A recent VINNEWS editorial discussed the Siyum HaShas that was held this past Wednesday night at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. While it correctly extolled the unprecedented Kiddush Shaim Shamayim that occurred that evening, it did seek to take Agudath Israel of America to task for not having the event broadcast on the Internet.
Respectfully, we would like to take issue with this latter criticism. There is no question that technology has its tremendous benefits and can and should be used as a tool for both Jewish education and Jewish outreach. But technology is a double-edged sword that can have devastating ramifications.
While one can perhaps understand the sentiments of the VIN editorial, it seems that much of the criticism is, unfortunately misplaced. Firstly, there were plenty of internet hookups available. Hookups were available in Chicago, Los Angeles, Lakewood, and in every major city across the country with a large Orthodox Jewish community.
Some of the hookups just offered programming, a live feed so to speak, while others also offered their own set of speakers. Rav Malkiel Kotler’s own brother-in-law, RavUren Reich, was one of the featured speakers at Chicago’s program.
The idea behind Agudath Israel’s programming sends to us all a very important message. Technology must be engaged with careful thought, deliberation, and with moderation. There is a notion of a graduated implementation of a process or technology. We do not just jump into strange waters, we first dip our feet and determine the temperature.
The Rabbis who are at the helm of Agudath Israel ofAmerica know quite well the potential markets in both Torah education and in outreach Chinuch that the technology of the internet can open. What they also know, and what the good writers at Vosizneias might not be aware of is the sheer volume of devastation that the internet has caused.
A good illustration is the very notion of fire. Fire is a most helpful tool that warms us up, cooks our food, and sterilizes our dishes to ward off infections. At the same time fire can and does kill. In this country alone 4000 Americans die from fires each year.
Do we entirely forbid the use of fire? Absolutely not. We need it, but we have to watch over it carefully. Did Agudath Israel not use the internet or email to create the wonderful programming and logistical planning that we were privy to on Wednesday night?
Of course they did. It would be foolish and well impossible not to use these tools for planning an event of such colossal proportion and significance.
In not broadcasting it over the internet, Agudath Israel taught us all a very profound message. It showed us the careful balance, reserve and judgement that we must all have when dealing with this very powerful and very dangerous tool that lies in so many homes.
As the VINNEWS editorial so aptly explained, the Kiddush Shaim Shamayim that this event brought forth was unprecedented in history. We can even go perhaps one step further.
We know that at Mount Sinai the Jewish nation accepted theTorah with the statement, “Naaseh v’Nishna – we will do and then we will listen.” Our sages inform us, however,that this acceptance was limited to the written section of the Torah, but not the oral law. They further tell us that it was only on Purim that the Jewish nation formally accepted the oral law as well.
While we may have accepted the oral law formally duringPurim, there was never a gathering to that effect that was mentioned, where Orthodox Jewry physically stood and declared their dedication to the oral law. Until now, that is.
On Wednesday night, the massive showing of observant Jews, even facing rain and inclement weather, showed the dedication of the masses of our people to the oral law. Never before has such a crowd gathered for such a purpose. It is a time where praise and admiration is in order, not critique.
But within the response to the critique lies an even greater lesson – it is the lesson of moderation, the Shvil HaZahav the “Golden Road” that Maimonides himself adjures us all to take. The message of moderation is indeed an important one. For it is through this balance that we cantruly achieve our national destiny and our Dveikus to the Creator himself.
The Siyum was a conduit of great sanctification of Hashem’s Name. We must therefore thank Aguth Israel of America both for the Siyum and for the very timely message ofrestraint and moderation – not only with technology, but in all areas of life.