than enough "pro-taiva" influences out there to contend with daily. There is no need to flirt with danger intentionally by bringing TV into one's own home.

Today, the Web brings challenges analogous to those of TV, so anyone feeling tempted to take a walk on the wild side should stay far away from it. People have to know their own tendencies.

At August 21, 2007 at 11:38:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Bob: I plan to follow your lead when my television goes. I don't watch it at all now.

At August 21, 2007 at 12:55:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given the great emphasis on shmiras einayim, is it possible for a chassid to turn network television today for even than five minutes without seeing an image that he should not be looking at?

At August 21, 2007 at 12:57:00 PM EDT, Blogger Jack Steiner said...

I don't think we can trust ourselves with a TV. I don't think the TV should be available in the house. Even the stuff that's clean is a waste of brain power.

I disagree wholeheartedly. While there may be junk on television, there are also tremendous educational programs.

My children and I have enjoyed many shows on Discovery and The National Geographic channel.

And we have watched "junk" television. But the trick is moderation. That really is the bottom line.

At August 21, 2007 at 2:21:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having a tv for the occasional educational program is fraught with peril. Even in a garbage dump one can find an edible apple sometimes. Having said that, we do have kosher videos that play on a tv that has no cable connection or reception.

At August 21, 2007 at 3:11:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just remember that there is a video that they play in shomayim after 120 that captures every little action

At August 21, 2007 at 8:13:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe we should "tell a vision" of the neviim, the prophets instead of watching a "television".

At August 21, 2007 at 8:15:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

television is a recent phenomenon in human and jewish history. for thousands of years we "inner-attained" tried to "enter-attainment" instead of being 'entertained'....with stories from torah, rebbes, life...


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