In December 2009, I shared with Rabbi Twerski some of the stories we were getting on GYE every day and the huge extent of the problem. I asked if he could mention our work in his column. He responded, “I recommend GYE at every opportunity I get. I’m attaching an article that was in Hamodia. I don’t know if you want to use it.” (Since then, much has changed. Hamodia itself published a full-length article about GYE in 2015 when we visited London.) This is the article he sent.
Not a week goes by that I don’t get several calls about new casualties of the Internet. Some people call in desperation about themselves, feeling trapped in a
habit from which they have unsuccessfully tried to extricate themselves. Others, equally desperate, call about a family member. There is no immunity. People would be shocked to
know the caliber of the people who have fallen prey to this problem.
While restricting access to the Internet would appear to be a logical solution, it is simply not realistic. The use of the Internet, even just for business needs, is widespread. Filters can be effec- tive to prevent accidental exposure to improper scenes, and can be helpful for people who sincerely want to stop. But the Satan has become overpowering and is claiming victims, destroying spiritual lives, marriages, and families.
A man recently told me that he is traveling to a city 600 miles distant by car. Why? Because he is in contact with his infant grandchildren and is afraid of exposure to a carrier of the swine flu virus at the airport or on a plane. The awareness of the gravity of the problem and the possible consequences warrant his driv- ing ten hours! This man has no false illusions about immunity. Even if we are secure about ourselves, we should be seriously concerned about our children. The technology is advancing every day. There is no safe place to hide out.
What can we do? One phrase comes to mind, that of Avraham Avinu to Avimelech, “There is just no fear of God in this place” (Bereishis 20:11). Whatever else one may do, if there is no yiras Shamayim, everything is possible, even the most immoral behavior.
But don’t we have strong yiras Shamayim? Baruch Hashem, we have wonderful yeshivos and seminaries. We have glatt kosher meat, chalav Yisrael, pas Yisrael, and kemach yashan. But listen to the Talmud. When Rav Yochanan ben Zakkai was in his last days, his talmidim asked for his berachah. He said, “May your fear of Hashem be as great as your fear of people.” His talmidim were shocked. “Is that what you think of us?”
Rav Yochanan said, “Halevai you would achieve that! When
a person does an aveirah, he is concerned that no person should see him. It does not bother him that Hashem sees him” (Berachos 25b).
Just think of it! The talmidim of Rav Yochanan ben Zakkai! These were people whose greatness in Torah and kedushah was beyond what we can imagine, yet he felt that they might be lack- ing in yiras Shamayim. How can we say about ourselves that we have adequate yiras Shamayim? Remember what Chovos HaLevavos says, “You may be asleep, but the yetzer hara is awake.” Awake and unrelenting.
What can we do to increase yiras Shamayim? Rashi provides the answer: “To observe those mitzvos that we tend to trample on” (Devarim 7:12). Baruch Hashem, we do not trample on kashrus, on Shabbos, or on chametz on Pesach, but unfortu- nately, we may trample on middos: kaas, lashon hara, kinah, sinah, gaavah, shekker. We should keep before us the words of Rav Chaim Vital: that we should take even greater precaution with middos than we do with aveiros! Middos is the key to yiras Shamayim. Middos gives the person a sense of kedushah and dignity that he would not allow himself to soil with the tumah of the Internet.
Let us be honest with ourselves. Do we sometimes lose our temper? The Talmud says that this is equivalent to avodah zarah. Do we sometimes listen to or speak lashon hara, which is equivalent to the three cardinal sins of avodah zarah, shefichus damim, and arayos? Do we sometimes deviate from the truth? No amount of chumros can be considered yiras Shamayim if we are not meticulously careful about middos.
It is easy to buy kosher food. It is not easy to become masters of our middos. It may be the most difficult challenge of our lives. But think of the person who will drive ten hours for fear that he may be exposed to the swine flu virus and how disastrous this can be to his grandchildren. If our homes do not become fortresses of true yiras Shamayim, our children are at risk of being infected by the virus of the Internet. Remember the words of Avraham Avinu: “There is just no fear of God in this place.” Without true yiras Shamayim, nothing else will work.