Reprinted from Hamodia
I know that you have addressed this problem in the past, but I am desperate for help. As a yeshivah bachur, I fell into the trap of the Internet, but, baruch Hashem, I was able to escape by making a neder not to touch a computer. That worked for about eight years. Now, I am married, and my parnassah requires working on a computer, so my neder does not help. Once I’m at a computer, I don’t have any resistance. The company I work for does not have a filter, and I have fallen back into the trap. I am afraid that if I don’t get help, both my Yiddishkeit and my marriage will be lost. What can I do?
Your problem is an example of why the approach to cut down access to computers is not the solution. We are becoming more and more dependent on the Internet every day. As much as we wish that we could eliminate all access, this appears to be unrealistic.
The current proposed solutions are inadequate.
Unfortunately, there are many similarities between this “war” and the war on drugs. Eight administrations have declared a “war on drugs.” They have backed up this declaration of war with astronomical investments of resources to prevent, apprehend, arrest, and severely punish drug users and dealers. Yet despite sniffing dogs at the airports and thousands of border guards, financial incentives to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars to farmers to abstain from growing drug-producing plants, and stiff mandatory prison sentences to drug users, dealers, and money launderers, the drug business is thriving.
Former US Secretary of Health Joseph Califano has stated the obvious: None of these techniques or any others will be effective as long as there is a desire for drugs. The only hope is to cut down the desire, and we have not found a way to do that.
This is also true of the Internet problem. The words of Rav Moshe Feinstein are prophetic. Rav Feinstein cites the verse, “Kedoshim tihiyu — You shall be holy,” upon which Rashi says that this means avoiding forbidden relationships. Rav Feinstein says that the only thing that can be effective against immoral temptations is kedushah, no ifs, ands, or buts. There is no other way.
We must be realistic about trying to break Internet addiction. There is only one way, as Rav Feinstein says — increase kedushah. How does one increase kedushah? The answer is simple — simple, but difficult. The sefer Mesilas Yesharim describes eight
steps that lead to kedushah.
If we follow and implement the teachings of Mesilas Yesharim seriously, sincerely, and faithfully, we can increase kedushah. Nothing else is effective against the tumah of the Internet.
This is not an easy solution. Practicing the teachings of Mesilas Yesharim in our daily lives requires changing many of our habits. We are creatures of habit, and changing our character traits is difficult. Rav Yisrael Salanter, said that it is easier for a person to learn the entire Talmud than to change even a single character trait. But If we are sincere in our determination to overcome the Internet problem, we will not be satisfied with short-term solutions and we will recognize that Rav Feinstein was absolutely right. Increasing kedushah and only increasing kedushah will work.
Internet addiction is a spiritual cancer. People who have, chas v’shalom, cancer will undergo surgery and very difficult treatments to save their lives. If we realize that our spiritual lives and the spiritual lives of our children are at stake, we will be willing to do whatever is necessary to save ourselves and our children.
Just reading Mesilas Yesharim is not enough. We must pause after every sentence and reflect on whether we are in fact implementing it. It is said that the Vilna Gaon, before walking out into the street, would review chapter 2 of Mesilas Yesharim thirteen times! If that is what that great tzaddik required, what can we say of ourselves?
If you feel you need extra help with battling the problem, there are people who can help. But remember the words of Rav Feinstein. Increasing kedushah is the only solution.