Avi Woolf / In the latest issue of Tradition (44:2), Rabbi Yitzchak Blau unleashed a powerful and thorough, if scattershot, critique of television from the point of view of the ideals of Modern Orthodoxy. Rabbi Blau argued emphatically in favor of getting rid of the television in the house, and having children and adults spend their time more constructively. This can be done by reading newspaper articles on serious issues of the day, reading serious books like Dostoevsky and generally being an intelligent religious Jew and democratic citizen.

Does Modern Orthodoxy Not Believe in Fun?

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Does Modern Orthodoxy Not Believe in Fun? A Response to Rabbi Yitzchak Blau

Guest post by Avi Woolf

Avi “aiwac” Woolf is a translator/editor residing in Efrat. He has a BA in Land of Israel Studies and has taken courses in the Bar-Ilan Contemporary Jewry Dept. He blogs at QED and reads everything from Leszek Kolakawski to Richard Pipes to Rav Soloveitchik and lehavdil Rav Dr. Michael Avraham – when he’s not watching TV, of course.

In the latest issue of Tradition (44:2), Rabbi Yitzchak Blau unleashed a powerful and thorough, if scattershot, critique of television from the point of view of the ideals of Modern Orthodoxy. Rabbi Blau argued emphatically in favor of getting rid of the television in the house, and having children and adults spend their time more constructively. This can be done by reading newspaper articles on serious issues of the day, reading serious books like Dostoevsky and generally being an intelligent religious Jew and democratic citizen.

In the following essay, I intend to critique Rabbi Blau’s important, but in my opinion deeply flawed, essay on two fronts. The first will deal with Rabbi Blau’s primary criticisms, which I address according to their general category. The second will deal with the more fundamental issue which Rabbi Blau touches on, but does not address directly – the contemporary inability of Orthodox thought to view leisure, or “fun”, as anything other than a necessary evil to be restricted as much as possible.

A brief confession is in order before we begin. I am an avid consumer of both serious articles and books and of television and movies. I have downed several tomes that come close to or exceed a thousand pages on matters from political philosophy to military history and everything in between. On the other hand, I have also spent much of my life absorbing television shows and movies of varying quality – from the powerful and insightful to the cringingly bad. I write, therefore, as one who is fully cognizant of the advantages and disadvantages of both media.

Is TV Really So Bad?

Before we continue, let’s make something clear. Even the most ardent defender of television will admit that it is full of garbage, filler and useless information. The time spent on it is often far beyond what could be called necessary or even fun. Too often, our addiction to the “boob tube” will result in flipping channels aimlessly for hours, not even gaining the enjoyment television is supposed to provide.

My argument against Rabbi Blau in the post below is not to argue that TV is flawless. Rather, my purpose is to point out that TV is a tool of communication, one of many, which can greatly contribute to knowledge and moral understanding as well “corrupt youth” if misused. In this post, I will deal directly with Rav Blau’s primary arguments against television, organized according to category. Each accusation of Rav Blau will appear with my verdict regarding the charge. The verdict will then be explained.

Accusation #1: TV Dumbs Down Content


Verdict: Not applicable


As I said above, television is nothing more than a form of communication – no different from the oral communication of conversation, the textual communication of print and writing, or the oral and visual communication of plays. It contains both fiction and non-fiction, high-level and low-brow. Like any form of communication, it has its own grammar, vocabulary and rules of presentation.

To say that TV “dumbs down” content presumes that oral communication must follow the rules of print communication. Anyone who has ever held a conversation will know that what can be tolerated in print will never work in speech. Even in universities, no one would tolerate the oral presentation of an argument in the same form as the long, tedious and often convoluted and esoteric technique used in academic writing. It may sound distinguished, but the point would never get across.


In order to convey points orally, TV must resort to different methods, which include making the message as simple or at least as concise as possible. At most, TV can use visual aids, backgrounds, music and human expression to add resonance to the concise message.

As an educational tool, TV can work wonders in making complex subjects written in often unreadable or at least specialized tomes accessible to ordinary humans. Channels like National Geographic and the History Channel, the great documentaries like Ken Burns’ Civil War and Jazz, Steven Speiberg’s Band of Brothers are all products made for TV. Not only do they often explain issues better, they make them relatable in ways very few books can.


I also find myself puzzled by Rav Blau’s attack on TV news and his subsequent glorification of print news. Yes, it’s true – TV news shows and political programs, even the more sophisticated ones, cannot, by definition, reach the level of detail of a printed argument. Yet what they lack in this department, they more than make up for in relative clarity. Not everyone has the time to read magazine-level analyses of issues on a daily basis, and many aren’t interested in the first place, for reasons that have nothing to do with TV.

I also have to wonder what possible interest or understanding an 8-year old, or even a 13 year old, could have of the budget debates or deep moral quandaries that Rav Blau is so desperate to have them be engrossed in them? Why is there a need for them to do so?


I realize I have left out the issue of fictional shows, and this omission is deliberate – I will deal with that with accusation #3.

Accusation #2: TV destroys critical faculties


Verdict: Partially Guilty


Another accusation Rabbi Blau levels against TV is that its emphasis on sound bytes and visual means makes it a useful tool for emotional manipulation. The images on TV are irresistible and brook no rational argument. If you want proof for how destructive this can be, look no further than the Al-Dura blood libel, where a single picture of a frightened child mixed with false accusations led to mass demonization of Israel.


There is some truth to this charge, but I believe it Rav Blau is exaggerating this issue, for two reasons:


While it is true that images and TV can lie and manipulate, they can also inspire and enrich. The sight of the Israeli soldier in the river in the Six Day War, the landing of Man on the Moon and other images lead to positive, not negative results. Furthermore, there are many alternative sources of information available for the average person, including other news channels with different political slants and most importantly, the internet. In a world where TV is the only means of communication, or when the audience is totally ignorant on the issue, TV can sway them. Otherwise, it adds little.


More importantly, the idea that any particular segment on TV is irresistible and not subject to criticism is belied by the fact that people have different taste in TV shows – they avoid shows they don’t like, drop shows that change not to their liking. Indeed, the very phenomenon of “channel surfing” would seem to refute the idea that whatever’s on TV will suck you in.


More than that, though – unless people live entirely alone, they will often discuss TV shows with their friends or at least family, and disagreements on characters and plots are often inevitable. TV is certainly often a time-waster and can be manipulative if one is not careful or knowledgeable, but the idea that TV watchers lose all or even the majority of their critical faculties in selecting and approving of TV content just doesn’t seem to ring true to me.

Accusation #3: TV contributes nothing of moral value


Verdict: Not Guilty


The best expression of Rav Blau’s contempt for television and movies is his statement that while he can recommend hundreds of worthwhile books, he can recommend maybe 30 movies of intrinsic worth (likely about as many TV shows). The message inherent in these words is obvious – very, very little of visual media provides material of value.


Perhaps it is because I have always had a penchant for cop and law shows, but my experience has generally been the exact opposite of Rav Blau’s. No one, in my opinion, can watch shows like Homicide: Life on the Street or Hill Street Blues, or even Law and Order, and say that these shows do not discuss issues of value in a powerful and generally balanced manner.

The plethora of ethical, legal and psychological issues raised in these shows is breathtaking. In fact, I would argue that Rav Blau would benefit from using them as great examples for a discussion of sachar va’onesh, or the debate between objective individual justice and maintaining the integrity of the justice system at large (“technicalities” etc.).

Even putting aside cop shows, though, good science fiction shows can bring up issues of what it means to be human; a well-made drama can demonstrate the complications of human relationships. Show of hands: who has watched House, or lehavdil Scrubs, and not been fascinated by the many ethical and emotional issues of practicing medicine? My point is that discerning TV viewers can gain much of value if they learn, or are taught, how to look for it.


Rav Blau knows only 30 worthwhile movies? I can name at least a hundred off the top of my head, only a small number of which I will mention here: Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The Shawshank Redemption, The Truman Show, Judgment at Nuremberg, Cast Away, Se7en, Up, Beauty and the Beast, Toy Story (1, 2 and 3), American History X, When Harry Met Sally, Defiance, The Godfather I and II, Tootsie, Kramer vs. Kramer, To Kill A Mockingbird, Wall Street, Saving Private Ryan, Marvin’s Room, and so on and so forth.


Notice that I restricted myself largely to the uber-serious movies and generally avoided comedies and dramas. If I had included them (and there are many that are worthwhile), the list would have been much longer. I believe, however, that my point has been made. There is much value in visual fiction both on TV and in movies – the trick is to lean or be taught how to tell the good stuff from the trash.

Accusation #4: TV Endorses Sexual Promiscuity


Verdict: Guilty – With A Caveat


Finally, Rabbi Blau refers to an argument that is often the clincher in these discussions – the open endorsement or toleration of frequent and open sexual relations on TV. Programs talk about sex, hint at sex and sometimes obliquely film sex. Girls especially are sent the message that they must do nothing but focus on their looks and do everything to “get physical” with boys.

There is no point in denying the above-described phenomenon; I personally received my sexual education from Beverly Hills 90210. TV programs, especially those aimed at teenagers and young adults, are generally contemptuous of abstinence, especially the kind endorsed by religious groups. If anything, many of them do everything possible to entice the viewer sexually to the point of outright voyeurism, whether it’s watching a hot guy or girl or waiting for them to kiss or get down and dirty. It is only natural, then, that many impressionable girls, already naturally raging with hormones, would be affected.


All this is true but it is not the whole story. The other side of the coin is the complete failure of Orthodoxy in general, and Modern Orthodoxy in particular, to deal with sex except as a complete taboo. Indeed, until very recently, the policy of most Religious Zionist high schools was little different from their Charedi counterparts. Sex is not discussed, except to scream and yell about the evils of masturbation and run private inquiries about student’s virginity or lack thereof, or go on patrol to expel girls who hang out with boys and/or wear attractive clothing. Even pre-marital sex education focuses almost exclusively on prohibitions, and very little about not only the positive aspects of sex, but also its crucial nature as a means of pleasure and marital physical communication.


The result is a split population – a highly devout, but extremely neurotic group that thinks they’ll go to hell every time they masturbate or kiss a girl, and the other group that does it anyway and just doesn’t care.


My point in all this rambling is that TV is not the cause of all this but merely a symptom. It wins the day not just because TV is so bad, but because Orthodoxy doesn’t offer anything else, and if it does, it doesn’t mention it. The almost paranoid fear of people committing sexual sins of various kinds is at the root of the gender-separation craze, and MO has yet to come up with a more rational way of coping.


Of course, MO could always learn to teach kids (and adults, esp. rabbis, educators and communities) to have a sense of proportion. They could knock it off with the “masturbation/sex=damnation” rhetoric and emphasize the always present possibility of teshuva. They could also spend much more time on sex as a positive, and far less obsession with whether or not someone accidentally miscounts one of R. Zeira’s seven nekiyim. But go ahead, blame TV. It’s much easier.

Modern Orthodoxy vs. Fun, Or “Why So Serious?”


However, I believe that what Rav Blau is complaining about is deeper than the issue of TV – whether watched for value or the pure pleasure of it. I believe Rav Blau inadvertently exposed a very serious lacuna in Modern orthodox thought – the complete lack of intrinsic value attributed to leisure in general, and fun and play in particular.


For those who disagree with me, I invite you to take a look at leading publications, blogs and books of Modern Orthodox thinkers – left, right and center. Check out the discussions and read the histories. You will notice a recurring theme – an obsession with intellectual and “serious” issues, and a complete lack of attention to either popular culture or leisure in general. “High culture” – the fine arts, philosophy, science, politics – these are OK. Comic books, TV shows and sports – not OK.


Much like the issue of sex ed, pop culture and play are simply not a part of Modern Orthodox thought. At best, they are tolerated, to help get rid of stress or as a natural impulse of children that will eventually disappear. Ideally, a la Rav Blau, Jews should spend their time studying deep things, thinking deep thoughts and constantly maintaining a degree of ideological-psychological tension that is very high.


A la Rav Blau, Modern Orthodoxy is very much a religion by intellectuals, for intellectuals, with little room for enjoyment or development of other aspects of life such as music, sports and games. There is little place for just “living” outside of the MO “mission”. I believe Prof. William Kolbrenner summarized this point very succinctly when he suggested replacing the term “Torah U-Madda” with “Torah and Chaim” (Torah and Life). We should have “conversations” with all the parts of life, learn them, enjoy them, cherish them.


More than that, as the blogger who goes by then name “Benjamin of Tudela” has pointed out in a comment, we need to stop dividing the world into only “good and “bad” things. There are many phenomena in the world that are simply neutral. Furthermore, oftentimes “bad” things can contain “good” elements and vice versa, as any religious defender of secular Zionism can tell you. A sense of proportion is key.


I suppose Rav Blau would counter that this attitude is the same that has lead to the reviled “edutainment” phenomenon. However, I submit that this would be to confuse the symptom for the cause. People – children, teenagers and adults – have an instinctive and healthy need for play (that is not tied to “Seriousness”). Play not only relieves stress but is proven to allow people to grow and develop psychologically and intellectually at any age.


”Edutainment”, then, is a flawed answer to a true need. We need better ways of handling play, not forcing “seriousness” down our students’ throats 100 or even 90% of the time. Rather than seeing it as either a sworn enemy or a tolerated pest, we would do well to study and understand play as a natural phenomenon of life. Sometimes people really do need to shut off their brains, overheated from 24 hours and 7 days a week’s worth of “mission, mission, mission”. Sometimes Shabbat really does need to be an actual day of rest.


Perhaps Rav Blau is concerned about the isolating effects of the TV/internet. But play is not confined to these things. Give your kid the Dangerous Book for Boys or the Daring Book for Girls. Encourage sports or playing board games or cards. Come to think of it, play among MO adults should also be encouraged. Just because we’re grown-ups doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have fun.


Sir Ken Robertson said that the present Western educational system (ourselves included) is designed primarily to produce university professors (or Rabbis) who “live inside their heads”. We would do well to abandon that monochromatic model, and embrace our bodies, ourselves and life in its entirety.

See also these posts: I, II

About Avi Woolf

125 comments

  1. Glatt some questions

    For those who disagree with me, I invite you to take a look at leading publications, blogs and books of Modern Orthodox thinkers – left, right and center. Check out the discussions and read the histories. You will notice a recurring theme – an obsession with intellectual and “serious” issues, and a complete lack of attention to either popular culture or leisure in general. “High culture” – the fine arts, philosophy, science, politics – these are OK. Comic books, TV shows and sports – not OK.
    ——————————————————–
    I’m confused why the author is describing the above as a Modern Orthodox phenomenon. Is he saying that in the Chareidi world, there is more attention to popular culture and leisure? If anything, I would argue there is more restrictions in the Chareidi world — no after-class sports at their schools…no radios or computers at their yeshivas. Classic Modern Orthodox philosophy would say that, in fact, there is wisdom and benefit that can be gleaned from secular sources, even such fun activities such as movies and sports. In addition, because Modern Orthodox folks grew up being exposed to such material, they are in a much better position to speak intelligently about these subjects compared to their Chareidi counterparts, who are often ignorant on the subject.

    How much leisure subjects should be emphasized in discussions about Jewish life is a different question, but I think you will get a variety of opinions on this subject. I’ve heard R. Meir Soloveitchik — one of the premier thinkers in the Modern Orthodox world — quote the Simpsons and the Rambam in the same breath. There are many other Modern Orthodox rabbis who liberally sprinkle references to popular culture in their speeches and use it as a kiruv technique to attract others who ordinarily would not find Orthodox Judaism appealing. therefore, I do not believe all Modern Orthodox thinkers are obsessed with serious issues, as the author claims.

  2. It couldn’t have been more than 2 weeks ago (can’t remember the source) that I read about a Lakewood-affiliated rosh yeshiva as well a an Israel-based admor who are offering a free TV to every family under their authority in return for an agreement to cancel their internet service.

    Something tells me that Rav Blau isn’t quite ready to make that offer 🙂

  3. How much leisure subjects should be emphasized in discussions about Jewish life is a different question, but I think you will get a variety of opinions on this subject. I’ve heard R. Meir Soloveitchik — one of the premier thinkers in the Modern Orthodox world — quote the Simpsons and the Rambam in the same breath. There are many other Modern Orthodox rabbis who liberally sprinkle references to popular culture in their speeches and use it as a kiruv technique to attract others who ordinarily would not find Orthodox Judaism appealing. therefore, I do not believe all Modern Orthodox thinkers are obsessed with serious issues, as the author claims.

    I think this attitude is exactly what the author is complaining about. Sometimes it is okay to discuss the Simpsons simply because it is fun, not because you want to compare it to Rambam or use it for kiruv purposes.

  4. Glatt some questions

    I think this attitude is exactly what the author is complaining about. Sometimes it is okay to discuss the Simpsons simply because it is fun, not because you want to compare it to Rambam or use it for kiruv purposes.
    ———————-
    The author believes (aand I will use his words)that there is “a complete lack of attention to either popular culture or leisure in general” in the Modern Orthodox community. That is the thesis that I’m objecting to, and where I believe he is incorrect.

  5. Very thoughtful post. I think the underlying issue is whether we are a religion that believes ascetisism is a positive value. The memorial volume to Rabbi/Dr. Leo Jung contained an essay dividing various opinions on a scale and as I recall only the Rambam among classic opionions had something positive to say regarding enjoyment of life, and in different places he had differing opinions.

    R. Saul Berman in his 9 statements of Modern Orthodoxy in Sh’ma (http://www.shma.com/2001/02/the-ideology-of-modern-orthodoxy/) states “… Since the Torah values permissible material pleasures as vehicles for the experience of religious joy, severity ought be avoided where it would unnecessarily reduce the experience of permissible pleasures.” (his item number 4 is quite relevent to some of the recent discussions here)

    From a source point of view, I guess it all comes down to whether the nazir brings a chatat because he eschewed worldly pleasures, or violated his oath. The Yerushalmi is pretty clear that one is held liable for failing to enjoy the world the way one should have.

  6. Note that even R Berman puts it counterfactually.

  7. If your IQ is in the 80 to 90 range, TV is fabulous.

    You know who you are.

  8. “The second will deal with the more fundamental issue which Rabbi Blau touches on, but does not address directly – the contemporary inability of Orthodox thought to view leisure, or “fun”, as anything other than a necessary evil to be restricted as much as possible.”

    First of all, passive entertainment is not a prerequisite for fun.

    Second, the halachah is that all one’s actions must be l’shem Shamayim (O.C.231, the fulfillment of a mitzvah or (even/at least indirectly) enabling the performance of mitzvos. There are a number of ways that (otherwise permissible) recreation/entertainment may fall meet such qualifications without taking the fun out of things, and this is certainly a lofty goal, but this should be a major consideration when we contemplate which leisure activities we will incorporate into our daily routine. It may be too much to consider entertainment a “necessary evil” but fun l’shma isn’t a legitimate approach.

  9. As a MO father of three young children, I’m increasingly disappointed with the ever-decreasing standards of morality, tzniut etc on television.
    And so whilst I allow my kids to watch it, I do so begrudgingly in the knowledge that, coupled with internet and various other gadgets, our children exercise less and enbgage in far less creative activity than any generation before them. Even the Barbie films (produced by Disney) that my five year old watches are laced with innuendo and gender stereo-typing that represent a value system simply anti-thetical to Torah.

    I am no Talmid chochom, but I now watch only very limited television and instead spend my spare time at home in my study learning.

    With all due respect to several of the comments here, and notwithstanding the fact that there is some value to TV content, it’s hard to imagine that Chazal would have preferred that I watch a Simpsons episode than pore over a sugya in Shas.

  10. I find it strange to speak about the proper outlook for a orthodox Jew, without mentioning any Torah sources to attest to its validity. If the Torah extolles fun and leisure, or if it just appreciates its value let us quote the relevent Torah sources. The Torah may not speak about TV but fun and games are time immortal. What does the Torah have to say about leisure? I think that it is incumbent for us as Jews to look to the Torah for direction. The article just takes it as a given that there is inherent value in pop culture. Only at the end does it mention its qualities of relieving stress and it help in development. If we earnestly only want its beneficial qualities why do we need to resort to TV to attain them, surely there are more resourceful ways.

    The truth is that the Torah view about pleasure in general isn’t very clear. The overwhelming majority of medieval Torah sages see it in the negative. The world in general starting with Aristotle saw the sensory pleasures as animalistic. Even the Epicureans valued intellectual pleasures and weren’t entirely hedonistic. It wasn’t until much later the pure pleasure was seen as a valid pursuit. Even Judaism’s late thinkers such as Rav Kook who appreciated modern culture did so in a purley intellectual way. To value pleasure in a unrefined way is as far as I know foreign to all Jewish thought. Even the Yerushalmi metioned by one commentor is referring to pleasure in connection to religious service. This is not to say that the Torah forbids or condems the personal persuit of pleasure; though some authorities think so.

    We need to cover the issue from a Torah perspective. A good start would be אדם לעמל יולד

  11. More than that, as the blogger who goes by then name “Benjamin of Tudela” has pointed out in a comment, we need to stop dividing the world into only “good and “bad” things. There are many phenomena in the world that are simply neutral
    ===========================================
    this is one view, the other is that the torah does not abide by neuteral and that hkb”h has a specific best answer for every moment of one’s life.
    KT

  12. fun? imitato dei?
    תלמוד בבלי מסכת עבודה זרה דף ג עמוד ב

    אמר רב יהודה אמר רב: שתים עשרה שעות הוי היום, שלש הראשונות הקדוש ברוך הוא יושב ועוסק בתורה, שניות – יושב ודן את כל העולם כולו, כיון שרואה שנתחייב עולם כלייה, עומד מכסא הדין ויושב על כסא רחמים, שלישיות – יושב וזן את כל העולם כולו מקרני ראמים עד ביצי כנים, רביעיות – יושב ומשחק עם לויתן, שנאמר: +תהלים קד+ לויתן זה יצרת לשחק בו! loose translation:During the fourth period he is plays with the Leviathan, as it is written(Tehillim 104:26) “This leviathan that you made to Play with”
    KT

  13. btw-the key is dynamic balance (source-jr’s interminable lectures to his sons #3,666,987)
    KT

  14. “I also have to wonder what possible interest or understanding an 8-year old, or even a 13 year old, could have of the budget debates or deep moral quandaries that Rav Blau is so desperate to have them be engrossed in them? Why is there a need for them to do so?”

    For better or worse my parents did not have a TV when I was growing up-dual results -I spent more time at neighbors and did spend a lot of time reading-BTW I read Sherlock Holmes many times, On the other hand look what resulted with no TV growing up- Mycroft.

    On a very serious note I recommend that families with children at home have a TV. If there is not enough fun at home children will likely find it elsewhere-either at a younger age at friends houses or by the teenage years they are much more likely to search for fun on the streets. Remember we are selling Yahadus and if there is no fun they are more likely to find it elsewhere.
    To the extent that Yahadus is not enjoyable it is much more likely to lead kids to OTD behavior. At the end of the day it is not a 21 year olds ability of analysis or reading or being able to discuss ideas that is the success or failure of our endeavor to bring up children-it is whether or not they have followed us in the shalshelet hamesorah. It is far more likely that they would have followed us in that mesorah if they had some fun which includes having a TV at home.

  15. “. Even Judaism’s late thinkers such as Rav Kook who appreciated modern culture did so in a purley intellectual way”
    Many intellectuals get their pleasure out of ideas-sadly few people do.

    ,” it’s hard to imagine that Chazal would have preferred that I watch a Simpsons episode than pore over a sugya in Shas”
    Of course, but that is not the realistic option for most 21st century MO kids.

  16. I’m not sure if the author actual thinks that R. Blau’s article represents what he supposes or he’s just using it a springboard to vent, but using an article about why TV is mostly a waste of time (and as a pure percentage of what is available it surely is) to raise up issues of whether official MO is dominated by intellectual elitism or anti-fun or whatnot makes quire a mess of what are rather disparate issues.

    Modern Orthodoxy is a product of modern culture – not simply certain enlightenment ideas. If Modern Orthodoxy raised a generation blissfully unaware of most aspects of popular culture it would not be modern either prescriptively or descriptively.

    Still, R. Blau’s topic and some of Mr. Woolf’s rejoinders as to whether TV is a good source for news, or kids should be watching some watered down reality TV/pornography, or whether Band of Brothers is perhaps the best miniseries produced in the last decade (at least top 3) are all separate matters, and as usual we can only appeal to people’s active use of judgment instead of passively allowing what is in the main 300 channels of inanity to take up disproportionate amounts of their time.

    Nonetheless, this has little to do with whether MO is too intellectual, stodgy, puritanical, or anti-hedonistic.

  17. “Avi on September 7, 2011 at 1:26 am
    As a MO father of three young children, I’m increasingly disappointed with the ever-decreasing standards of morality, tzniut etc on television.
    And so whilst I allow my kids to watch it, I do so begrudgingly in the knowledge that, coupled with internet and various other gadgets, our children exercise less and enbgage in far less creative activity than any generation before them”

    Parents of young children can get away with no TV at home-but MO parents better have one by the time kids reach pre-teen years.

  18. r’mj,
    as long as it’s elul i’d add elitist($ and intellect) to the list of soul searching that imho we must undertake.
    K

  19. “Modern Orthodoxy is a product of modern culture – not simply certain enlightenment ideas. If Modern Orthodoxy raised a generation blissfully unaware of most aspects of popular culture it would not be modern either prescriptively or descriptively.”

    MO as an intellectual movement is not a product of popular culture-it requires a knowledge of ideas-most practitioners of MO probably are more influenced by Modern culture than Modern ideas.

  20. “joel rich on September 7, 2011 at 5:31 am
    r’mj,
    as long as it’s elul i’d add elitist($ and intellect) to the list of soul searching that imho we must undertake.
    K”
    Agreed-as MO has become a movement that requires both $ and intellect-see especially the day school movement and the pressures taht ones child must attend day school toi be welcome in Orthodox Judaism.

  21. “===========================================
    this is one view, the other is that the torah does not abide by neuteral and that hkb”h has a specific best answer for every moment of one’s life”

    But we as baser vadam must not take the position that the best answer is the only answer-thus it is certainly better that one watches TV than steals -yet clearly the best answer is that one learns or does chesed with ones spare time.

  22. “Jacob Stein on September 7, 2011 at 12:28 am
    If your IQ is in the 80 to 90 range, TV is fabulous.

    You know who you are.”

    Of course there are as many in that range as in the 110-120 range-nature of bell curve with mean of 100 and SD of 15 or so.
    Since one needs at least an IQ of 110 -115 to succeed in modern day schools/yeshivot TV must be fabulous.

  23. “Sir Ken Robertson said that the present Western educational system (ourselves included) is designed primarily to produce university professors (or Rabbis) who “live inside their heads”. We would do well to abandon that monochromatic model, and embrace our bodies, ourselves and life in its entirety”
    Agreed

  24. Some comments:

    ‘The author believes (aand I will use his words)that there is “a complete lack of attention to either popular culture or leisure in general” in the Modern Orthodox community. That is the thesis that I’m objecting to, and where I believe he is incorrect.’

    Fair enough. A ‘relative lack of attention and interest’ then. The point still stands.

    “First of all, passive entertainment is not a prerequisite for fun.”

    I never said otherwise.

    “Second, the halachah is that all one’s actions must be l’shem Shamayim”

    One needs to be realistic about this – how many people can really live in such constant ideological tension? There’s a reason a lot of people don’t make it in yeshiva, and one of these is the intensity of learning 24/7.

    “I find it strange to speak about the proper outlook for a orthodox Jew, without mentioning any Torah sources to attest to its validity.”

    This assumes that anything that was not specifically permitted is forbidden, as opposed to simply neutral. Some might argue that only that which was specifically forbidden is off-limits…
    “Modern Orthodoxy is a product of modern culture – not simply certain enlightenment ideas”

    Sociologically, yes. Ideologically and principle-wise, no.

    “Nonetheless, this has little to do with whether MO is too intellectual, stodgy, puritanical, or anti-hedonistic.”

    MJ, I would say that quite a number of the comments belie this statement; many seem to think in binary terms – learning Torah and or acting leshem shamayim, or TV. Nothing in between, no fun for the sake of it or even creative play. So I’d say it has everything to do with the MO outlook.

  25. I’m baffled that though there is a section entitled “Accusation #4: TV Endorses Sexual Promiscuity” there is no discussion whatsoever about the ACTUAL promiscuity on TV. The author mentions that shows often display “hot girls and guys” and sexual tension. What about the (almost every) show which has undressed women? I mean – Scrubs? Really?

    In terms of justifying TV watching as fun which should be objectively encouraged: There are different types of fun. Some can be considered neutral and even positive. I often try to describe to my wife that my sports-playing is not simply an “outlet” but actually a fulfillment of my essence and personality. I can’t say the same about TV. Maybe some can.

  26. An old post about Rav Lichtenstein vs. R. Scheinberg on sports (and for what it’s worth, I used to play ball with R. Yitzy Blau every week, and I’ve never seen a bigger mentch on the court):
    http://adderabbi.blogspot.com/2006/05/ball-playing-rabbis.html

    Also, on his list of edifying movies, the blogger neglected to mention “The Big Lebowski”.

  27. MO in America is reserved for the upper middle class and up so, if we are going to talk about its limitations, we should start there.

    First off, I am unsure whether, in the age of internet this whole matter is somewhat moot in the sense of that if you have an internet connection and a child it is so easy for them to see far worse then any TV show that I wonder if the first line of discussion should be, how to get control of your houses entertainment if you do allow internet at home and do not want Rabbi Big Brother to be an ever-present feature of Torah life.

    Back to TV, I do watch TV but, in honesty, I can’t say that even the shows mentioned in the article accord with Torah values. The author of this piece talks of hunting for value in these shows/movies and, of course, moral issues are present and discussed, but most people aren’t looking to separate the wheat from the chaff. And often, basic underlying norms are, by Torah standards, unacceptable. The argument that we need to “embrace our bodies, ourselves and life in its entirety” justifies porn as much as any higher-level show.

    Concerning even the shows mentioned. Dr. House has a penchant for prostitutes and a drug addiction. Scrubs has constant hooking up, the relationship between JD and (the female) Elliot, is a recurring theme. Later, JD has a child out of wedlock. And, as Kelso goes from strict tormentor to teddy bear, he also is portrayed as increasingly perverse. In the final season (by that time a show a shadow of itself and basically its own spin-off) the new main character, Lucy, cheats on an exam and her friends cover up for her because “everyone deserves a second chance”, while her (slimy) boyfriend is just there at first for her sexual exploration. It turns out another relationship on that last season involves a married man and a woman not his wife. Not necessarily values you want transmitted. [Though, it is also an indicator of the lesson that often shows attempt to use sex as a cover for an increasingly bad plot/writing.]

    Casablanca’s main focus is the celebration of a relationship that appears adulterous. Even worse, the (apparently) cuckolded husband is an extremely sympathetic character, the leader of the anti-Nazi underground. I was shocked when I finally saw the movie because its considered such a classic great film. But how could you show this to children or even young teens? Yes, there is a message of sacrifice – of duty versus desire and love versus the greater good in the movie, but its the sacrifice of running off from your virtuous, kind husband.

    When Harry Met Sally is a good movie but, lets be honest, aside from the famous restaurant scene, there is also the recurring notion that people have sex within the first few dates (unless you start off as friends). That is probably accurately descriptive of most urban dating and perhaps some MO dating but that is never seen as a bad choice in the movie (nor could it be) though the main theme of the movie is that people are only happy if they are married. Again, is this a movie whose underlying norms you want to send to children? (But, in fairness its moral message far favorably compares to the message of other good (if lesser) movies, like Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which is an attack on most marriages beyond being descriptive of a prohibited relationship).

    And do we really need to discuss Beverly Hills 90210?

    TV/Movies follow the underlying norms of society and then push it for dramatic leverage. Very rarely are you going to have a sitcom or movie about relationships that is not pushing norms in a way that is not a violation of some Torah prohibition. Yes, many of us watch TV, but how can MO officially tolerate that, as Avi Woolf suggests? The norms that the rabbis are teaching are halacha in Modern Orthodoxy are simply to strict to be in accord with most of the entertainment industry of broader culture. Unless you like watching Chef Ramsay (with his, of course, nonkosher food) or perhaps shows like NCIS and Law and Order I am not sure you can say there is that much out there in TV-land for entertainment to see that is halachically on the up and up.

    And, BTW, about documentaries … most are boring to most people. I am not sure that if you are able to justify documentaries that this really brings you into Judaism sanctioning entertainment in its modern sense or life. We could talk about playing board games or going to baseball game as a form of entertainment too if Mr. Woolf likes.

    I would think that the main question should be permitting TV but addressing the challenges raised by TV: that some will watch it despite its problems and that those who don’t are closing themselves off from the most vital element today of modern culture and that too bears a price.

  28. This is (ironically) a thoughtful and thought-provoking post. In my limited experience though, Modern Orthodox folks and even a lot of haredim have no problem with sports. I never understood or related to the focus on baseball, say, but it seemed relatively pervasive. Most of my time with Orthodoxy was spent around haredim, but the larger issue that struck me wasn’t a lack of emphasis on fun, but rather a lack of emphasis on creativity based on exploring the human potential for imagination. IMHO, sports and games (e.g. baseball, chess and pinochle) won’t solve the problem. You need a heavy dosage of D&D.

  29. Rafael Araujo

    “Also, on his list of edifying movies, the blogger neglected to mention “The Big Lebowski”

    Really. That movie has enough nivul peh to last a whole year! The edifying part is when it ended.

  30. Rafael – I was being a tad facetious.
    I will note, though, that we have both seen the movie, apparently.

  31. It was a fun movie with no educational value whatsoever. That’s the point of this post! Sometimes you need to have fun.

    A little nivul peh doesn’t scare me.

  32. R. Gil,

    “It was a fun movie with no educational value whatsoever. That’s the point of this post! Sometimes you need to have fun.

    A little nivul peh doesn’t scare me.”

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  33. Rafael Araujo

    “A little nivul peh doesn’t scare me.”

    Little is an understatement.

  34. Rafael Araujo

    I am no MO so this debate doesn’t affect me. However, I would say that having grown up watching loads of tv, viewing movies in both cinemas and on VHS, that really, as I see with my children, who have no access at home to tv or internet, engage in leisure and fun. Just not with tv. I believe that is the critique I have. Why does fun have to include tv, internet, and similar media. My kids do play computer games, but they also read, bike ride, draw, do home crafts. And you know what: they don’t miss tv and movies!

  35. Rafael,

    I didn’t say people HAVE to watch TV. My point is that it’s not as destructive as people think, and can be quite enjoyable.

    I’m happy to hear that a non-MO recognizes the value of fun :).

  36. Also, to dispel any doubt, The Big Lebowski’s R-rating is also due to nudity.

  37. Theoretically, one shouldn’t comment on an article that he hasn’t read and that he doesn’t plan on reading – nonetheless I just want to share some personal stories and thoughts about television.

    I remember coming back from my first (or perhaps second) year in Yeshiva to visit my parents. One evening, I walked into the kitchen when the tv was on. There was one of those karate, one-guy beats up 10,000 guys in 30 seconds type movies on (although, funnily enough, no one was actually watching it – it just sort of was on).

    Now, theoretically, this shouldn’t be anything notable – after all, I grew up on all of these movies – starting with Rambo and Terminator and onwards where wanton killing and fighting was just par for the course. As such, my reaction was quite interesting.

    I felt sick.

    Note – this wasn’t an intellectual or moral response – it was a physical response. I physically couldn’t stomach watching the violence in front of me on the screen and bolted out of the room.

    What had happened? What had changed? Either it was the ideas that I was absorbing in Yeshiva, the fact that I hadn’t seen tv in 1 (or 2) years or both. My sense is that it is either both or simply the fact that I hadn’t seen images of bones breaking in 40 different directions for a while.

    I think most of us simply do not take seriously enough what exactly we are ingesting into our psyches and souls by watching all the garbage that is presented on tv.

    Another story – again in my parents house – again coming back from Yeshiva, but this time years later. I remember sitting down for breakfast in the kitchen with the tv off. I was alone, just trying to eat a bowl of cereal and do a bit of learning at the same time. And yet, I felt as if I should turn on the tv – perhaps something was happening now that I should know about, perhaps there is some important news in the world.

    I resisted, I had no need at that moment to know what is going on in the world – I have all day to find out (and if I missed one day of news it wouldn’t be so terrible). Besides, I really wanted to finish what I was learning. But the feeling wouldn’t go away. I hadn’t had those feelings before I saw the television and I didn’t have them later afterwards. It was simply the presence of the tv which seemingly inserted in my mind that I should watch the news.

    In other words – it’s hard to ignore the tv – at least it was for me and I imagine for many other people. Bringing it into the home and then ‘controlling it’ is (for many, many people) like bringing chocolate into the home of a person who is trying to lose weight. There is something about the chocolate bar that invites being eaten – there is something about the television (and I would also add the internet) that invites being used. It’s hard to say no.

    Final thought – we do not (thank G-d) have a tv or internet in the home (I only have internet in the office) and it does wonders for my family. Entertainment, creativity, relationships, inspiration, intellectual stimulation all have to come from a more engaging source – such as from within, from interacting with others and from reading. It’s a real blessing – one that I highly recommend.

    I agree that video can have it’s advantages – on my site I try and use video to help explain difficult concepts (such as how DNA works). I’ve learned a lot from it and I agree that it can be beneficial. But for the most part I prefer real life interactions, personal growth and creativity, self-introspection and alone time as well as old-fashion reading to the best that video has to offer.

  38. Gil,

    The dude abides.

  39. A little nivul peh doesn’t scare me

    תלמוד בבלי מסכת שבת דף לג עמוד א

    אמר רבה בר שילא אמר רב חסדא: כל המנבל את פיו – מעמיקין לו גיהנם, שנאמר שוחה עמקה פי זרות. רב נחמן בר יצחק אמר: אף שומע ושותק, שנאמר זעום ה’ יפל שם.

    ספר שערי תשובה לרבינו יונה שער ג

    והשומע דבר נבלות הפה ענשו גדול, כי לא יאטם אזנו ולא יבדל מתוך דוברי נבלה, ועליו נאמר (שם כב, יד): “שוחה עמוקה פי זרות זעום ה’ יפול שם”.

  40. This was a great post. The point about the landscape of blogs being too serious:
    “You will notice a recurring theme – an obsession with intellectual and “serious” issues, and a complete lack of attention to either popular culture or leisure in general. “High culture” – the fine arts, philosophy, science, politics – these are OK. Comic books, TV shows and sports – not OK.” is on the mark (as I am guilty of this).

  41. The Big Lebowski is to “Nivul Peh” what what Lolita is to pedophilia. Take that as you will.

  42. Shades of Gray

    Regarding “Torah and Fun”, see the examples cited by R. Mayer Schiller quoted on page 81, and in footnote 26 of linked TUM article regarding his disagreement with overly-serious personalties. The examples he gives, however, are not about TV, and therefore his points are only relevant, I think, in cases which don’t have the problematic aspects of TV(also linked is an article of his from the Jewish Action, “Fun and Relaxation Reexamined”).

    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/704645/Rabbi_Mayer_Schiller/'Torah_u-Madda'_and_'The_Jewish_Observer'_Critique:_Towards_a_Clarification_of_the_Issues

    http://www.heritage.org.il/innernet/archives/relax.htm

  43. Raphael Kaufman

    What comes to mind is P.J. O’Rorque’s description of seriousness as “stupidity that went to college.”

  44. Bni bchori reminds me of R’ Amital’s approach- Be Normal

    Rav Amital expressed his disdain for religious fads, superficial expressions of piety, and what he saw as shallow spiritual thrills. Furthermore, he was uninterested in religious practices that took a person out of the cycle of the “normal.” Once, a friend of mine – a ba’al teshuva – was pedantically cleaning his hands PRIOR to Netilat Yadayim. He had studied the directive of the Mishna Berura that required that one ensure that no substance become a barrier to the waters and interfere with the ritual washing of the hands. Rav Amital saw him and gently said to him: “Danny. Be normal!” He believed that strict and full accordance with the Halakha was a way of life that demanded effort and work, but that it should not take a person away from the orbit of normal people, or regular living.

    KT

  45. 
For those who disagree with me, I invite you to take a look at leading publications, blogs and books of Modern Orthodox thinkers – left, right and center. Check out the discussions and read the histories. You will notice a recurring theme – an obsession with intellectual and “serious” issues, and a complete lack of attention to either popular culture or leisure in general. “High culture” – the fine arts, philosophy, science, politics – these are OK. Comic books, TV shows and sports – not OK.

    Can you name me a religion whose “thinkers” regularly DO write about comic books and TV shows? Are there papal encyclicals or fatwas written about the topics? Thoughtful religious writings do tend to focus on bigger issues, and I think that we can agree that Archie comics do not make the grade (although my kids might argue otherwise).

    I would agree to some extent that the original article was a bit over-intellectual (witness the examples of alternative entertainment that Yitzie Blau suggests), and the omission of sports was indeed a bit striking. However, it seems to me that Avi Woolf protests a bit too much. The fact that many of us watching TV and movies growing up (and still do) and perhaps we are able to extract meaningful messages from them does not mecessarily mean that they are always a l’chatchila pursuit – and I am referring to the message, not the medium (they are certainly great communication tools and should be utilized when they can be).

    As to Gil’s comment that he is not bother by a little nivul peh – does he allow his own children to watch the Big Lebowski? Would he be bothered by a little nivul peh emanating from the mouth of his own children?

  46. R Gil,
    I can understand that some nivel peh doesnt bother you, but how about the naked women, does that bother you?
    While I understand that the author is not a rabbi, I would think the sex education portion must at least address the halachic issue of men viewing women on tv that are not dressed tzniusly.
    Having rejected tv after my 2 years in yeshiva in Israel, I eventually realized that I need to have fun sometimes and tv is a very easy way to have some fun. So I agree with the author that we should not feel so guilty about having some fun. But I disagree with the author for suggesting we learn our values from tv. I think we should learn values and morality from the Torah, and use tv merely as a means of relaxing.

  47. “A little nivul peh doesn’t scare me”

    I’m not so different from you. A little pritzus doesn’t scare me. Nor does a lot of pritzus, for that matter…

  48. ‘“A little nivul peh doesn’t scare me”

    I’m not so different from you. A little pritzus doesn’t scare me. Nor does a lot of pritzus, for that matter…’

    Does violating halacha scare you? Does potentially violating serious Torah prohibitions scare you? I happen to watch tv, but it scares me. But I need some fun, so I do it anyway, and I let Hashem be the judge.

  49. The halakhic issues are separate and certainly deserving of treatment, but this post is about different issues.

  50. I never suggested that we learn our values form TV. I argued against the idea that one cannot learn values (or see them debated) on TV. My point, as I said in the beginning, is that TV has both bad and good and is not “worthless”, either as a tool of pleasure or for the serious issues it brings up.

    Let me address the issue of sex, which again seems to be the clincher here for many (again). Seeing a woman in a state of undress is certainly discomforting, and the values promoted are definitely not ours.

    However:

    1) Sex and endorsement of romance – including out of wedlock – did not start with TV. Nor did the phenomenon of women being less dressed. Kids and adults will encounter it wherever they go, including in print newspapers, at work or in any interaction with the non-religious public. It is an issue everyone will need to confront in any event.

    Unless you seriously believe in the extreme Charedi view that seeing a woman in any context is assur because it might lead to arousal, you’re going to have to have more flexible boundaries. Some people’s boundaries will be stricter than others, but really, if a person’s core values are strong, then I think they won’t become licentious in practice.

    2) The issue of the sins involved with looking at a women brings me back to the issue of proportion. Seeing a woman in a state of undress is not the same as porno. Hearing people talk about sex is not the same as having an orgy. Furthermore, it is certainly possible to watch or read the opinions or views of someone whose values are different than our own, even if we completely disagree with them.

    Just because Dr. House is immoral (he’s portrayed that way) does not mean that I immediately absorb his worldview by watching the show. Or do the objectors think that everyone who watches House has gone to a lady of the evening? I’d think we’re stronger than that.

    No-one is forcing you to watch the movies/television shows in question, and if your kid does, it would be better to calmly explain why we don’t hold like that and present a positive explanation as to why we don’t do that and not just scream “assur”.

    Again, I am not going to enter the argument of assur and muttar from an halachic POV for different matters. I am simply arguing for a more realistic approach that takes into account the fact that many of us do err in that area to one extent or another.

  51. ספר מסילת ישרים פרק יא

    ואם לחשך אדם לומר, שמה שאמרו על נבול – פה, אינו אלא כדי לאיים ולהרחיק אדם מן העבירה, ובמי שדמו רותח הדברים אמורים, שמדי דברו בא לידי תאוה, אבל מי שאמרו דרך שחוק בעלמא, לאו מילתא הוא ואין לחוש עליו – אף אתה אמור לו, עד כאן דברי יצר – הרע… אלא האמת הוא כדברי רבותינו זכרונם לברכה, שנבול – פה הוא ערותו של הדיבור ממש, ומשום זנות הוא שנאסר ככל שאר עניני הזנות, חוץ מגופו של מעשה, שאף – על – פי שאין בהם כרת או מיתת בית – דין, אסורים הם איסור עצמם, מלבד היותם גם כן גורמים ומביאים אל האיסור הראשיי עצמו.

  52. Ah, you’re not listening to Nivul Peh, you’re listening to recorded Nivul Peh. Such fun.

  53. >I can understand that some nivel peh doesnt bother you, but how about the naked women, does that bother you?

    While I understand full well that there is a distinction between actual naked women (as in photos and video) and drawings, nude drawings and statues were absolutely rampant in certain parts of Europe in the Renaissance and early modern period. These nudes made it onto and into seforim and ketubot, and apparently no one lost their chelek in olam habah over it. For example, see this post of mine

    http://onthemainline.blogspot.com/2010/05/golems-forgeries-and-images-of-disrobed.html

    where you can see a nude woman on the title page of a sefer of the Maharal, which was published within the Maharal’s life time.

    Or you can see this other post of mine

    http://onthemainline.blogspot.com/2010/03/fantastic-hebrewbooks-updates-elias.html

    which has a pair of bare-breasted women surrounding the beginning of Baruch Sheamar in a famous mazhzor.

    Or you can see this Ketubah from Mantua, 1689:

    http://goo.gl/PO6sI

    These are three examples, but there are actually dozens and hundreds more (if you take into account the many seforim, ketubot and Jewish broadsides which included such images). If you do not want to acknowledge these as precedents worth considering, how about the Gemara with Rabban Gamliel in the bathhouse of Aphrodite, complete with its nude stature?

    What do all these have in common? Okay, perhaps the fact that they weren’t real women. But also that at some points people were able to handle somewhat fleeting, mature nude depictions of human beings without, presumably, violating kamma ve-kamma issurim and losing their neshama. Maybe the same can be said for at least incidental nudity?

  54. Rafael Araujo

    How do we know that these were approved by rabbinic authorities? Maybe these pictures, which I have seen cited by you and the Seforim blog, were just some wayward Jews who didn’t seek a psak about whether such is okay? Did the Haharal, during his lifetime, have control over the publishing of his seforim?

  55. A great question. We don’t so much know that as we know that there is a complete absence of any condemnation or even comment about them. We also know that they were almost never ripped out and lined the shelves of Batei Midrash and rabbinical libraries the world over, ad hayom hazeh. Furthermore, these seforim had haskamos. Furthermore, presumably kesubos were read by chasunahs by people, including rabbis, including gedolim.

    Granted, little nude baby angels aren’t exactly women, but here’s one with the Chavos Yair’s inscription in his own sefer

    http://onthemainline.blogspot.com/2009/11/inscribed-chavos-yair-also-putti-on.html

    The Maharal certainly had control in the sense that no one stole his manuscript and published it without permission. If it was assur to publish or buy such a thing, then who gave him the heter?

    It’s very difficult to argue that the rabbis opposed this without any such evidence. The argument that this was tolerated is far stronger. I would say that it’s probably roughly equivalent to the question as to how Jews could walk down a street anywhere besides Jewland in the summer. The answer is that you can be normal and if you can’t, you’ve got a harder time proving that.

  56. Here’s the title page in R. Moshe Rivkes edition of the Shulchan Aruch

    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=42082&st=&pgnum=2

    I think it’s reasonable to assume that his great-grandson, the Gra, had a copy and learned from it constantly.

  57. Steve Brizel

    I don’t have web access to R Blau’s article, but I have no reason to doubt the posted summary. Let me pose a comment:

    1) The content of TV,generally speaking, as well as the movies, is at an all time low level. Even the documentaries that the author cited are at best interesting, but nowhere as compelling as reading about the subject.

    2) TV, unlike a good novel, book or article, demands nothing more than you watch. If you don’t like a particular show, your options are clicking the channel or the off switch. It is not an intellectually challenging medium.

    3) TV stopped projecting any positive fealty to moral values in the mid 1960s. Today’s TV line up provides “reality shows” of “celebrities” of all kinds, insights into the lives of drug dealers, prosititutes and worse.

    4)TV does assume that the watcher has no objections to sexual promiscuity, both in terms of content, and commercials. For the best single article that I have read on teen age sexuality in our community, see Dr B Sorotzkin’s “The Pursuit of Perfection.” IMO, , your take on teenage sexual activity is correct, and parents, teens, rebbes , menahelim and moros should read the same, especially the quoted language from the Keser Rosh and the footnoted quote from R S Wolbe ZL.

    5)The issue re “fun” IMO is an non sequitur. Ever travel to a national park, historical site, etc? We used to attend one baseball game a year until the costs became prohibitive and the atmosphere became that of drunken bums.

  58. S,

    The question is whether or not the nudity in Film is prurient.

    You can make the case that nudity need not always be sex-related. For example, pictures of naked Holocaust victims are clearly not prurient. (Though the practice of showing such pictures is not without criticism.) Ditto the pictures in the sefarim you posted. I assure you there are no boys stashing sefarim under their bed.

    The nudity in Film and Television is designed to induce sexual thoughts.

  59. >The question is whether or not the nudity in Film is prurient.

    Exactly. I am trying to raise the question of whether there is a difference, since it seems that a lot of people don’t see a difference but a nipple is a nipple.

    As for boys stashing seforim, I don’t know what 14 year old boys liked to look at 350 years ago. Do you? I do know that it wasn’t so long ago that 14 year old boys were eager to get a glimpse of very non-sexual nudes in National Geographic. So you’d be surprised.

    Also, we’re not necessarily discussing what’s appropriate for children, but adults. Perhaps we should discuss both.

  60. Steve Brizel

    Two more points:

    1) TV has lowered its lowest common denominator as it competes with the Net for the attention span of the critical audience level on a low intellectual level while skirting the boundaries of programming that either were previously only on pay for play or worse. It is no accident that the so-called “family hour” is a travesty .

    2) Last year, I was laid up and hospitalized for several days. I had no choice but to watch the news and sports. Even the commercial content frankly discusses the positives of Viagra or the rewards of certain brands of lingerie, etc. Commercials in general promise instantanteous gratification -whether in the purchase of a brand of car or many other consumer goods.

  61. Steve Brizel

    FWIW, we do have a television. I do think that if you consider yourself MO, you have to explain why you watch certain shows that euphemistically speaking, “don’t express your values” or draw a line in the sand and view watching TV permissible for news, documentaries, and sports. IMO, I would suggest that the above or no TV in the house would be an eminently defensible POV, as opposed to viewing the TV as a primary source of information, news and culture.

    AIWAC-WADR,in terms of your views of acceptable content, how do you square the same with the concepts of “Avizurahu de Arayos” or the implementation of Kedoshim Tihiyu as understood by the Ramban? I fully realize that many posters view watching TV, regardless of the content, as having no impact on their neshamah, that many of us need TV for a legitimate outlet, and that all of us have a level of Avodas HaShem which may differ in terms of what we deem an acceptable level of our interaction with secular culture. Yet, when that need serves as a rationalization for Bitul Torah or worse, IMO, that’s where serious consideration of the premises of R Blau’s article are warranted.

    S-I think that is diffficult to compare the examples that you cited with today’s overly sexualized media atmosphere.

  62. RAYH Kook:

    שו”ת עזרת כהן (ענייני אבן העזר) סימן קח

    ע”ד הציורים שבמחזורים, אם הם מצוירים צורת אשה ודאי יש לצאת במחאה גדולה על מחללי קודש ד’ הללו, אף על פי שמצד הדין צורת אדם בסממנים קיל יותר מצורת כוכבים ומזלות, מ”מ לענין זילותא ודאי גריעא טובא. ומה טוב הי’ שיטיב כת”ר לכתוב לעוד איזה רבנים מפורסמים בזה, ויכתבו יחד מחאה ע”ז ואזהרה למדפיסים שאם לא ישנו את דרכם לטובה יאסרו את המחזורים הללו. אמנם באמת אגיד שאנכי לא ראיתי כזאת, וצורת מזל אלול המצוייר במחזורים שלנו אינם כ”א רשמים בעלמא ולא קלסתר ממש, אך אולי ראה כת”ר כונים ממש שעשו איזה מדפיסים בצורה גמורה על כגון דא ראוי למחות בכל תוקף. ואם יהי’ צורך בחתימתי הקטנה על מחאה כזאת לא אמנע בל”נ מהשתתף בדבר מצוה זו, ויתגלגל זכות ע”י זכאי מר כת”ר שי’.

  63. S,

    I am willing to grant that there is a difference but I can not see how some of the examples in this post can be viewed as anything other than prurient. My point is that even if there is a difference between Nudity and Art, much of what is on television AIMS to be prurient.

  64. In my opinion, the sex and off-color jokes on TV far outweigh any other consideration. It’s horrible and should be avoided. (I happen to agree with this blog post’s author that TV has benefits, but I don’t think they outweigh the loss in tahara.)

    Regarding the criticism of MO dealing with sex: The answer to every problem is not to deal with it in a “kosher” way. Sometimes the only Torah approach is, in fact, to avoid, condemn, and shun.

  65. >I am willing to grant that there is a difference but I can not see how some of the examples in this post can be viewed as anything other than prurient.

    Sure. But it’s not about these specific examples. Or even if it is, what about duration? I will grant that for someone who is very very sheltered even two seconds of prurience can occupy brain space for a good long time, but what about someone who is less sensitive (and, probably, married)? Maybe two seconds doesn’t outweigh the other 90 minutes?

  66. The topic of whether or not it’s mutar from the Torah to have “fun” or leisure per se is interesting. I don’t think you can rely on saying “If it’s not assur min hatorah, then it’s OK”. As we know, “veasita hatov vehayashar b’ainai hashem elokecha” is often called upon to fill in the gaps on what is or isn’t considered appropriate. We hear about great Rabbanim in Europe going to the Alps and the baths which we might call a vacation, but they might have justified it for medical reasons.

    Someone told me (I haven’t checked), that there isn’t even a word in Biblical Ivrit for fun. The common Israeli term “kef” is actually Arabic.

  67. “Someone told me (I haven’t checked), that there isn’t even a word in Biblical Ivrit for fun. ”

    There’s isn’t a word in English for “schadenfreude.” Doesn’t mean Anglophones don’t feel it.

  68. There also isn’t a Biblical Hebrew word for “nature.”

    Of course this gets into the philosophical question about whether or not Tanach is a lexicon of Hebrew.

  69. What I meant is that if the word for fun doesn’t exist in the Torah, someone could suggest that therefore it’s assur – a bitul Torah – almost by definition.

  70. “What I meant is that if the word for fun doesn’t exist in the Torah, someone could suggest that therefore it’s assur – a bitul Torah – almost by definition.”

    Wouldn’t that be a very immature argument? Someone here cited the Gemara that part of each day Hakadosh Baruch Hu is משחק with the לויתן. Seems more powerful then one of those “Eskimos have 3 million words for snow” type of arguments.

  71. Shades of Gray

    “Sometimes the only Torah approach is, in fact, to avoid, condemn, and shun.”

    Even in doing that, one can do it with “chochma”, as R. Hershel Schacter writes in his approbabtion to Sarah Diament’s book(which itself, though, has a different focus and age demographic than what is being discussed here).

    Here is a link to an MP3 of Dr. Benzion Sorotzkin’s “Torah Perspectives on Boundaries, Restrictions and Sexuality” given at the Ohel Professional Training Workshop this February, which can be downloaded.

    http://drsorotzkin.com/audiolectures.html#Chinuch_audio

    There is actually another fundamental issue involved, namely, how to balance “yirah” with psychological health(something I think already discussed by R. Avroham Eliyahu Kaplan); Dr. Sorotzkin has his own approach in the MP3, and in his articles. Another point regarding these and similar matters, I think, is that there is a difference between publicly addressing a topic, and providing individualized guidance.

  72. “Hirhurim on September 7, 2011 at 10:03 am
    It was a fun movie with no educational value whatsoever. That’s the point of this post! Sometimes you need to have fun.

    A little nivul peh doesn’t scare me.”

    1) Because you hold there is no issur to listen…?

    2) Regarding the movie Pulp Fiction see this post here http://www.olamhaemet.com/2011/07/redemption-amidst-the-darkness/)

    3) This is an issue that I genuinely seek a discussion on, the halachic issue of listening to nuvel peh, watching violence and sex in movies and literature. I think it would be fair to say that the majority of the MO world watches movies of all sorts, how can this practice be defended on halachic grounds.

    See this paragraph by Rabbi Moshe Weinberger in a RJJ Journal on studying secular subjects.

    The Shulchan Aruch prohibits the reading of “secular
    parables and romances.” Romances may involve the additional
    issur of inciting the evil inclination,43 but there is no clear halachic classification for this type of material. Obviously a book, magazine, or poem which depicts sexuality in a way which is offensive to Torah values is forbidden. Although some Jewish scholars have written that an observant Jew has much to gain from classical fiction and poetry in terms of the development of his spiritual personality, (“Who can fail to be inspired by the ethical idealism of Plato, the passionate fervor of Augustine, or the visionary grandeur of Milton? … There is wisdom among the Gentiles, and we ignore it to our own 10ss.”44) such statements do not seem to take into account the halachic problems involved in attaining inspiration. Many outstanding books, even classics, present concepts or describe the human situation in ways that might be considered heretical, in spite of the possible inspirational effect they might have on the reader. Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein quotes the famous statement attributed to the Rambam, “Accept the truth from whoever states it,” but does not quote the Rambam’s explicit ruling: “It is forbidden to cause oneself to be sexually aroused orto think an improper thought.”45

  73. steve b. –

    1. tv shows in the last couple years is probably at the highest level in the last 15 years. or as my son said to me – tv is the new movies. – e.g. mad men, the good wife, house, lost, fringe, jon stewart – the daily show, simpsons, sopranos, curb, law and order – criminal intent, the office, 6 feet under, the wire, 24 (not all years), big love…. 30 rock

    2. there should be no comparison to reading. its a different medium. just like there is great literature and trashy novels there is good quality tv (some fun and some thought provoking) and garbage. don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.

    3.” TV, unlike a good novel, book or article, demands nothing more than you watch.”… so wrong – just like going to a baseball game you can only watch too? sometimes you have to think – lost (not that it help explain things). you are too dismissive of the medium. a book you can also put down anytime.

    4.there is more than reality shows on tv. since you do not watch how would you know. prostitutes and drug dealers are not people too? – watch the wire – on of the top 5 shows ever – compelling as any book.

    5.read lolita. sex permeates our society – it really always has in many ways.
    6. there many modes of fun. buy better seats and never go to the bleachers – or go to basketball games where there is much less drinking. – heaven forbid you go to a football game.

    “I do think that if you consider yourself MO, you have to explain why you watch certain shows that euphemistically speaking, “don’t express your values”” – that is where you are wrong and reflects a yeshivish or charedei (old world)attitude that has infected the mo world. the usual canard of bittul torah would stop you from doing many other things as well… and its over used in the religious world.

  74. Steve Brizel

    James-we saw Schindler’s List.IMO, the nudity therein was meant to show how the Nazis demumanized their victims. One need only recall the names and plots of other Holocaust era related films where the issue of power and victim and sexuality played a prominent role, as oppposed to a film where the purpose was to display the victims as not being human beings.

  75. “שו”ת עזרת כהן (ענייני אבן העזר) סימן קח”

    Anonymous, thanks!

  76. A Little Sanity

    “You will notice a recurring theme – an obsession with intellectual and “serious” issues, and a complete lack of attention to either popular culture or leisure in general.”

    The medresh tells us [Beraishit Rabba 44:1] “The Mitzvot (commandments were not given (for any other purpose) but to refine human beings.”

    By and large, you will not find much refinement in popular culture. Quite the contrary, in fact.

    Nothing wrong with some leisure activities, IMHO, as long as they are spent in wholesome pursuits (e.g., exercise,playing sports, reading good books [e.g. Hemingway, a good biography, or even, say, an Agatha Christie mystery] or watching a good TV program/movie/play [e.g. Shakespeare, a “Frontline” Documentary, “Nova”, etc.], listening to great music[e.g. Mozart]. Otherwise, one lives one’s life “tovel v’sheretz b’yado”, refining one’s character one second through mitzvot, and coarsening it the next with the stupidity [and worse] that passes for popular culture these days.

  77. Steve Brizel

    Ruvie-let me offer the following comment

    1)You have posted quite a range of shows. Yet, I can easily show where the lifestyles depicted therein (mad men, the good wife, house, lost, fringe, jon stewart – the daily show, simpsons, sopranos, curb, law and order – criminal intent, the office, 6 feet under, the wire, 24 (not all years), big love…. 30 rock)
    are hardly what a MO person should be striving for-see RAL’s writings.

    2)Reading requires an active and critical mind.A great or even a good book compells you to read it because of the plot, issues, etc.

    3) I read the Arts pages and search the TV listings in vain for something that is of socially redeeming value.

    4) Full disclosure-I read Lolita years ago. Lolita is one message-however, the Torah posits a wholly different set of values for a Jew with respect to sexuality.

    5) I have been to football and basketball games and baseball games. My POV re the crowds is what it is, and that there are far better ways for families to have fun than to sit with a drunken crowd.

    6) Being a MO does not mean that one compartmentalizes one life, with one set of values for shul and yeshiva and a vastly different set for the so-called “real world.”

  78. lawrence kaplan

    Actually, Lolita, which read a few years ago, is, in the final analysis, a very moral book.

  79. steve b – you misunderstand the point. the shows are not something one should strive to be like. some are great shows (please add the latest bbc show – the hour) with great acting and plot lines with theme development.
    its not tv messages vs torah values. are there great torah values in romeo and juliet? macbeth? or great characters, pathos, drama etc? they are both entertaining and thought provoking as well. there is plenty of violence and sex in the bible as well.

    all mediums require an active and critical mind. one can watch tv and not be corrupted by its “values”. one doesn’t have compartmentalize anything or justify watching imho. then of course you can be a hermit and fine as long as it works for you.

    its interesting how things that were standard in the mo community 30 years ago is now pas nisht today. going to coed camps like morasha is now verboten by many who attended as not kosher enough for their kids. mta needs an extra night seder for their freshmen for many to send their kids. tv and movies are now inappropriate while they watch with abandon when they are younger. why not just admit it just ain’t mo anymore its yeshivash or charedei lite(or modern charedei) and move on to other name calling.
    would it be so bad to relate to your kids and watch say “24” together (it so happens my daughter’s rebbi also watch the show and would discuss the show in school with her). we all learn with our children but we should also have fun with them in what they want to do – and tv is an activity that easy to do.

  80. A discussion by Joel at 5:14am of Avoah Zara 3b and mentioned by S. is also discussed in Nefesh Harav p.69.There the emphasis is on not being so serious.This may be a good way of understanding theimportance of “fun.”Are we allowed to relax and smell the roses.

    For example I have been told in all of Kiryat Sefer ,the newest,largest Chareidi city there is not one ball field.

  81. Isn’t it a halachic obligation to be happy? If you make a war on Fun, and only allow things that are serious, which for the average person includes low bro unserious fun things like TV, you take happiness away from people.

    I think the reason so many people go off the derech is this idea that you must always be serious.

  82. “I think the reason so many people go off the derech is this idea that you must always be serious.”

    really, and the data says:?

  83. “’Second, the halachah is that all one’s actions must be l’shem Shamayim’

    One needs to be realistic about this – how many people can really live in such constant ideological tension? There’s a reason a lot of people don’t make it in yeshiva, and one of these is the intensity of learning 24/7.”

    I specifically did not say that one must learn 24/7 (or that O.C. 231 is an easy goal), but I believe your response and approach is dangerously close to rendering it a mere platitude.

  84. In terms of the idea: A little nivul peh doesn’t scare me.

    Let’s apply that logic to other areas of life:

    Art: A few random scribbles on the canvas doesn’t scare me

    Science: A few incorrect observations doesn’t scare me

    Music: A few wrong notes doesn’t scare me

    Mathematics: A few logical mistakes doesn’t scare me

    Law: A few legal mistakes doesn’t scare me

    Government: A few lies from my leaders doesn’t scare me

    Engineering: A few calculation mistakes doesn’t scare me

  85. We hear about great Rabbanim in Europe going to the Alps and the baths which we might call a vacation, but they might have justified it for medical reasons
    ==========================================
    wouldn’t they have had a duty to publicize that reason so others wouldn’t make the mistake of thinking vacations were mutar?
    K

  86. “joel rich on September 8, 2011 at 5:22 am
    We hear about great Rabbanim in Europe going to the Alps and the baths which we might call a vacation, but they might have justified it for medical reasons
    ==========================================
    wouldn’t they have had a duty to publicize that reason so others wouldn’t make the mistake of thinking vacations were mutar”

    Never heard any claims that the Rav went to the Cape for medical reasons. When the Rav was a comparatively young RY he sometimes would send postcards from the shore to at least some of his talmidim-of course one text that I saw stated something a long the lines of looking forward to shiur resuming.

  87. “ruvie on September 7, 2011 at 9:21 pm
    “I think the reason so many people go off the derech is this idea that you must always be serious.”

    really, and the data says:?”

    Just a variation of what RMF famously said to someone who stated how tough it is to be a YId-don’t be surprised if children don’t stay in Yahadus if it is so tough.
    BTW Mycroft variation it is bad to overemphasize in chinuch tragedies eg Holocaust-if it is so bad to be a Yid why stay one the world will usually let me escape that fate by leaving. That does not mean that I advocate ignoring tragedies Tisha Bav etc but there is no Fackenheim 614 commandment theologically and practically it is not the way to keep people.

  88. “I specifically did not say that one must learn 24/7 (or that O.C. 231 is an easy goal), but I believe your response and approach is dangerously close to rendering it a mere platitude.”

    How? Because I think that people should be able to have fun and take breaks in between serious religious or secular activities? How does that reduce it to a mere platitude? Are people not capable of negotiating the time they spend and prioritizing?

    I really feel that many of the commenters have an all-or-nothing approach to life which proves my point about MO being too serious. The difference between the ideal and the real is not always the difference between good and bad.

  89. “really, and the data says:?”

    What data? There is no data on it…all we have is one person’s anecdotal evidence vs. anothers’…

  90. A – when someone says …. In think the reason….. There isn’t even a hint of anecdotal anything.. It’s usually just bs or pontificating ….

    There many reasons why people go off the derech but there has been attempts of analyzing data ( of surveys) like the book off the derech…. But to say it’s because you always be serious? Please ….at least some intellectual honesty that this is nonsense.

  91. HAGTBG wrote:
    “Casablanca’s main focus is the celebration of a relationship that appears adulterous. Even worse, the (apparently) cuckolded husband is an extremely sympathetic character, the leader of the anti-Nazi underground. I was shocked when I finally saw the movie because its considered such a classic great film. But how could you show this to children or even young teens? Yes, there is a message of sacrifice – of duty versus desire and love versus the greater good in the movie, but its the sacrifice of running off from your virtuous, kind husband.”

    Go back and watch the movie again, and this time pay more attention. She states explicitly that word had reached her that her husband had died in a German prison camp. Considering his anti-Nazi activities, it was thoroughly reasonable — especially in wartime — to conclude that the report was true. Would you want her to call a Bet Din to confirm her availability to remarry? Their relationship is not adulterous and doesn’t even appear adulterous. Maybe the second time you watch the film you’ll see this and appreciate its greatness.

  92. There many reasons why people go off the derech but there has been attempts of analyzing data ( of surveys) like the book off the derech…. But to say it’s because you always be serious? Please ….at least some intellectual honesty that this is nonsense.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>
    When I made the observation as to how the idea of always being serious contributes to off the derech, I was thinking of many of the observations and comments in the OTD book that is referenced aboveas well as the RMF comment listed above.

    If you are required by Halacha, as many of the people here suggest, one must always be serious and things always have to have a deep meaning , you can’t for example watch some nonsense show on TV and relax your brain after a hard days work, the average person may think- why do I want to live a lifestyle that is so hard and seems to outlaw fun.

  93. Yitz Tendler

    I find television very educational. Every time someone switches it on I go into another room and read a good book.

    — Groucho Marx

  94. MiMedinat HaYam

    “her husband had died in a German prison camp.” — the movie (ilsa, in explaining why she left rick in gare du sud, in one of those late nite meeting in rick’s office upstairs) said “concentration camp”. in 1941.

    concentration camps were known even then, even before the american edition of the mishna berura which alludes to it, in 5702 ( = 1942).

  95. orthodox feminist

    wake up. honestly, what is wrong with nudity and sexuality? nothing at all. we read the song of songs in public in the synagogue. can’t get much more explicit than that. and tu b’av – what do you do with that? judaism is much more than the carping of a bunch of old rabbis about nakedness and erections.

  96. I have not read all the comments, but the premise of the post is silly — it assumes that the only way to have “fun” is watching TV. There are much healthier ways (healthier spiritually, psychologically and physically) to have fun than watching TV. How about playing some ball? Bicycling? A hobby? Those are all light-years ahead of TV in every way, both halakhically/mussar and in terms of physical and psychological health.

  97. “you can’t for example watch some nonsense show on TV and relax your brain after a hard days work, the average person may think- why do I want to live a lifestyle that is so hard and seems to outlaw fun”
    Agreed-to most people religion is a discretionary good-the more one has to pay/sacrifice the less one is likely to use the good. Thus the more religion cost financially or causes changes to ones preferred lifestyle the fewer are going to be religious.

  98. lawrence kaplan

    Orthodox feminist: We get it already. We know you’re Haredi troll, an agent provacateur. The first time you posted was cute, and you even managed to sucker Rabbi Frimmer. You would have been wiser to congratulate yourself and stop there. This second time it’s plain tiresome.

  99. “but the premise of the post is silly — it assumes that the only way to have “fun” is watching TV. There are much healthier ways (healthier spiritually, psychologically and physically) to have fun than watching TV. How about playing some ball? Bicycling? A hobby? ”
    any restrictions decrease the desireability of a product,obviously we have halacha which is essential but anything else that raises the bar decreases the likelihood of one using the product. Of course, if ball playing were prohibited as a price of being an Orthodox Jew it would also decrease the numbers of those staying Orthodox.

  100. Ruvie wrote the following:

    “its not tv messages vs torah values. are there great torah values in romeo and juliet? macbeth? or great characters, pathos, drama etc? they are both entertaining and thought provoking as well. there is plenty of violence and sex in the bible as well.

    all mediums require an active and critical mind. one can watch tv and not be corrupted by its “values”. one doesn’t have compartmentalize anything or justify watching imho. then of course you can be a hermit and fine as long as it works for you.

    its interesting how things that were standard in the mo community 30 years ago is now pas nisht today. going to coed camps like morasha is now verboten by many who attended as not kosher enough for their kids. mta needs an extra night seder for their freshmen for many to send their kids. tv and movies are now inappropriate while they watch with abandon when they are younger. why not just admit it just ain’t mo anymore its yeshivash or charedei lite(or modern charedei) and move on to other name calling.
    would it be so bad to relate to your kids and watch say “24″ together (it so happens my daughter’s rebbi also watch the show and would discuss the show in school with her). we all learn with our children but we should also have fun with them in what they want to do – and tv is an activity that easy to do”

    Ruvie-I am not sure what you meant in this unusually disjointed post so let me pose the following comment:

    1)We learn about sex and violence in Tanach, and the Talmud so as how to learn not to live a life predicated in sexuality or violence.

    2) Some of the worst crimes in history were perpetuated by the most culturally sophisticated people of their times.

    3) Ever hear of McLuhan-the medium is the message. IMO, when one watches the shows that you are mentioned, you are either condoning the lifestyles therein or sending a message that the same don’t bother you-as long as they don’t affect you or your family, whether directly or indirectly-and I would add that you view art history as a perfectly permissible way of earning a living!

    4)Refraining from viewing the media, print or televised as the means for one’s cultural frame of reference AFAIK does not make one a hermit. To the contrary, it might mean that you don’t view yourself as someone who accepts the same in an uncritical manner. You can find many YU and SCW graduates who went to Morasha in their youth, but who sent their kids to Magen Av and Sternberg. Being a committed MO means that one views Kvias Itim LaTorah in a serious fashion, whether in the form of enhanced means for Limud HaTorah , and being more careful in what one deems acceptable in terms of exposure to mass culture, whether as individuals or as a family. FWIW, we still have a TV, but we all basically view the same as a cultural wasteland except for news, a documentary of interest, sports and an occasional old movie.

  101. Tal Benschar

    any restrictions decrease the desireability of a product,obviously we have halacha which is essential but anything else that raises the bar decreases the likelihood of one using the product. Of course, if ball playing were prohibited as a price of being an Orthodox Jew it would also decrease the numbers of those staying Orthodox.

    Mycroft, we are not selling a “product.” The Torah is a guide to life, and the goal is to use one’s God-given talents to serve Hashem as best as one can.

    Even apart from the serious halakhic problems with TV, as a medium it is utterly inane, and tends to turn those who watch it into overweight, brainless couch-potatoes. That is not consonant with the goal of being an Oved Hashem and a Ben-Torah.

  102. If you are a Jewish educator who works with other than strictly-Orthodox populations, it verges on malpractice not to watch television. Some of the most profound contemporary musings on the nature of Jewish identity in America are contained in the TV show “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” In a previous era the same was true of “thirtysomething.” Neither Larry David nor Michael Stedman are anyone’s portrait of an ideal Jew, but there are a lot more of them than there are “b’nai Torah,” and you’ll never reach them if you don’t understand them.

  103. Steve Brizel

    Charles-We watched “Thirtysomething” on a regular basis. The only way that the Michael Stedmans of the workd can be reached is by demonstrating that there is far more meaning to life as a Torah observant Jew than by living, to use David Brooks’ phrase as a “Bobo in Paradise.” Never underestimate the power of a Shabbos meal!

  104. steve b. – i apologize for my disjointed – or is it rambling – post.

    “Some of the worst crimes in history were perpetuated by the most culturally sophisticated people of their times” and therefore what? irrelevant to my post or anything i wrote. disjointed?

    “when one watches the shows that you are mentioned, you are either condoning the lifestyles…” are you oppose to reading or watching shakespeare? do you condone parricide among other things by reading or watching the plays? how is that different than watching tv? is it assur to get a phd in english lit too? talk to ral please.

    “I would add that you view art history as a perfectly permissible way of earning a living!” i am not sure its for everybody (earning a living) but they do have art history at yu or has that been eliminated? our children go to museums – yes? i guess your children would be forbidden to go to art school but my daughter just started art college (the same one my wife went to actually).

    the rest of my comments were related to the observation that many in the mo community are acting like the yeshiva/charedei community of years ago – putting up the walls of their enclaves as high as possible. separating from their own religious fellow people – they are not frum enough. not wanting their children to associate or play with others that are religious (but maybe not as strict). dressing like yeshish folks (not that there is anything wrong with it). how many rabbis graduating from yu 30-40 years wore black hats all the time (not just shabbat)?

    “Being a committed MO means that one views Kvias Itim LaTorah in a serious fashion, whether in the form of enhanced means for Limud HaTorah , and being more careful in what one deems acceptable in terms of exposure to mass culture, whether as individuals or as a family.”
    all this is available at morasha and other mo venues( it is not frum enough – coed is not acceptable). its the putting up the false walls to keep out the world that i object to (as well as the phony frumness of many in the mo world).

  105. steve b. – for an old movie i would highly recommend: “the third man” dir. by carrol reed – classic and brilliant.

    shabbat shalom

  106. “Mycroft, we are not selling a “product.” The Torah is a guide to life, and the goal is to use one’s God-given talents to serve Hashem as best as one can.”

    Our goal is to sell a product to at least every Jew that includes the following as part of the product “The Torah is a guide to life, and the goal is to use one’s God-given talents to serve Hashem as best as one can.”
    The Rav was a big believer in making the product attractive-see eg his Saturday night lectures which he stated that he made them entertaining as he was competing with the movies and preferred that people came to his shiurim rather than the movies.

  107. שו”ת יחווה דעת חלק ד סימן ז

    עצם הכנסת טלויזיה בבית, כבר העלו גדולי הפוסקים של דורינו לאסור הדבר בהחלט, משום מושב לצים, וביטול תורה, והמסתכל בתכניות הטלויזיה הוא מגרה יצר הרע בעצמו על ידי הסתכלות בסרטים של תועבה, ומשחית נפשו הוא יעשה… וכן פסק הגאון רבי יונה שטייף בתשובה שהובאה שם (עמוד ס”ו). ועוד גאונים רבים ועצומים מגדולי דורינו, וקראו על המביא טלויזיה בתוך ביתו, לא תביא תועבה אל ביתך, ומכל שכן מי שיש לו ילדים בבית, שמכשילם ומחטיאם ומרחיקם מהדרך הישרה, ועובר על מה שנאמר אל תשכן באהלך עולה. ושומע לנו ישכון בטח.

  108. Charles – I am a Jewish educator who works with non-orthodox high school students. I’ve not had a tv in my house for the past 10 years and have not watched american tv shows for nearly 30 years, and still believe that I am an effective educator who succeeds in reaching my students “where they live.” I’m not tooting my own horn, nor am i denying that using a tv segment in class can be effective. but i don’t think that one needs to watch tv or listen to hip hop to be an effective educator. in fact, students are impressed when they learn i don’t have a tv, and realize maybe for the first time in their lives that one can lead a fulfilling and pleasurable (even fun) life without the damn thing. who knows – that might be one of the most important things they learn from me!

  109. but i don’t think that one needs to watch tv or listen to hip hop to be an effective educator. in fact, students are impressed when they learn i don’t have a tv, and realize maybe for the first time in their lives that one can lead a fulfilling and pleasurable (even fun) life without the damn thing. who knows – that might be one of the most important things they learn from me!
    >>>>>>>>>>>>
    I suppose that is one way to look at it. Another way, which I suggest is the true MO way, is to have a TV, and watch it and be able to say- I can see watching TV could be fun and that some of what is on TV is good and has value,while much does not. Take what is good into from TV into your beliefs and life like in my opinion X and Y, and don’t, take in Z.

  110. ‘Another way, which I suggest is the true MO way, is’

    If MO is truly open minded, can there be one true way?

  111. Ruvi-ask RAL and read his essays on how a MO should prioritize his or her life. As far as English literature is concerned, have you read Anthony Julius’s “The Trials of the Diaspora”? As far as museums are concerned, I would suggest that a display by display and topic by topic approach is necessary, as opposed to a blanket Heter or Issur.

    The following comment struck me as unaware of the fact that many who graduated YU, RIETS and SCW simply have moved to the right, and that the same is reflected where they live, daven, send their kids to school and camp.:

    “many in the mo community are acting like the yeshiva/charedei community of years ago – putting up the walls of their enclaves as high as possible. separating from their own religious fellow people – they are not frum enough. not wanting their children to associate or play with others that are religious (but maybe not as strict). dressing like yeshish folks (not that there is anything wrong with it). how many rabbis graduating from yu 30-40 years wore black hats all the time (not just shabbat)?”

  112. steve b – i am very aware. but this has nothing to do with being “more” religious. rather, i described an attitude that was alien to the mo community only 30 years ago and adopted from the charedei community. no different from the charedei community adopting hasidic attitudes towards their “gadolim” (e.g. da’at torah) that was alien to that community 50 or 100 years ago. it seems we live in a “flat world”.

  113. Ruvie-thanks for your response-perhaps the fact is that we live in a different world in that which was Assur 30 years ago is Mutar today and vice versa. I would disagree with your assessment of the MO world simply for one reason-the move to the right IMO can be traced to the long term effects of a year or two in Israel where Talmud Torah Lishmah, as opposed to a subject that competes with a student’s attention with a secular curriculum and secular American values and culture, finally registers as having some importance and dictates changes in Dikduk BMitzvos.

  114. Both R’ Blau and R’ Woolf should read: “What They Don’t Want You to Know About Television and Videos” — by Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen.

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