Guest post by Douglas Aronin / A few months back, I saw a cartoon that has made the rounds in Jewish circles. It pictures a chassidic-looking man talking into a cell phone, with a caption that reads: “Remember, if you need anything, I’m available 24/6.” That cartoon, and particularly its caption, stayed with me because it says so much with so few words. More than anything, it speaks volumes about how countercultural traditional Shabbat observance...

"Half Shabbos" and the Orthodox Teenager

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Guest post by Douglas Aronin

A few months back, I saw a cartoon that has made the rounds in Jewish circles. It pictures a chassidic-looking man talking into a cell phone, with a caption that reads: “Remember, if you need anything, I’m available 24/6.”

That cartoon, and particularly its caption, stayed with me because it says so much with so few words. More than anything, it speaks volumes about how countercultural traditional Shabbat observance is in our hyperconnected 24/7 world.

That cartoon was the first thing that popped into my mind as I read “For Many Orthodox Teens, ‘Half Shabbos’ Is A Way Of Life,” a front page story in the current issue of The Jewish Week (link). Written by veteran reporter Steve Lipman, the story focuses on a problem I didn’t even know existed: otherwise Shabbat-observant teenagers who can’t seem to resist texting their friends on Shabbat. “According to interviews with several students and administrators at Modern Orthodox day schools,” Lipman writes, “the practice of texting on Shabbat is becoming increasingly prevalent, especially, but not exclusively, among Modern Orthodox teens.” Rabbi Steven Burg, the international director of the Orthodox youth movement NCSY, acknowledges that “[i]t’s a big problem,” adding: “It’s almost a problem of addiction.”

That many teenagers today are virtually addicted to the ever expanding universe of computerized communications is not exactly breaking news. That adolescents, including Orthodox adolescents, are prone to testing limits can’t possibly be a shock to anyone who is or has been the parent of one. There are some Orthodox teens who rebel against traditional Jewish observance, or as it’s usually expressed in the Orthodox world, go “off the derekh.” Many ultimately return, but some don’t; it’s an unfortunate but unsurprising consequence of living in the modern world.

The surprising part of the phenomenon discussed in Lipman’s article in The Jewish Week is that, apparently, at least some of the teenagers who text on Shabbat don’t see themselves as rebels. “They still believe in God and consider themselves Orthodox,” as one of the teens interviewed for the article puts it. Dr. Michelle Friedman, a psychiatrist who works with many Orthodox teens, agrees that texting on Shabbat does not necessarily lead to other violations. “This is a separate category,” she says.

Since my days of parenting teenagers are behind me, I was not aware of this phenomenon, which apparently is known in Orthodox teen circles as keeping “half Shabbos,” until I saw The Jewish Week story. A Google search quickly convinced me, however, that I was way out of the loop, and the phenomenon was more common than I could have imagined. Among other things, I found an extended blog discussion on the subject last September, a somewhat more limited blog discussion in November and a piece in The Jewish Chronicle (London, of all places) in January.

Of course, those few early entries on the “half Shabbos” phenomenon have been numerically overwhelmed by the on-line entries in the forty-eight hours or so since Lipman’s piece was posted – including, not surprisingly, a long string of comments posted on The Jewish Week’s own web site. Suddenly, it seems, everybody in the Modern Orthodox world is talking about it. These on-line discussions range widely, of course, as is typical of the medium, and include discussions about the addictive nature of these new media and the unwillingness of parents to set limits on teenage behavior. A surprising number of them, however, focus on the technical issues concerning texting on Shabbat: is electricity use the halakhic equivalent of fire, is it prohibited under the rubric of binyan (building), does texting violate the prohibition of writing, etc.

Those technical discussions may have some value as Torah study, but in this context they are mostly beside the point. The world of Torah will not be seriously undermined by some rebellious teenagers testing limits by using up-to-date media (with which they are more familiar than their parents) to communicate with each other on Shabbat. It will be seriously undermined, however, if those teenagers do not figure out, in the few years remaining to them before they enter the adult world as fully participating members, what it means to place shemirat Shabbat at the center of your life.

And that brings me back, of course, to the 24/6 cartoon with which I started. The reason that the caption of that cartoon makes us smile is that the chassid is pretending for his customer’s benefit that the difference between 24/6 and 24/7 is purely quantitative. He may persuade the customer – he may even convince himself – but we, the observers, know better. We understand that the difference between 24/7 and 24/6 is, at its heart, qualitative, not quantitative. To be available to someone else 24/7 is to surrender our entire lives to that someone. To be available 24/6 is to insist that there is a twenty-four hour period (I know, really twenty-five hours, but let’s not nitpick), which does not belong to that someone, which we insist on reserving to ourselves, to our families and to God. Shabbat gives us the ability to shield that period from employers and customers alike, and in the hyperconnected world we live in, that ability is a precious gift – a gift that our teenagers, who have not yet had to deal with need to earn a living, cannot understand.

More than two decades ago, I participated in a panel discussion on Shabbat observance at an event for Jewish teenagers. Describing the difficulties I experienced as a practicing attorney in leaving early on winter Fridays, I explained that I went to the office each Friday with two times in my head: the time that I would try to leave if all was going normally and the time I would walk out the door even if the world was falling apart around me. One of the other panelists, who held a high-level position in the financial world, told the teenagers that although he and I had not spoken about it in advance, he did exactly the same thing. His boss and his colleagues knew that there was a time on each Friday that he had to leave no matter what the crisis.

With the technological advances in communications during the intervening decades, the world in which we earn our living has become an even more unforgiving place. It is still possible for observant Jews to persuade employers, colleagues, clients and customers to respect our need for a twenty-five hour carve-out each week from the otherwise incessant demands of the world of work – but they will never take our need for that carve-out more seriously than we do.

Of course, physicians, because of the life-saving nature of their work, sometimes lose the benefit of that carve-out. One of them, participating in The Jewish Week’s on-line discussion, summed it up well: “[A]s a physician, I am still tethered to my phone when I am on-call, but the other weeks, I really look forward to the disconnect. There must be a way to impress the teens with this.”

Let’s hope there is.

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218 comments

  1. Describing the difficulties I experienced as a practicing attorney in leaving early on winter Fridays, I explained that I went to the office each Friday with two times in my head: the time that I would try to leave if all was going normally and the time I would walk out the door even if the world was falling apart around me.
    ========================================
    But were you able not to think about it or talk about it all day shabbat when the world was falling apart? I’m told by an MO mechaneich that these kids don’t think of it as anything other than communicating the way we think about talking. And I’d guess for those that do think about iy, imho it’s easier to halachically rationalize than the physical contact betqween the sexes that some of them may have already rationalized.

    KT

  2. Why is there a need to rationalize something not understand as an addiction? Or to interpolate an adult phenomenon (workaholism) with teenagers?

  3. While this news may be shocking to many on this site, it should not be to anyone who attended an MO high school in the last 20 years.
    In my mainstream MO high school it was quite common to eat milchigs out and to have open houses when someone’s parents were out of town where the TV would be on all Shabbos. Later, when I worked in an all boys MO school many boys would order non-kosher pizza to be delivered on Shabbos to a house with no parent’s home, including boys in the “top shiur”. None of this even touches the fact that 90%+ of MO high school students do not keep laws of negia and arayos.

    Beyond high school, a quick perusal of apartment listings in the Upper West Side displays a whole new lexicon, where there is a distinction between apartments that are listed (see bangitout.com) as shomer Shabbat and shomer kashrus to those that are shabbat-friendly and respect those that keep kosher. There also are bars on the UWS who cater to the Orthodox crowd during the week and on Shabbos.

    None of this is new. There is a reason the MO stereotype developed even so it is not true across the board among youth in MO schools it is prevalent. Chareidi-types do paint MO with too broad a brush, but that is not an excuse to ignore reality. MO has a big advantage in that it is willing to welcome all those who consider themselves Orthodox into their tent. Still, the fact that chillul Shabbos, kashrus and arayos is so prevalent in many MO circles and is rarely or never publicly condemned by the MO rabbinate is a problem.

  4. A Little Sanity

    There ARE concrete solutions we can implement to rescue our endangered youth. While they are “p’shita”, I feel compelled, nonetheless, to state them openly:

    1. Bigger Black Hats.

    2. More faux Jewish Rap Music with Hebrew Lyrics.

    3. Importation of more women from the Caribbean to raise our children.

    4.More emphasis in our yeshiva system on the difference between “isur cheftzah” and an “isur gavra”, especially as it pertains to tax evasion.

    5. More emphasis on teaching our benighted children important midrashic concepts, such as Moshe Rabbeinu’s great height, or the age of Rivke when she met Eliezer at the well.

    7. A ban on the study of such tiflus as “Mesillas Yesharim”, “Chovos Halivavos” and “Neviim Acharonim”.

    8. Learning from a sefer must be made mandatory during all tefillos (with the possible exception of maariv, when it can be a “r’shus”).

    9. Better bug checkers for the strawberries that are imperiling our kids’ neshamos.

    Hashem gave us ten dibros at Sinai, and we broke them, so I’d better stop at nine.

  5. Last week I heard Rabbi Jeff Fox give a shiur on this issue between minchah and maariv. After a brief discussion of the halachot of electricity, he went on to discuss the fact that this issue indicated to him that there is something off about the message our kids are getting, that there is something not working about the way we communicate Shabat to our kids.

    After the shiur, we all wanted to talk about the halachot of electricity on Shabat! We didn’t get the point. And that may well be the point: Shabat is not about do’s and don’t’s, it is about trusting in HaShem to take care of the world while we rest from the world. Yet I and almost everyone else present wanted to talk about the do’s and don’t’s.

  6. I would be surprised if many of the adults who are parents are not also addicted somewhat to the Web and their Blackberries, etc. How about before Shabbos, as part of the standard preparations, that all family members simply remind each other to turn off theirn phones, Blackberries, etc?

  7. STEVE BRIZEL:

    “How about before Shabbos, as part of the standard preparations, that all family members simply remind each other to turn off theirn phones, Blackberries, etc?”

    that might work as well as it does at chupas (regardless of hashkafa)

  8. “I would be surprised if many of the adults who are parents are not also addicted somewhat to the Web and their Blackberries, etc.”

    I’m definitely addicted to my Blackberry. The term “crackberry” is quite apt. If it weren’t for Shabat I’d never turn it off.

  9. Let’s be serious folks. The addiction teenagers have is talking with their friends. Nowadays this is done by text and Facebook; as well as face to face.

    Crackberries and e-mail are, so, 20th century 🙂

  10. Steve’s got a point: I’ve been at depositions where the lawyers actually get up from their seats to answer emails and the like on their devices. I almost want to yell at them that their client is sitting RIGHT THERE. They keep calling “objection” as they do so, so maybe they’re not engaging in actual neglect, but it’s still *rude*.

    My measure of someone I want to do business with is someone who doesn’t answer his or her phone during a meeting. I allow a glance at the screen.

    “Shabat is not about do’s and don’t’s”

    Well, it is that *too*. But you make a good point as well.

  11. Those Nokias in the picture are sooo 2001. Can they even text?

  12. A Little Sanity,

    Hilarious!

  13. Gil: Since my days of parenting teenagers are behind me, I was not aware of this phenomenon…

    Sorry to ask a personal question. Aren’t you approximately 38-40? How old are your children?

  14. Sorry – ignore previous comment. I just noticed that Gil did not write this post.

  15. ALS’s list is quite amusing, especially numbers 1-5.

  16. None of this even touches the fact that 90%+ of MO high school students do not keep laws of negia and arayos.

    =====================================
    based on which survey? i’d be ok with more than a miyut hamatzui, but 90% seems a bit high.
    KT

  17. All I know is that while my kids (6 of whom are teenagers) talk about who is or isn’t “shomer” [negi’ah] they had no idea at all that they and their peers (Passaic’s “at risk” population, as well as MTA, JEC, Teaneck) talk about “Half Shabbos”. Which was the initial report on R’ Dr Brill’s blog “The Book of Doctrines and Opinions” last fall. He wrote (Sept 13, 2010) “I was asked by an Jewish educator- principal if I know what it means when current HS kids ask each other if they keep ‘half shabbos’ or ‘full shabbos?’
    Since I know the lay of the land, I said sure it is texting.”

    For that matter, the only kids they knew who used their cell phones on Shabbos were entirely mechalelei Shabbos a few weeks later — it’s a first step heading out the door.

    Hadassah Sabo Milner also blogs that her kids never heard of it.

    So, while R’ Dr Brill and educators are talking about it like it’s all the rage, kids well entrenched in the community being described did not. I think more study needs to be done. Is it geographically localized? Is it particular to one ideological subcommunity?

    I am not even sure it’s a bad thing. We have to know who is being affected. We have fewer Kids at Risk than several years ago; are these the kids who would have been “at risk” had a more judgmental community made them not feel at home with this compromise? Or is the larger demographic kids who otherwise would be fully observant?

    At least “Half Shabbos” kids (assuming they really are in significant numbers, and this isn’t a chimera by frightened parents and educators) stay within the community and are thus kept in contact with our message.

  18. “Of course, physicians, because of the life-saving nature of their work, sometimes lose the benefit of that carve-out.”

    Of course, does anyone not seriously believe that there are many physicians who take the “pikuach nefesh” concept extremely broadly for Shabbos-would the same physicians meet a patient at 3AM in their office to examine them, come back from vacation for a patient, but for Shabbos everything goes.

  19. “We have fewer Kids at Risk than several years ago; are these the kids who would have been “at risk” had a more judgmental community made them not feel at home with this compromise?”

    Are there truly fewer mechanchim who brag about my way or the highway and who get enjoyment about their success in pushing out each non superior kid?

  20. “and a piece in The Jewish Chronicle (London, of all places) in January.”

    There are Jews outside of NY, you know. What a bizarre comment.

  21. MICHA:

    “We have fewer Kids at Risk than several years ago”

    any real date either way on this?

    and i guess you should define “at risk”

  22. “None of this even touches the fact that 90%+ of MO high school students do not keep laws of negia and arayos.

    =====================================
    based on which survey? i’d be ok with more than a miyut hamatzui, but 90% seems a bit high.”

    maybe he means 90% wish they didn’t keep these laws.
    (personally i don’t remember for sure, but i don’t think i was aware that negiah existed as a halakhic category when i was in high school)

  23. The “half-Shabbos” may be a real issue but it may also be an urban myth. I don’t mean no one is doing it. I mean everything known about it is anecdotal.

    Is it 15% of a school or 50% or more? Between the article and educators, I have heard all three since the article came out.

    Is it a temporary phase, a form of addiction or a brief step leaving Orthodoxy? The article says one of the former, the children of parents on this forum the later.

    Former YU on June 26, 2011 at 9:52 pm
    Beyond high school, a quick perusal of apartment listings in the Upper West Side displays a whole new lexicon, where there is a distinction between apartments that are listed (see bangitout.com) as shomer Shabbat and shomer kashrus to those that are shabbat-friendly and respect those that keep kosher. There also are bars on the UWS who cater to the Orthodox crowd during the week and on Shabbos.

    People who are “shabbat-friendly and respect those that keep kosher” would generally not categorize themselves as Orthodox.

  24. In my opinion (I have been teaching in an MO high school for over a decade), this entire issue is nothing new – still sad and in need of fixing, but nothing new. There have always been kids who are mechalel shabbos and violate other halachos (“Do you keep half shabbos?” is no different than “Are you shomer?”), and other kids who are genuinely religious. Most of the kids in the chevra with stronger frumkeit don’t even know about “half shabbos”, and most of the kids in the chevra with weaker frumkeit think everybody does it. When I went to an all boys MO High School several decades ago, there was a serious drug problem, but 90% of the guys in the top shiur were totally oblivious to it. The same applies to texting and other halachically deviant behavior.

  25. one more point – the word “addiciton” is inappropriate in this context. It is being used as an excuse. I am as addicited to my “crackberry” as anybody (i even feel the imaginary buzz on shabbos), but have the ability to not pick it up during tefilah, and certainly on shabbos. Is there any evidence that this is an addiction similar to real addicitons (alcohol, drugs)?

  26. talmid, you’d be surprised. Very often it’s the same part of the brain that’s affected with very different stimuli.

    I agree with Micha and others that this may be entirely a myth. It happens in the wider world all the time- Oprah almost had a cottage industry of panics based on myths of what the kids were doing these days. If you’re not offended by strong language, see Cracked’s article here: http://www.cracked.com/article_17040_the-6-most-insane-moral-panics-in-american-history.html

  27. P.S.: I suppose it’s a good sign that Orthodox parents can afford to worry about texting and not the things mentioned in that article. But once again, Oprah did once have a scare about a rabbinic sex abuse cult. The woman who was pushing it happens to be a leading exposer of child abuse today. Draw conclusions as you wish.

  28. >>Of course, does anyone not seriously believe that there are many physicians who take the “pikuach nefesh” concept extremely broadly for Shabbos

    OF course, did anyone think that Mycroft would let an opportunity to impugn doctors pass by?

  29. >> Is there any evidence that this is an addiction similar to real addicitons (alcohol, drugs)?

    How about the fact that while there are few addicitons harder to break than nicotine, many people manage to daven and keep shabbos without lighting up. It’s still an addiction.

  30. The “half-Shabbos” may be a real issue but it may also be an urban myth. I don’t mean no one is doing it. I mean everything known about it is anecdotal.
    =======================
    true , yet I spoke to a trusted friend who is a mechaneich at a coed day school who confirmed it’s certainly more than a miyut hamatzui.
    KT

  31. nachum – its no myth. the rate differs from school to school and even in the grades. lets not forget this issue is less than 5 years old and all we have is anecdotal evidence but it exists. the teenagers are not rationalizing via rsza vs hazon ish arguments in electricity. and its not the same percentage as before as the general fringe (less observant) that has always existed.

  32. Negiah – 90% is not from a study, but from personal experience as a student and as a teacher in MO schools. I also have seen and heard that at secular colleges, by the end of 4 years, the numbers are basically unchanged despite the year or two in Israel and 90+% are not “shomer”.

    MTA, JEC, HALB etc.. – Yes, the all boys MO schools IN NY likely have sizable populations in the higher shiurim that are oblivious to all this (even so it definitely exists in those schools as at least a miut hamatzui), but once you move to Frisch or Ramaz or any out of town school you have to really stick your head in the sand to not have heard of these phenomenon.

    UWS – the people who say shabbat-friendly or respect kosher almost always daven in Orthodox synagogues and will move to an Orthodox community and send their kids to an Orthodox day school.

    Lastly, one other point about basic halacha observance is what is the mikva use % in MO communities. I know Rabbi Riskin when he was on the UWS would speak at least once a year about the tragically low number of mikva users in the community.

    Not to confuse points, but I wonder how much of the texting (which everyone has called “communicating) is really flirting, or talking about boys and girls. I would not be surprised if the same tayva that drives the lack of shmiras negiah is also driving texting and the peer pressure to keep “half shabbos”. High school “communication” is frequently to members of the opposite sex or about hanging out with the opposite sex.

    Lastly, about rationalization, teenagers are not stupid, many do know that eating a domino’s pizza might only be derabbanan and so might texting on Shabbos. They do not think it is muttar, but they do feel it is “not so bad” especially if all their friends are doing it.

  33. a mental heath professional in the education field for 20 plus years emailed me the following comments on half shabbos:

    on addiction:
    “And one other small point of interest re the addiction claim: any serious cigarette smoker who is shomer shabbos will tell you that they are able to curb their need for cigarettes on shabbos, and as soon as shabbos is over they are desperate for a smoke.
    Not sure what to make if this, but might be relevant to the conversation.”

    on parents:
    ” but this is at least partly an offshoot of the phenomenon one also hears about regularly-namely, that parents of high school age kids (and in many cases the yeshivot as well) have come to treat the high school years as the Amish community treats its year of freedom before kids commit full out in israel. Parents don’t want to say ‘no’ to their kids or make many demands because they assume they will go off to israel and come back with a black hat or a long skirt. Maybe not true but this is commonly heard out there.”

  34. Former YU,
    I’d add (based on general memories of my rationalizing days) and it’s not as bad as ……… (fill in your favorite bein adam lchaveiro violation that “they, the other” are guilty of)
    KT

  35. R’Ruvie,
    My anecdotal observation is the inability to say no starts way before HS (but then again my friends think I’m judgemental :-))
    KT

  36. Former YU,
    At least you didn’t try to justify your claim that 90+% aren’t keeping the laws of arayos. I assume you meant niddah, but still, the only way for that to be possible is if 90+% are having sex. Now _that_ would be a slander on the MO community.

  37. former yu – dominos’s pizza – with peperoni?

  38. Ruvie, really? That is the most depressing thing I have seen on this thread so far. Or do they not know what peperoni is?

  39. “Not to confuse points, but I wonder how much of the texting (which everyone has called “communicating) is really flirting, or talking about boys and girls. I would not be surprised if the same tayva that drives the lack of shmiras negiah is also driving texting and the peer pressure to keep “half shabbos”. High school “communication” is frequently to members of the opposite sex or about hanging out with the opposite sex.”

    In common parlance, its called “sexting.” Not saying these teens are all engaging in it, even I wouldn’t put it past hormone-pumped teens.

  40. Micha: funny, that’s part of what R Brill said in his reaction to the JW piece – that (aside from the author not being in touch with technology) this needs real sociological research/surveys. Guessing at percentages from anecdata is meaningless.

    http://kavvanah.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/half-shabbos-goes-viral-for-real/

  41. MDJ,

    So widespread chibbuk v’nishuk is fine with you, since according to some rishonim it is only derabbanan?
    The SA calls people who engage in such activity as chashud on arayos and passul l’eidus. I did not mean that they are chayav misa (except for maybe married women who do not go to the mikva).

    You sound like the people trying to justify half-shabbos b/c its only electricity. Everyone agrees and knows it is assur, but it is condoned on a large scale. Orthodox Judaism believes that keeping rabbinic mitzvos is part and parcel of being a Torah-observant Jew.

  42. mdj – i was trying to ask do these kids think that pizza with the number one topping in the us is a derabanan? i am not sure how much rationalization is or is not going on among the teenagers or as some have told me that they just don’t care. but i think this phenom is much different than the small percentage fringe in the high school who were not really shomer shabbat. right now people are just speculating – educated and otherwise – with little data.

    i also wonder if this will be tied to alan brill’s post on leaning to the left. also, the general trend – if there is one – of lack of respect to rabbis – in all communities – that i believe is out there. are the sheep rebelling ?

  43. Joel: more than a miut hamatzui. Sure, but the larger questions are quantitative/qualitative:

    1) what percentage of kids are doing this?
    2) what percentage of kids in these schools are already from non-shomer-shabbos homes, or have otherwise given up on shabbos themselves?
    3) what is the overlap between the first two groups, and what is left out of that overlap – how many kids who are *otherwise shomer shabbos* texting on Shabbos?
    4) re-ask 1-3 for non-MO yeshivos then compare the results.

    I’m no sociologist, but those would seem to be questions that might actually yield useful information.

    R’ Brill’s original post from 9 months ago already asked these questions, or implied them – that it’s kids from non-MO yeshivos, even rabbinic kids, who are doing this. The JW piece should have picked up from there and done some real research, instead of rehashing material that was already on blogs.

  44. I assume some of the students would not have minded if there was, but in this case it was “only milchigs”.

    Rafael,

    I was not referring to sexting specifically. I just meant that lots of the texting is general flirtiness with the opposite sex and that sexual tension, thoughts, and aspirations are often an underlying motive and drive to teenager’s conversations with members of the opposite sex. This does not mean that every person is a potential partner, but that teenage banter is rarely strictly platonic. Even if you are not interested in a specific member of the opposite sex, you might be interested in that person’s friend etc.

  45. Former YU,
    I never said it was OK. (Did you read my post?). But I think that there is a big difference between not being shomer negiah in HS and having sex in high school. Or do you think that they really amount to the same thing. Let’s put it another way. It is almost not worth mentioning that negiah is not much observed in MO Day Schools. Do you think that the fact that 90% of MO HS kids are having sex (if it were a fact, which it certainly isn’t) would say little if anything more (negative) about this group..

  46. Rafael,
    That is _not_ what sexting is. See the first sentence of:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexting

  47. I just read R’ Brill’s response and it seem he also acknowledges the raging hormones of teenagers as a big factor in all of this.

    We know that plenty of chareidi teenagers also have raging hormones and for them it is likely a problem. It is just that in MO, the raging hormones are out in the open and encouraged by the attendance at co-ed schools, camps and youth activities.

  48. Can you imagine what a blog with similar representation would have looked like when Orthodox parents realized their kids’ friends were listening to The Beatles? [Their own kids weren’t, of course, chas ve’chalila!]

  49. R’Þanbo,
    We refuse to quantify anything and always prefer to use anecdotal data:-)

    R’IH,
    We already know from Bye Bye Birdie:

    Kids!
    I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!
    Kids!
    Who can understand anything they say?
    Kids!
    They are so ridiculous and immature!
    I don’t see why anybody wants ’em!
    Just you wait and see
    Kids!
    Kids! They are just impossible to control!
    (Soon you’ll be old enough to be)
    Kids! With their awful clothes and their rock an’ roll!
    (Another teenage delinquent)
    Why can’t they be like you were,
    Perfect in every way?
    What’s the matter with kids to–
    Kids!
    What the devil’s wrong with these kids today?
    Kids!
    Who could guess the they would turn out that way!
    Why can’t they be like we were,
    Perfect in every way?
    What’s the matter with kids?
    What’s the matter with kids?
    What’s the matter with kids today?

    KT

  50. MDJ,
    They are not the same thing,and B”H klal yisrael are still bayshanim to the extent that some level of tzniyus has remained. But he “hook-up” culture has permeated MO schools with multiple partners, one-night stands, and everything short of full sex is openly conducted. I do not know what the solution is, but willful blindness to flagrant halachik violations is not a good approach to transmitting chinuch. I do understand that as a rebbi or teacher, it is very hard to try and teach something or condemn activity that you know is being flagrantly violated. It is like repeatedly knocking your head against a brick wall.

    But, one of the reasons I left chinuch was because I found it difficult to toe the school’s unofficial chinuch policy line of willful blindness with my personal feelings that this needs to be condemned and taught even if the parents don’t like it that the school is policing their kid’s behavior.

  51. “Can you imagine what a blog with similar representation would have looked like when Orthodox parents realized their kids’ friends were listening to The Beatles? [Their own kids weren’t, of course, chas ve’chalila!]”

    This was happening on Shabbos Kodesh? The issue is the devaluing or lack of respect for Shabbos and its unique halachos. Today, most of Orthodoxy still looks to Shmiras Shabbos as the defining characteristic of what a frum jew is. Beatles is irrelevant to this discussion.

  52. [Can’t resist] quoting The Beatles: yeah, yeah, yeah 🙂

  53. anon — does he address the specific issue we’re discussing? If so, could you give the approx start/finish times in this 61 minute audio?

  54. To compare a nihilistic, conviction-less teenager addicted to their phones with a medical professional, doctor, nurse, fireman, EMT, Paramedic, policeman, or other professional who needs to be in touch in order to carry out the mitzvah of Pikuach Nefesh, which overrides the issurim involved with using a cell-phone, is mistaken. The teenagers are captive to the whims of the day, in the same manner that you see many otherwise Orthodox women wearing skirts above-the-knee nowadays.

  55. lawrence kaplan

    Note that mycroft yet once again took the opportunity to bash doctors and mekhankhim. Really, it’s becoming tiresome.

  56. enough already

    agree with Lawrence Kaplan – I know you try to keep a liberal policy about editing comments, but it is just so irritating to have to read Mycrofts doctor and rabbi bashing on every single thread. Maybe we can let him have his own post where he writes how bad doctors and rabbis are, we can all ignore it, and he can be banned from talking about the topic in the future…

  57. I think that the community as a whole should work towards helping our children do the right thing. If Shabbat was made more enjoyable for the teenagers, rather then a burden it will be appreciated for the gift it truly is. I personally have seen that when parents took care to buy special reading material, ranging anywhere from Hamodia to Teen Vogue, it has imbued children with a sense of differentiation between weekday and Shabbat and seeing their parents spend time and money to make Shabbat special will positively affect their value system.

  58. Woah! I didn’t suggest it’s a myth. It may be real, but localized to a particular subcommunity. Or, the quantity could be a myth.

    But I already got reports from Mod-O teens in North Jersey, Brooklyn and Monsey who don’t know what we’re talking about. And I’m not just talking to those who would never consider chilul Shabbos. (My own home is something of a drop-in zone, with 12-18 teens in various states of shemiras hamitzvos spending the Shabbos afternoon.) So, I find it hard to believe that it’s the majority or even a very large minority of Mod-O teens, if it’s unheard of in these densely-populated areas.

    The reason why I asked if it might be mostly in particular locales or a single ideological subcommunity is that it requires kids who think that they can omit one piece of the puzzle and still be accepted by the community. I don’t think this is comfort level is likely anywhere to the right of Open Orthodoxy and the like, or in smaller Jewish communities that lack the “luxury” of being able to build internal subdivisions.

  59. micha – “I don’t think this is comfort level is likely anywhere to the right of Open Orthodoxy…”

    please explain. why are you assuming that parents are “comfortable” in open orthodoxy? your assumptions may be misplaced.

    please read alan brill’s blog:” I had noticed the phenomena in a broad range of Orthodoxy, not limited to any one segment.” http://kavvanah.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/half-shabbos-again/

  60. micha – per alan brill:

    “Laity will always bend rules. A major desideratum is a history of the laity within Judaism. The responsa literature show many communities that had to deal adolescent transgressions including with mixed dancing, bunding, swimming on shabbos, brothel use, not wearing tefillin, and theft. And adults who violate Shabbat, create problematic slaughter houses, drink regular wine, and have affairs. In all of these cases they remain in the community, and it is acknowledged that they are deviants within the social norm.

    This is not to be confused with leaving the community. We are witnessing the start of a new cycle of retreat from religion in which people are leaving Orthodoxy.

    There is a further confusion of those leaving with liberal positions. Those who are leaving are not those keeping half-shabbos nor are the ones leaving on the left wing side of orthodoxy. Do not think of it as a spectrum in which one keeps moving to the left and then one falls off a cliff into non-observance. Those fleeing will come from all parts of the community. Kids in KGH, Passaic,or Brooklyn turn 16 or 17 and then decide this is not for them and them just stop keeping kosher and stop keeping shabbos. Then they move away. They don’t care about anything liberal in thought or practice.”

  61. Ruvie, I was speaking of the kids, not the parents. “[I]t requires kids who think that they can omit one piece of the puzzle and still be accepted by the community. I don’t think this is comfort level is likely anywhere to the right of Open Orthodoxy and the like…”

    Which would you prefer — a community that when it finds a kid with one foot out the door still makes them feel comfortable enough not to want to disengage? Or one that pushes them the rest of the way out?

    An O community that is “open” is accepting of not-fully-observant members. OT1H, it reduces much of the social push among such people to gain observance. OTOH, it keeps many people who are on the fence from getting off it on the wrong side.

    WADR to R’ Dr Brill, he is not fully exposed to a broad range of Orthodoxy. Speaking as a resident of a yeshivish neighborhood with 6 teens and a customer of mod-O schools, someone who is surrounded by kids at risk every Shabbos (and in whose home children from dysfunctional homes have crashed for weeks or months at a time), I cannot believe it’s a commonplace and broad phenomenon and yet unheard of in any real numbers by these kids from across the NY area — last Shabbos included Teaneck, Monsey, Elizabeth, Washington Heights (the Frankfurt-am-Hudson side) and Staten Island.

    My anecdotal evidence is very different than Rabbi Dr Brill’s, and (similar to what Thanbo wrote) until someone commits the money and time to gather statistics, we do not know if this is really something more deserving of our resources than other, and larger, problems.

  62. micha – i was referring to brill’s comments on the 16 -17 yr old that are going off the derech – not adults (but included the full statement for context) – its not a liberal or open o issue any more than other orthodoxy . the point being is that is a teenager only text on shabbat is he/she then consider otd?

    i am challenging your assertion that open orthodoxy – which i have no idea how its defined – is more comfortable than regular mo or other orthodoxy in being mechalel shabbat. why would you think that?

    i do think that in the mo teenager crowd is not just texting on shabbat for half shabbos (this just anecdotally from one of my children and all others i have spoken to in mo community).also, its probably much higher in coed schools than non coed schools (population is more likely to be less religious as a percentage of class). i do think that texting only is more likely in more right wing to charedei community and the numbers – percentages – are probably much lower. but we need more data to understand what is going on as oppose to calling it a failure of mo or orthodoxy.

    and i too agree with thanbo: “R’ Brill’s original post from 9 months ago already asked these questions, or implied them – that it’s kids from non-MO yeshivos, even rabbinic kids, who are doing this.”

  63. Again… The child needs to feel he will remain included. That is a function of the community’s culture. For a teen, that’s mostly his peers. But the community’s culture isn’t all his peers’ doing, and those peers also carry forward the parents culture.

    Open O is less likely to relay the message that we have no place for mechalelei Shabbos. As is a small community that binds together people of a wider variety of observance. And until now I’ve been overly Ashkenazocentric; Sepharadim have had a place within their community for their straying children for decades now.

    A child who grows up in a society that has that message will be forced to choose between texting and staying affiliated (including keeping everything else). I would think, therefore, that children in communities (including OO) that don’t push this either-or on them will have more Half-Shabbosers and fewer “Kids at Risk”.

  64. Micha, are you arguing that Half-Shabbosers is a MO phenomenon, given the big tent, versus kids-at-risk, which is a more Chareidi phenomenon given the message that chillul shabbos or other “outlets” are unacceptable and puts one beyond the pale?

    Just asking in order to clarify what you have said so far.

  65. ^I think the idea is that Half-Shabbos is a much briefer stage for Haredi kids.

  66. Okay, got it. Thanks for that.

  67. 1- I am not convinced Half-Shabbosers ARE a phenomenon. My kids never heard of the alleged idiom, nor of anyone who does it. Neither did Mrs Milner’s (over at Pretty in Pink) kids, nor those RGS asked, nor Rn Toby Katz’s children down in Florida, nor “Pinchas” on hashkafa.com’s kid sister, etc, etc…. In short, it’s hard to find anyone on the net claiming first- or even second-hand evidence of this alleged widespread phenomenon.

    2- Yes, I’m saying that those kids who do only break Shabbos by texting are likely to go entirely off the derekh in many communities. It requires a community that is already more welcoming of less observant Jews (and not just as kiruv targets) for “Half Shabbos” to be a stable and acceptable state. Which I think would be more common in smaller communities as well as more Open O ones. Neither of which are the circles in which my teens, RnHSMilner or RGS usually move.

    (I also think I was pretty clear, and that Jon_Brooklyn’s comment was only necessary because people presumed I was attacking a community because it’s one other than my own. If people wouldn’t assume all on-line discussions are battles and then force what they read into that preconception, communication would be much easier.)

  68. mitch morrison

    i’m just joining and apologize if i’m redundant or repeating myself:-)
    what i find very frustrating is actually getting an email from someone who uses this to bash MO instead of viewing this as a challenge for any kid who has a smartphone and who texts heavily throughout the week. Our Rav in Passaic spoke very eloquently about this — that this is a communal challenge and it’s very important for parents to truly give the children a love for the mesorah, to make Shabbat a positive experience – a day of Zachor and not just Shamor. this is something i personally have striven for from the outset with our kids. it’s not always easy, but we have unique things we do at home for Shabbat. And at the same time, i question the need for 13,14 and 15 yr old kids to have to have a smartphone. if you have a driver’s license, i can understand or if you go away for yeshiva. but otherwise, see it more as a distraction than a benefit.

  69. Obviouslhy, the issue of technology affects Shmiras Shabbos as much as it allows teens to tune in to what and who they want at the expense of growing in Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim. The question remains what can be allowed or discouraged short of an outright ban-which IMO won’t work. Can anyone comment on whether the local yeshivos allow or encourage the use of laptops?

  70. I also wonder what is the connection between “Half Shabbos” and the quality of the Shmemiras Shabbos in the families where texting occurs. There is a huge difference between a view of Shabbos as a day of encountering HaShem Yisborach in your home, as opposed to 24 hours of dead or down time.

  71. Micha- just because you and your circle have never heard of it does not mean it’s not happening or prevalent. My daughter can give first hand evidence. It’s not 20% either. it’s not like the kids are advertising this. It is happening more in coed schools than same sex schools. Also, the term half shabbos is not that well known among the teens that are aware of this or doing the texting. My daughter first heard the term at a Shabbat meal at her former teacher’s home a month ago while be aware of this for 4 yrs. Please understand the parents are in the dark unless they are not shomer Shabbat.

    2. Item number 2 shows that you do not understand the problem .

  72. mitch morrison

    a division within yu did a major study that showed between 10-15% who text during shabbat. it’s been a phenomenon for at least 3 yrs, that at least i’m aware of.

  73. don’t parents have monitoring of their kids’ cell phones? my kids aren’t of age to have cell phones yet, but why wouldn’t parents have monitoring systems for cell phones the way we do for computers?

    I’m not saying this solves the problem, but it would allow parents to know about it as soon as motza’ei shabbos.

  74. i.e. it would mean that the extent of this problem is known with certainty.

  75. Steve b. – Steve Brizel on June 27, 2011 at 9:15 pm
    I also wonder what is the connection between “Half Shabbos” and the quality of the Shmemiras Shabbos in the families where texting occurs. There is a huge difference between a view of Shabbos as a day of encountering HaShem Yisborach in your home, as opposed to 24 hours of dead or down time.

    Your rhetoric is neither helpful and nor is it insightful for this discussion.

  76. Doron Beckerman

    Micha,

    Why do you think that tolerance for this breach without a complete fissure is any different than attitudes toward being Shomer Negiah, which is not limited to OO by any means?

  77. By the way, lots of stores in Israel have “24/6” signs.

  78. The fact is that most MO kids have cell phones with internet and text so it’s not a stretch to imagine that they might be using them on shabbos. Haredi kids, especially the more right wing ones, don’t own a cellphone and if they do, it doesn’t have texting or internet so the problem is greatly reduced in that environment. Most yeshivos do not allow their boys to have a cellphone and many BY’s don’t either [at least not to have them in school.]

  79. I think The Jewish Week single-handedly made up this a phenomenon — in another words, it did a terrible job of reporting actual reality. If so many MU parents on this thread (including those who asked their teens about texting on Shabbos) have never heard of this phenomenon, then it isn’t a phenomenon, period.

    I’ve been around YU for a number of years now, visit MO blogs like this one and have never ever seen a reference to texting on Shabbos. I think we should ignore The Jewish Week article rather than give a made-up story legitimacy by discussing it.

  80. And yet, Baruch, the story quotes, by name, MO educators and youth leaders who say that it’s not made up. Don’t you think they would rather say their kids are doing the right thing?

  81. Is it any different than what kids may have been doing for years? All that’s different is the technology (and, as opposed to, say, watching TV, the ability to it a lot less conspicuously, which of course makes a difference).

  82. I think the attitude MO youth have toward shemiras negi’ah is part of a general attitude within MO toward harchaqos is general. If your rebbe teaches you some laws of dressing tzanu’ah that clearly exclude bathing suits, but your folks take you mixed swimming, or half your friends go mixed swimming, you are likely to learn that following halakhah on some things can be optional. Similarly MO tends to be more lenient on qol ishah than many of their youth can believe is “really” justifiable within halakhah. Some of your friends’ moms don’t cover their hair, and you learned that’s against halakhah too.

    So yes, when it comes to those laws on the fringes of EhE, MO culture does have an air of acceptance of partial compliance.

    (Note that I did not get into the question of whether that “air of acceptance” is justified, just that that’s what a teen is likely to pick up.)

  83. Micha, I just want to clarify that I saw from your comments that you weren’t attacking OO, but that you felt OO keeps kids in the fold whereas in more right-wing communities the kids would be on their way “out the door”.

    I guess for MO its a double-edged sword – by allowing “partial compliance”, it keeps generations within the Orthodox fold but also allows for a general attitude of negligence towards shmiras hamitzvos, as you so nicely illustrated.

  84. “By the way, lots of stores in Israel have “24/6″ signs.”

    Which hour of Shabbat are they open?

  85. micha – please do not equate texting on shabbat with kol ishah and covering hair of married women. there is no excuse for the former and its not due to leniencies or within the acceptable behavior(lets not get into a discussion of daat moshe and yehudit or yu’s annual benefit at the opera) of the later – for many in the mo community. i do not think it has anything to do with the slippery slope you seem to be describing – as to what do you in the mo community expect from your teenagers – and parents being bad role models.

    you fail to understand the psyche of the teenager and their adolescent behavior.

  86. Mark: Most yeshivos do not allow their boys to have a cellphone and many BY’s don’t either [at least not to have them in school.]

    At least in Flatbush, those rules don’t work at all. My kids don’t have cellphones but they seem to be among the very few. My daughter’s high school doesn’t allow texting but the administration knows the battle is lost. I think they had some sort of one-time special outing or food for girls who self-identify as not texting.

    Chanukah time, I showed my kids the NCSY YouTube video thinking that the singing group (613) had written the songs they sing. One son said: “That’s a Justin Bieber song.” I asked how he knows that and he said that some of his classmates bring it into school on their cellphones. I said that cellphones aren’t allowed in the school and my kids just laughed.

    But my kids do not know anyone who texts on Shabbos (or admits to it).

  87. ruvie: I think you misunderstood Micha’s point. He is discussing the disconnect between what is taught in school and what kids observe in their community, and what conclusions they may reach.

  88. Reb Gil – how do we know that kids in MO schools are taught about kol ishah, covering womens’ hair, tznius at all? I don’t know since I am certainly not in the loop. Maybe its not mixed messages – maybe the messages are consistent? Or, maybe there are differences between MO schools and what they teach their talmidim.

  89. Just to add, I think, unfortunately, that mixed message can be a problem for chareidi children. For example, there are right-wing schools that have ruled out parents attending professional sporting events, with the children. Yet, there are parents who break that rule and attend Blue Jay/Raptors/Maple Leaf games.

  90. Didn’t Micha say that some of his kids go to MO schools?

  91. gil – i understand but kol isha and uncovering hair is not taught as an issur (if taught at all) in mo schools to my knowledge. parents of kids texting are not themselves (to my knowledge) texting on shabbat – is there a disconnect from what they learn and what they see as acceptable ? i am not as sure as he is with a general klal gadol. in his previous post he indicated that half shabos is an acceptable state in the mo community – i have no idea why he thinks that is true. nor do i think he really understand what is going on and why.

  92. rafael – i think we need to differentiate between things that are obviously assur (or not acceptable) – like texting on shabbat and going to to a sporting event that is made assur for non-halachik reasons (ever see the yeshivash kids at a knicks game? lots of them). i think kids are sophisticated enough (at least in ny) to tell the difference between real halachot and chumras – non halachik – to control their behavior.

  93. Well, I wouldn’t call a ban on attending sporting events a chumra, since there is no halachich mikar hadin. It is a matter of philosophy – should Jews be attending professional sporting events, given a host of issues like bitul zman, inappropriate dress, drinking, and the hashkafah of professional sports events, which CHAZAL clearly condemned (see medrashim in Rus Rabbah at the pasuk of “amech ami”). I actually agree with the ban. However, I don’t think it has to do with sophistication, since “tzuras ben torah” and “tzuras bas yisroel” is thoroughly promoted in yeshivishe schools and is instilled in the talmidim from a young age. It has to do with what kind of example the parents set. Do the parents undermine school policy or not? That is the crux of the matter.

  94. ruvie: i understand but kol isha and uncovering hair is not taught as an issur (if taught at all) in mo schools to my knowledge.

    Perhaps you’d be surprised what rebbeim teach.

    Rafael: Well, I wouldn’t call a ban on attending sporting events a chumra, since there is no halachich mikar hadin.

    I’m not saying they are assur but I can’t find a good reason to say they are mutar (moshav leitzim).

  95. R’ Gil,
    Sounds like you are using mutar as in recommended not as in permitted.
    KT

  96. gil – i would be surprise but i think it depends on the school. on kol isha (my daughter just emailed me ) they were taught why its permissible and not an issue while covering one’s hair was part of an elective class (which my daughter didn’t take but the kids who took thought it should be mandatory and was a great class- i will venture that the conclusion that its not mandatory) of women in halacha otherwise it was not taught. again, i am sure it could be different in other schools.

  97. r’ gil – i agree with reb joel. there seems a tendency in the yeshivish (and to the right) world for an attitude of things not being mutar when they are certainly not assur. re baseball games – the story is told that RAL (an avid baseball fan) went directly from bat day at yankee stadium with his kids to the airport when he made aliya. do you think he brought a sefer with him to the game?

  98. I meant to say that I can’t see why they are not assur. Based on the texts, they seem assur to me even if common practice is not like that.

    I don’t mean not recommended or public policy or a waste of time. When I’ve asked poskim about it, they’ve never directly answered. The most I’ve gotten is “don’t ask”.

  99. reb gill – based on your previous post it would seem you were surprise that your son knew popular music – but of course he heard from someone’s cell phone. is popular music allowed in your world? or is that monitor based on parents supervision?

    in the mo world some parents – like my wife – take their children (and allow them to go with their friends)to rock concerts (kings of leone and crosby stills and nash). btw, there are yeshivish kids there too (but they may be otd while in the mo world it is acceptable).

  100. R’ Gil,
    Perhaps a post for another time – what forms of public entertainment, if any, are not assur?
    KT

  101. So, I guess popularity with “the masses” does count in the halachic process after all…

    And so it will be with this issue, in the course of time.

  102. ^Assur on what basis???

  103. ruvie: I let my kids listen to secular music but we supervise. This one, however, has no interest (he’s a carbon copy of me). We’d never let them go to a secular concert and probably not a Jewish one either unless they really wanted to go.

    Joel: I don’t know. From the texts, it seems to me that any public entertainment is forbidden and only private is allowed. Perhaps you can make the argument that R. Ahron Soloveichik made for Sefirah that when being in public improves the experience (like a sports game) then it is considered public but when it doesn’t (like a movie) then it is considered private. I’m not sure. But the truth is that everyone is lenient on this and there is probably some rationale.

  104. IH: Sometimes rabbis have to know when to refrain from discussing a subject in public and allowing people to sin unwittingly (mutav she-yihyu shogegin…). Not every topic is appropriate for public discussion. That might be what is going on with sports games. I don’t know.

  105. But, your she’ala was in private I thought?

  106. Gil – Flatbush is not exactly “Charedi” although many Chareidim live there and go to school there. Among that demographic the number of cellphones and texting is much lower.
    My children don’t have cellphones and a few of their friends do but their parents have strict rules and even those who break them do so with trepidation and certainly aren’t texting on Shabbos [or even boys if I had to venture a guess.]

  107. Reb gill – tell that to all the rabbis that go to baseball and basketball games with their congregants. Please do not use the reinterpretation of text to change the permitted to the unpremitted.

  108. Mark: I don’t know how you define Charedi but I’m thinking of Bais Yaakov-style schools and black hat yeshivos. Not Shulamis or Yeshiva of Flatbush (not that there’s anything wrong with them).

    ruvie: You seem to be totally missing my point. Whatever.

    IH: Yes, and they were consistently refusing to talk about these issues with people for whom they are relevant.

  109. R’ gill – my bad. Didn’t see your previous post at 1:13 and 1:14 to what you were referring to. And did miss your point. That being said, does organize team sports fall into this category to begin with and why broaden the category to all public entertainment? Or is this another example of halachot that we just ignore ( or say the mitziot change – like the rambam’s Halacha of women not leaving the house more than 2 or 3 times a month).

    I wouldn’t be surprise if rabbis in the yeshivah/charadei world use this source to eliminate what is perceived to be permitted.

  110. Gil –

    A school like Prospect, Masores, or even BY D’rav Meir will have a large percentage of girls whose parents are fine, upstanding Baalei Batim, but not what you’d typically think of as “Charedi.” They’re wonderful people and all but they are much more likely to have internet in the home, watch movies, kids with cellphones etc. than homes which send to YOB, BY Bensonhuerst, BY of BP, Vien, etc. or schools in Lakewood and the Chassidishe crowd. That is what I would term “Charedi” [note, I’m not defining frum]

  111. Mark- what is the difference in observance or hashkafa between the two groups. Is the first group yeshivish or-modern yeshivish?

  112. While I concede Mark’s point, I think he is being a bit too much of a Scotsman. As Ruvie points out, most of these people are simply less intense Charedi.

  113. I have 6 teens, 5 of whom were in MO schools last year. On a typical Shabbos afternoon, there are more than a dozen teens at my home, nearly all of them either MO or altogether off the derekh. I therefore think that if the group I asked didn’t hear of kids who are trying to keep “Half Shabbos” (with or without that label), it isn’t going on in this neck of the woods in any large numbers.

    That said, no one claimed this is a specifically MO phenomenon. I’m guessing that it’s going to be primarily among Open O and small communities (as opposed to RWMO and chareidim in dense O neighborhoods where the teen would feel a need to leave altogether over texting on Shabbos). But we haven’t heard anyone who knows of such kids say they actually are in much greater numbers among this community or that one.

  114. As it turns out, I’m going to tonight’s Yankees game thanks to my shmoozing up a vendor. I think the last time I went was with some Lehman RMBS bankers in the summer of 2007, just before they all got laid off. It’s a good thing I don’t self-pasken.

  115. Credit where it’s due. 🙂 Enjoy. Gil…

  116. gil – nice to see you have a sense of humor once in a while. on that gemera you quoted in avoda zara 18b….

  117. micha – i am surprise. what is your definition of otd (and teens at risk)? also, from what i understand in the mo community from teenagers (including my own) its not just texting on shabbat (computers and movies on laptops). i do think in the more right to the mo community it may be just texting. again, there are no numbers but i was shocked when my daughter estimated the percentages. i don’t think its more acceptable on oo communities than other mo communities (how many are there by the way?).

  118. Micha –

    And how do you know the MO teenagers were telling you the truth?

    BTW, were they boy teenagers, rather than girls?

    Problem is that this discussion does not seem to include anyone familiar with the scene among MO girls, where Half Shabbos” is VERY common. (Five Towns, Englewood). Especially those who go to CO-ED schools.

    (In general, boys are not as into texting).

  119. Ruvie,

    I’m not very good at these sort of definitions but if I have to generalize [and this is nothing more than a generalization that could be off base] I’d say that the Prospect, Masores crowd is less rigidly yeshivish even if their sympathies often lay with the yeshivish crowd. They’ve mostly been in the workforce for years [although some may have studied in kollell – even in Lakewood] and this has colored their shirts and perspective somewhat.
    They’re more open to college education, dressing more in line with modern trends while still conservative, nail polish etc.
    They are still very observant, give a lot of tzedakah, can be very ehrlich, study Torah daily often on a high level etc.

  120. Ruvie wrote:

    “Steve b. – Steve Brizel on June 27, 2011 at 9:15 pm
    I also wonder what is the connection between “Half Shabbos” and the quality of the Shmemiras Shabbos in the families where texting occurs. There is a huge difference between a view of Shabbos as a day of encountering HaShem Yisborach in your home, as opposed to 24 hours of dead or down time.

    Your rhetoric is neither helpful and nor is it insightful for this discussion.”

    Ruvie-wake up and smell the coffee. For many people, Shabbos is a dead zone, as opposed to a day filled with spirituality.

  121. steve b – it may be but i do not think its connected to half shabbos – that is why i ask you to stop getting on your soapbox with this rhetoric when you have no clue or facts.

  122. “For many people, Shabbos is a dead zone, as opposed to a day filled with spirituality.”

    I agree with you, Steve, believe it or not. Too much effort is placed on what one is not allowed to do and the downtime rationalization (a la the oft-quoted modern secular love of Shabbat) and not enough effort on what Shabbat should be about.

    While I know you (and most here) will disagree, my view is that new technology can make Shabbat a spiritual ta’anug. An iPad, for example, means that every Jewish home can have a library of sefarim that can be accessed at a touch when studying parshat ha’shavua or other learning; and texting/FB means that one could ask a friend to remind them of a mareh makom from the d’var torah discussed in shul. The virtualization made possible by technology can help make Shabbat more meaningful and shabbosdik.

  123. A car means that every Jewish home can easily access a synagogue to hear that dvar torah. A oven can allow one to cook fresh food for Shabbos lunch to truly appreciate oneg Shabbos and don’t even get me started on how helpful a dishwasher is to making Shabbos more meaningful and Shabbosdik, by allowing one to learn Friday night instead of washing dishes.

  124. Former YU — as discussed in other threads, we can reclaim RSZA’s halachic work on the subject to make this possible. When it is important enough, MO will.

  125. IH – I don’t mean to be offensive, but what are you smoking? Since when is having a library of sforim dependent on having the latest techno toys? And what percentage of people with techno toys will spend their time sharing mareh mekomos as opposed to sharing you tube videos or checking their emails? Your idea would IMO destroy the kedusha of Shabbos

    To everyone who has taken the time and thought to join in this conversation:

    Here’s a novel idea. Why not open a real sefer and leaf through the pages. Shabbos gains extra meaning when we are able to leave chol behind, even for just the day. No emails. No texts. No calls. No business. Spend 10 minutes on Friday choosing which sforim you would like to enjoy over Shabbos. Choose a variety – chumash, pirkei avos, hashkafa, gemara, even just maysalach to keep it light. Share something with your family at the Shabbos meals. Sing a zemer. Share your week and laugh and play with your kids. Make your meal into a tish (you don’t need a rebbe for this). Don’t rush so you can plop in your bed until 10 minutes before mincha. Your kids will learn from you. They will see the chashivus you place on Shabbos. They will hopefully internalize it. There are no guarantees, and we always must pray for syata dishmaya when it comes to our children. But we must help create the environment.

    If some or all of what I write seems simplistic – well it is. It is getting back to basics. Unfortunately, simple is denigrated in today’s change-by-the-minute world. Shabbos is our weekly opportunity to take back the simple pleasures that we are being robbed of by our fast-paced lives.

    Maybe it’s time to give it a try. Let’s go back to SHABBOS 1.0

  126. Going back to the main discussion of this thread, though, what if it turns out that there are some serious committed kids amongst the texting-on-Shabbat demographic who truly and honestly don’t see anything wrong with it?

    It doesn’t take a lot of work to find http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_on_Shabbat_in_Jewish_law to see just how halachicly complex and unclear this whole subject is.

    In all the comments, I haven’t seen anyone take seriously that one of these kids could start asking uncomfortable questions; to which the answers are, frankly, unsatisfying.

  127. IH – i hear ya but i don’t believe ya. what you are proposing is too radical and open to abuse to work – too much will be sacrificed and too little will be gained. we can easily do without texting, internet usage and techno toys for 25 hours. but i do believe that a updated halachik valuation of technology and shabbat is appropriate with all the new inovation in the last 25 years since the broyde and tzomet papers.
    that being said, electricity and chip usage will continue to be integrated into our lives and at some point it may be impossible to avoid. everyone should reread a.j. heschel’s the sabbath – it was mandatory reading in mta in my day.

    there was a time when shabbat observance and innovation came to ahead in jewish history. the middle ages and the invention of the shabbos goy – think about operating factories on shabbat or warming a room from the cold (all were assur till that time). it will again in the future – its only a matter of time.

  128. dave – i agree with you. but does this have anything to do with half shabbos?

  129. Ruvie — sounds like your disagreement amounts to timing. I agree that MO Rabbis won’t be accepting this anytime soon; but nor am I convinced they (or those commenting here) control the timing.

    To the extent the texting phenomenon is as deep, broad and uninhibited as reported, the perspective I shared already exists amongst the youth. That river in Egypt is ever present…

  130. IH – not just timing but can’t see texting, ipads, and whatnot as part of a normal religious shabbat. but i agree that laity at times lead the rabbinate but never the youth (lets not forget the gedolim (rabbinate) have failed us at major jewish transformation points in the last 300 years).

  131. Seems to me that the sustainable approach will be based on the activity rather than the technology, if the goal is to promote the spiritual purpose of Shabbat.

    Electronic technology will be so tightly coupled to the way we live, that on/off will not be a credible option. The defining melacha will be based on activity rather than the technology that may be used.

    I may be way to radical, but who would have thought 10 years ago that a Kindle or iPad would be used by so many people to read books/articles, or that one’s entire music collection would be housed on a tiny sold-state computing device? Or, for that matter that people would want to spend time sharing/debating ideas using pseudonyms on a “blog”?

  132. IH-thanks but no thanks. Dave’s comments, minus the query as to what you smoke, Former YU and Ruvie sumamrize my POV quite well. I will add that your comments on this thread are again indicative of a misreading of RSZA’s views LMaaseh, as well as the POV of RDH, who has never seen a Halacha that he won’t consider discarding if he deems the same as against contemporary wisdom or irrelevant, if it will somehow enhance “the spirit of Shabbos.” WADR, when one loses sight of the fact that Hilcos Shabbos is based on comparing any given activity, and conceptualizing in very fine detail whether the same is a Melacha, Gzerah, Melacha SheTzricha Lgufa or Eino Tzricah Lgufa, Psik Reisha or Assur because of Muktzeh or Shvus or Shabason, one jettisons or essentially discards the entire framework of Hilcos Shabbos. Again, there is no “spirit of Shabbos” with Zachor and Shamor, which is predicated on a Shevisah HaNikeres that man is not in charge of his world.

  133. IH,
    Nissan Leaf is 100% electric and so is my dishwasher. Also, for the cooking we can use a microwave.
    We can’t reclaim RSZA, he said what he said – i.e. it is assur – it is not a postmodern text that can be reclaimed by saying that since he does nto identify an issur we can read in what we want.
    OK. I am going to bite. Why do you state clearly non-Orthodox opinions on this blog as if they were Orthodox?

  134. Former YU — huh? This is a discussion about Orthodox kids using electronic gadgets on Shabbat. I didn’t raise the issue.

  135. Also, please remind me what pre-20th century technologies, as opposed to activities, are lav melachot? Indoor plumbing, perhaps?

  136. Why can one flush a toilet (which uses manufactured energy) but not read a sefer on an Kindle (which uses manufactured energy)?

    Why is the toilet not Muktzah, but the Kindle is?

  137. “We can’t reclaim RSZA, he said what he said – i.e. it is assur – it is not a postmodern text that can be reclaimed by saying that since he does nto identify an issur we can read in what we want.”

    Precisely. He wrote (and I quote from Rabbis Broyde and Jachter):

    “In my opinion there is no prohibition [to use electricity] on Shabbat or Yom Tov… There is no prohibition of ma’keh bepatish or molid… (However, I [Rabbi Auerbach] am afraid that the masses will err and turn on incandescent lights on Shabbat, and thus I do not permit electricity absent great need…) … This matter requires further analysis.
    * * * *
    However, the key point in my opinion is that there is no prohibition to use electricity on Shabbat unless the electricity causes a prohibited act like cooking or starting a flame.”

    Now, who is reading RSZA as a postmodern text?

  138. Or, Former-YU, are you calling RSZA non-orthodox?

  139. Is this a good answer?

    My stomach tells me that if we’re going to be mattir electricity, it’s going to be for something much more important than indulging teenage texting habits.

  140. I agree, Nachum. But, in my view, it is a wake-up call that the process of working through the issues needs to start sooner rather than later.

  141. The halachic justification for allowing electricity on shabbat is weaker than the justification for taking down the mechitza.

    And the issues of women’s status are deeper and more pressing than the desire to expand our Shabbat Torah library (not to mention teenagers’ desire to chat with each other nonstop).

    If we are going to reform halacha, then electricity on shabbat is not the place to start.

  142. Unfortunately, IH, the fact that it’s *begun* with texting may well keep people from even wanting to touch, say, Kindle or IPad sefarim. Perhaps similar to the situation of any good (and perhaps halakhically OK) steps taken by Conservatism and Reform in the last century that, simply because of where they came from, Orthodoxy doesn’t want to touch. I’m not saying that’s a *good* thing; I’m just describing the facts.

  143. My stomach tells me that if we’re going to be mattir electricity, it’s going to be for something much more important than indulging teenage texting habits
    ========================================
    true, but ceterus paribus, i think IH is correct that orthodoxy will (x years down the road) reevaluate – remember it was a practical issue (hearing aids) that drove r’sza’s original analysis.
    KT

  144. SD asked me: And how do you know the MO teenagers were telling you the truth?

    BTW, were they boy teenagers, rather than girls?

    Why would a kid who doesn’t keep Shabbos at all (as some of those I asked did) dissemble about kids who text but try to keep everything else?

    But also, you would have to posit some motive. Recall, I didn’t say they denied that teens text on Shabbos; I said they don’t know of kids who texted on Shabbos who didn’t entirely jettison observance within weeks.

    The group is co-ed, about 25% girls. And one of my own 6 teens is a daughter, and gave me her impressions of the community where she boards.

    (For that matter, the fact that we are in Passaic and yet have a co-ed Shabbos afternoon social scene including an active basketball hoop is much of why these kids are coming.)

  145. Shlomo – I agree, but people are not single-threaded. The role of women is evolving with serious halachic process work on all sides. Whereas, this is an issue which has taken the community by surprise; so, I believe it is a wake up call for the slow and thoughtful work that needs to be done before the issue next erupts.

    Nachum – I agree with your comments as well. My intention was not to advocate for the use of electricity per se; rather to highlight some of the am ha’artzut that needs to be socialized out over time. There needs to be alignment between the poskim and the Shul congregants (including the youth) to achieve the right end.

    R’ Joel – Thank you.

  146. Micha – i think the space of texting on shabbat(as well as other electronic use) exists – its not just in passaic (which i thought is mostly yeshivish/ modern charedei not mo – but then again anything west of the hudson is a foreign country to me[except teaneck]).

  147. At Ramaz in the early ’80s, negiah was something for the kids from the frummer schools. But it was still the official policy for school plays, which led to some rather entertaining scenes, as people avoided touching.

  148. Gil has posted 2 Jewish Week addenda on the News thread. One is a claim the demographic is smaller: “13.5 percent of Modern Orthodox youth are using cell phones on Shabbat and 15.5 percent are surfing the web.”

    But, more importantly, it continues: “Additionally troubling is that of those who claim to be fully Shabbat observant, 12.2 percent still admit to texting on Shabbat.”

  149. Which part of RSZA’s saying it is prohibited when there is no great need do you not understand? Again you seem to have reading comprehension issues!
    “Great Need” is a halachik category and as such some things might be allowed, but absent that electricity is 100% assur, according to RSZA.
    Orthodoxy believes that the reason behind the issur is irrelevant in its application. Therefore, to read RSZA as allowing electricity when not within the halachik category of “great need” is not Orthodox. Texting on Shabbos is not a “great need”, and sharing mareh makamos is not either.

  150. Former YU,
    Agreed-I think the great need will come to pass ceterus paribus – e.g. when there are common mind/machine interfaces.
    KT

  151. Gil, have you ever heard any discussion of half Shabbos in Brooklyn, or in other more chareidi neighborhoods?

  152. Sass: No

  153. Former YU — if you’re going to be insulting, at least be correct. The connecting clause is “and thus”.

  154. Dave:

    “Here’s a novel idea. Why not open a real sefer and leaf through the pages. Shabbos gains extra meaning when we are able to leave chol behind, even for just the day. No emails. No texts. No calls. No business. Spend 10 minutes on Friday choosing which sforim you would like to enjoy over Shabbos. Choose a variety”

    It’s so easy to be smugly superior. The late unlamented Jewish Observer made an art of it. Is it a disease of Jews who wear the Uniform?

    What makes you think that 90% of the commentators here aren’t already learning a bit more on Shabbos, doing a variety of activities to enhance Shabbos. Regarding your correspondents as a bunch of spiritually numb ignorami doesn’t help anything.

    IH and others are talking about enhancing the Shabbos experience, not replacing it with a world of Youtube videos and work emails.

  155. Former YU — o help you, I repeat the last whole sentence quoted by Rabbis Broyde and Jachter from RSZA:

    “However, the key point in my opinion is that there is no prohibition to use electricity on Shabbat unless the electricity causes a prohibited act like cooking or starting a flame.”

    capiche?

  156. Ceteris paribus.

    Capisce?

    More spellings of words from the Adriatic c/o your local pedant.

  157. Ruvie,

    I don’t think you’re reading what I write sufficiently carefully before replying. I’ll try to repeat more clearly:

    My data isn’t exclusively from Passaic, since my kids move in social circles that aren’t typical for Passaic.

    Second, the “space” in question is the room various communities give people who are non-compliant to still do so and remain accepted as members. Not “the space of texting”.

    Third, I didn’t say texting on Shabbos is rare — I said that “Half Shabbos”, the notion that there are numerous teens who try to keep Shabbos with the exception of their “need” to text, IM and Facebook friends, can’t be as common as those raising the hue and cry assume, or the teens I encounter would at least know of it. Texting on Shabbos is sadly common — because non-observant teens are.

    I then guessed at which communities would have a sustainable “Half Shabbos” state, but I’m only guessing. Even if my replies to people asking me to defend my hypothesis makes it sound like a think it’s a full-blown theory.

    (On the plus side, remember we’re speaking of teens, and the teenage individuation process does end. In practice, this often translates to vast majority of young adults ending their post-Israel “flipped out” period pretty close to where they were at at their bar/t mitzvah. I wonder how much damage is done by labeling a kid as “at risk” or “not shomer Shabbos”. How many would have returned from a temporary rebellion if we would not have told them this is their self-definition.)

  158. Thanbo — See: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/capiche

    It’s recognized as the US (NYC really) variant used as slang 🙂

  159. Micha – i believe we may be saying the same thing but differing on categories. if you read my post carefully i too said that i do not see just texting but would include other electronic/electricity usage done in private. i think you believe that all these kids are off the derech and i don’t unless they are eating treif and are totally mechalel shabbat in public constantly. my derech seems to be much much wider than yours but not because i am “open” – whatever that is(not a member of hir).

    also, i totally disagree about the texting plus space. again, the parents and the community at large are unaware (until recently) of what is going on (or at least to the extent it someone els’s child)to a certain degree (at least the one’s that are religious). i am not sure what you mean by being more tolerant or “accepting” that these kids think its ok (like being less tolerant and throwing the child out in the street is an option). if its only text then i believe it is to the right of the mo community (but i am not there so its only a guess).

    yes its a theory based on where you are.

  160. Micha – i also believe that today people believe they are “mo” ( or any other category) by where they daven and send their kids to day school regardless of their exact observant. its identity they choose as oppose to their acts that necessarily define them. i am not saying that i agree with this but this has been going on for decades in the way people relate to their religion.

  161. IH asked :

    “Why can one flush a toilet (which uses manufactured energy) but not read a sefer on an Kindle (which uses manufactured energy)?

    Why is the toilet not Muktzah, but the Kindle is”

    I think that a solid case can be made that a toilet filled with its customary contents is Graf Shel Rai-which one is permitted to move from one’s house.

  162. IH-WADR, you are parsing RSZA’s words to suit your conclusion-the key is “great need” and the absence thereof. Given that very prominent modifier-one can easily distinguish between the work performed by Tzomet for medical professionals and the disabled and someone sitting in the comfort of their house.

  163. No Steve, you don’t understand. “Tzorech gadol” means giving in to teenage predilections. It could also mean keeping up with the latest technology, or enhancing Shabbos by ensuring that I can read a million seforim on kindle instead of picking up just one, bulky, printed sefer…which reminds me, I am surprised nobody mentioned that going green and saving trees by learning on kindle instead of a hard sefer is also a tzorech gadol. Environmentalism hasn’t even entered this discussion yet?

  164. Sorry, I just posted after reading the JO.

  165. Not so much the need to read 1 million seforim (clearly guzma, even the big archives only have in the tens of thousands), as the ability to look something up the same way one can during the week. “I know it says somewhere in Shabbos that X”, so you can do a Bar-Ilan search for it if touch-screens were OK. Rather than the usual laborious process of finding the topic in the Rambam, hunting through Kesef Mishna to see where it quotes the Gemara, then going to the Gemara and skimming the page (and one or two pages either side, because often those page references have a typo) until you find what you’re looking for.

    Or is this just a case of “lefum tzaara agra” overriding bitul zman?

  166. IH, I take it your view of halacha is about the same as Tamar Ross’?

  167. Thanbo wrote:

    “Not so much the need to read 1 million seforim (clearly guzma, even the big archives only have in the tens of thousands), as the ability to look something up the same way one can during the week. “I know it says somewhere in Shabbos that X”, so you can do a Bar-Ilan search for it if touch-screens were OK. Rather than the usual laborious process of finding the topic in the Rambam, hunting through Kesef Mishna to see where it quotes the Gemara, then going to the Gemara and skimming the page (and one or two pages either side, because often those page references have a typo) until you find what you’re looking for.

    Or is this just a case of “lefum tzaara agra” overriding bitul zman”

    Who says that the kind of Bekius is an overriding consideration? How about being an Oker Harim? Mere Bekius without the Amelus that enables a Talmid Chacham to be Mdameh Milsa LMilsa is nice, but the Ramban has a legendary and very critical comment about someone who merely has a photographical memory.

    I would add that it goes without saying that Lfum Tzaaa Agra is definitely one of the more elements of the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah. Looking up a Kesef Mishnah to see where Rambam quotes a Gemara strikes me as one of the more easier things to do when one is learning.

  168. One last time. The sentence in its entirety (in R. Broyde & Jachter’s translation):

    “However, I [Rabbi Auerbach] am afraid that the masses will err and turn on incandescent lights on Shabbat, and thus I do not permit electricity absent great need.”

    And the original Hebrew is in the last full paragraph in the first column at: http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=15096&st=&pgnum=112&hilite

  169. Thanbo wrote in part:

    “IH and others are talking about enhancing the Shabbos experience, not replacing it with a world of Youtube videos and work emails”

    The above sounds very similar and as equally unconvincing IMO as the often advanced rationale for keeping a Y or JCC open on Shabbos.

  170. IH: Read the paragraph! RSZA is not referring to turning on and off incandescent lights but turning on and off the electricity (as opposed to adjusting a pre-existing current as is done in a hearing aid).

    He might have said what Rabbis Broyde and Jachter said elsewhere but not in that paragraph.

    Last full paragraph in the first column at: http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=15096&st=&pgnum=112&hilite

  171. I think you are misunderstanding “להדליק ולכבות את התשמל בשבת” (or Rabbis Broyde and Jachter are).

  172. IH quoted the following verbatim excerpted language of RSZA:

    “However, I [Rabbi Auerbach] am afraid that the masses will err and turn on incandescent lights on Shabbat, and thus I do not permit electricity absent great need.”

    Ain Haci Nami-what is the purported great need other than your claim that we should “revisit” the Psak of RSZA?

  173. Just to be clear, I was being taken to task for my reading of the English syntax; so, I decided to check the Hebrew to see if the clauses are as I thought.

    I have not read the Hebrew psak in its entirety. I suspect that one needs to become familiar with the language RSZA uses to distinguish among the different types of electrical objects and the energy source itself.

    That said, reading “להדליק ולכבות את התשמל בשבת” as the general case doesn’t fit the context; whereas, the rendering by Rabbis Broyde and Jachter does fit the context.

    That he may have said what they render elsewhere doesn’t help because this paragraph would then be a contradiction to their point, which seems unlikely given the authors’ skills.

  174. Steve — you continue to miss the point (and the syntax).

  175. Try this, Steve:

    I [Rabbi Auerbach] do not permit electricity on Shabbat (which is not a lav melacha) — absent great need — because I am afraid that the masses will err and turn on incandescent lights on Shabbat (which is a lav melacha m’de’orayta).

  176. Here’s the whole paragraph, translated line by line:

    It seems clear according to this that IMHO it seems that in such a manner one has neither
    accomplished ignition nor extinguishment if one simply connects the
    telephone with the current there is no [reason] to forbid it on Shabbat or Y”T neither because of
    “final hammer-blow” nor because of “new creation”. (However I figure that most people
    will not understand this distinction, and can therefore make a mistake as if to say
    that it is also permitted to ignite or extinguish the electricity on Shabbat, and therefore
    even according to us we cannot permit this without a great reason,
    and similarly we have found in Sh’eilat Yaavetz above that even though he thinks
    that setting a clock on Shabbat is similar to opening and closing a lock, which is permitted, even so
    he wrote that practically it is correct to be strict because it will look to others like he’s fixing something.

    So we have him apparently permitting one to connect a phone to the line (current) on Shabbat. But he says that this may lead people to turning on & off the “chashmal” on Shabbat. Since connecting a phone to the line *is* turning the phone on & off (the line has its own 45V power, independent of the electric company, and is always on, so that the phone will ring when it gets a signal on the “ring” line – thus, connecting a phone to the wall IS turning it on), turning on & off the “chashmal” must be something else. What is it, given the paucity of electrical appliances at the time (radios, a few washing machines, I think most people didn’t have home refrigerators until after the War, I know my grandparents didn’t and they were pretty well off), if not the clearly assur activity of the electric light? That would explain R Broyde/Jachter’s reading.

    Alternatively, if we are talking about simply picking up / putting down the phone, then we aren’t talking about “turning on/off”. So, RSZA is saying “absent great need, we can’t let people do some lesser activity lest it lead to turning appliances on & off”, so what’s the lesser activity? Adjusting/using the appliance.

    In which case, that justifies use of contemporary phones/E-readers, which use so little power that you never turn them off. And similarly, turning the volume up/down on a radio would be completely muttar under this reading, without the need for a “tzorech godol”.

  177. IH-WADR, even your interpretation of the complete quote from RSZA shows a parsing to suit your preordained conclusion. Where is the “great need”, other than in the related contexts of medicine and the work of Tzomet, that you refer to as being evident that warrants a “revisiting” of RSZA’s Psak that one should not turn on lights or use electricity?

  178. Steve — thank you for your opinion.

  179. Thanbo: RSZA was not talking about plugging a phone into the wall but using a phone that is already plugged in. He said that it can be used in a case of great need.

    I am not as sure as you that turning an e-reader on from sleep mode is equivalent to picking up a telephone rather than turning on or off the electricity. If it is the former, then RSZA permits it ONLY in a case of great need.

  180. Gil — perhaps, on our behalf, you can check with Rabbi Broyde?

  181. [I mean about the translation of the RSZA text]

  182. Gil — again, your reading seems off. How does “אם מחבר רק את
    הטלפון עם הזרם אין לאסור בשבת” translate — as you claim — to ” RSZA was not talking about plugging a phone into the wall but using a phone that is already plugged in.”?

  183. BTW, the assumption RSZA later makes about answering the telephone is generally not true in VOIP/mobile to VOIP/mobile calls as they are not switched (but packetized through connections that are always on). There are remnants of switched circuits in landline telephony, but this is not for too many more years (due to legacy telephone switch maintenance costs).

  184. IH-I thank you for your comment, which I trust was serious, as opposed to being either sarcastic or worse in intent-my question remains unanswered-where is the purported “great need” that RSZA mentioned as being necessary to even discuss the issue?

  185. Steve — it was serious. We cannot agree on the language, so that conversation is at a standstill. But, it turns out the Hebrew is even more tantalizing as per the messages above. At the end of the day, it is RSZA’s original Hebrew that is the key to the puzzle.

  186. former yu – “Orthodoxy believes that the reason behind the issur is irrelevant in its application. ”

    agreed. but isn’t it important why its assur? haven’t we seen that certain halachot change – their practice or application – over time to what is acceptable and what is assur? it doesn’t mean it can’t in the future – not that i am advocating that here (i am not) but there is a history of the halachik process. it is also possible that in the future a posek will use the rsza teshuva as a building block to permit certain usage of electricity – depending what is in our future. lets not forget pre wwII many orthodox jews used electricity on yom tov (with the approval of their rabbis).

  187. I don’t understand how over the centuries became great talmidei chochomim without e-readers, kindle, etc. They became talmidei chochomim, and some became gedolei Yisroel because of their yegiah, the effort it took to work over a sugya, physically get up and look in a sefer, open many seforim. Its that “laborious” process that was necessary to access learning on a high level. Just because technology is changing our lives so that everything moves faster and easier in process, doesn’t mean torah study has to keep up. I find IH and Thanbo’s incessant harping on keeping up with technology rather worrisome for the future of Yiddishkeit.

  188. Ruvie: haven’t we seen that certain halachot change – their practice or application – over time to what is acceptable and what is assur?

    I believe that this assertion is too broad and therefore woefully inaccurate. But let’s say that you are right. What message does it send? First, that halakhah is not *in effect* a divine command but is subject to us. We determine halakhah, not God. While it is true that “lo ba-shamayim hi”, that is a very limited concept.

    Second, anything goes. If you want to do something, do it and then find a way to justify it. Ultimately, that is what is so appalling about the suggestions that single women go to the mikvah or married men acquire pilagshim in addition to their wives (which I know we are not discussing here). In addition to the halakhic objections, the attitude to is offensive to the entire halakhic system.

    Kids want to push limits and break a few rules by texting on Shabbos. That’s one thing. But when adults (and rabbis) start trying to halakhically justify their behavior, that sends a disastrous message to the teens. I believe that any rabbi who — in today’s context — hems and haws about texting rather than giving a straight “assur” answer (with plenty of explanation and backup texts) is acting irresponsibly. Even if you can kvetch a heter, doing so in this context is irresponsible because of the message it sends, as above.

  189. Dear Thanbo

    I was not trying to be either smug or superior. In fact, I even noted that what I was saying was rather simple, so perhaps it slipped under the radar of an Oiker Horim such as your yourself. And I was not attempting to preach to an obviously learned crowd.

    In fact, my post had a lot more to do with the underlying topic of “half-shabbos”. I had a conversation with my 21 year old son in the car last week about this very topic. He is yeshiva background and a university student who is well technologically connected as are most of his age. (Me? – I’m a neanderthal, don’t have a cell phone – I know, you’re jealous:))

    He had not heard of the half-shabbos phenominon, but said it would not shock him. Throughout his yeshiva years he was aware of teens who were into all sorts of things keneged halacha, like smoking on Shabbos (perhaps they were just enhancing their oneg shabbos and rolling up old mareh mekomos)etc. His opinion was that in virtually every case he knew, the parents of those teens were absolutely clueless as to what their kids were all about. They were sleeping the day away while the kids were who knows and who cares where. If they glimpsed them in or near shul, not even necessarily davening, they were happy that they had fulfilled their parental responsibility to chinuch. Then they could continue talking in shul without giving it another thought.

    So the answer to the problem, in my lowly opinion, is not finding ways to alter halacha in order to accede to the whims of the confused teens who “have” to text their friend, OMG! It is not to find a new halacha to clean up the mess of the clueless and lazy parents who seem helpless to connect to their kids. Because even saying that electricity is muttar on Shabbos (anyone have a problem with an av melacha called “koseiv”?) will not alleviate the real problem here – that these kids don’t feel a connection to Shabbos or to Yiras Shomayim.

    So Mr. Thanbo, you can take your aspersions of “smugly superior” and denigration of those of us who wear the “uniform” and don’t speak Latin like someone of your obvious eloquence, erudition and esteem. You can twist yourself into a pretzel to make it ok to use your precious techno-toys on shabbos. I’ll stick to a simple Shabbos Hayom Lashem. Boog luck to our children.

  190. What a sad view of both the halachic process and kids… Sigh.

  191. 10:28am was commenting on Gil’s 10:22am comment, to be clear.

  192. That would be good luck to our children. Middle age eyes.

  193. I just had an exchange with Rabbi “Itchie” Lowenbraun of AJOP. He says I’m totally off — “Half Shabbos” is more a Lakewood phenomenon than Open O or any flavor of Mod-O. All my hypothesizing aside, that WOULD explain why my kids haven’t encountered them.

  194. There are two issues here that I feel need to be separated out. Many of the commentators seem to me to be eliding them. On the one hand, there’s the issue of texting on Shabbas, absent any justification. On the other, the question of half-shabbos, that is, a framework in which texting (and perhaps other activities?) are seen as not being entirely antithetical to Shabbas observance. As a number of people have pointed out, this is what is so interesting in the data from the YU study. A significantly larger number of students admit to texting on Shabbas than admit to not observing. It’s clear that for this group of people (which seems to be fairly insignificant. I somehow doubt they’re attempting to justify this by means of going back to RSZA’s ikkar ha-din view of electricity, or by using any other technical halakhic reasoning. The very fact that they call it “Half-Shabbos” (whatever that means) shows that they see it as less than full observance. But that they keep the other half, as they see it, means that they aren’t simply rebelling.

    Given all of that, the question of how to react to this is hard to judge. We need more that just quantitative data on how many kids are involved in this (and the YU study, at least the data they’ve put out, is a good start, but that’s all it is). We need qualitative data on how they understand what they’re doing. Is there a self-conscious justification (philosophical or halakhic, though I suspect the former is more likely than the latter)? What are they using it for? To meet up on Shabbos afternoon? Just to talk/share information? Frankly, I find the addiction language to be overwrought, but that’s an angle that needs to be examined too. Do they do it because they feel they can’t stop? Because not being in touch with their friends at a distance is too hard? Are they using it for long distance communication with friends in other communities or just with friends whom they could see in shul/at home on shabbos?

    Now, maybe it’s so marginal that it isn’t worth devoting the effort to find all this stuff out. But if we really want to understand what’s going on,those are the kinds of questions that need to be answered.

  195. Jesse — I appreciate your trying to untangle the overlapping issues. Let me suggest an enhancement:

    1. Case study of Jews who use e-communication (e.g. texting, Facebook) on Shabbat because they do not care about that aspect of Shabbat observance due either to rebellion or lack of stricture about normative Orthodox practice. An older example of this may be smoking on Shabbat.

    2. Case study of Jews who use e-communication (e.g. texting, Facebook) on Shabbat because they are generally shomer Shabbat to normative Orthodox standards, but honestly feel their use of e-communication is legitimate despite lack of Rabbinic approval. An older example of this might be Jews who use the elevator on Shabbat and press the buttons themselves.

    3. Case study of how Orthodoxy grapples with new technology within the halachic process, which is where the RSZA ikkar ha-din view comes into play (and is admittedly my own primary interest). This issue abstracts the e-communication example into a broader view where the use of the technology is relevant: e.g. using an iPad/Kindle to learn vs. texting to be social.

    It also turns out to be a friction point about hermeneutics, which is also an underlying issue in the RWMO vs. LWMO debate. While I have seen this play out a number of times along those boundaries, this is the first time where I have seen Gil disagree with Rabbi Broyde (and Jachter) on the meaning of a 20th century text written in modern Hebrew which I don’t think would think is RWMO vs. LWMO.

  196. IH-

    I’m not sure these are separate case studies yet, because I’m not convinced that we actually know who is doing what and why. Your list is a bit premature, I think. We can’t list specific reasons why people are doing things, until we ask them, which we haven’t done. Let me list the facts,as we know them (according the data found at http://www.yuschoolpartnership.org/student-support/religion-and-spirituality/70-articles/299-teen-texting

    17.7% of teens surveyed admit to texting on Shabbat, with anouther 4.7% ambivalent (Does that mean that they text and feel bad about it? Struggle with the urge to text? Unclear)

    10% admit to breaking shabbat in public, with another 5.4% ambivalent.

    13.5% also use cell phones on Shabbos

    15.5% go on the internet on Shabbos

    Note that none of that date necessarily points to a concept of “half Shabbos.” (I’m backing off a little bit of what I said in my previous comment, now that I’ve looked me closely at the data) It is totally consistent with students believing that texting, cellphones and the internet are absolutely assur on shabbos, but they are more easily able to use them in private, where they won’t get caught. “In public” is an important part of the question as asked. All we have for “half shabbos” is a bunch of anecdata. It is suggestive when combined with the survey results, but we need to be very careful in applying it.

    Moving back to your comment, IH, while those are all possible conceptual frameworks for understanding the data, it is absolutely unclear if any of them are actually being used by the groups we’re talking about. In as much as we’re interested in understanding what’s going on here, we need more survey data, not guesses.

  197. Jesse — on the survey, I agree; see IH on June 30, 2011 at 11:09 am in the News & Links thread. That said, there is sufficient anecdotal evidence in the comments both here and in Dr. Brill’s blog posts to justify the segmentation, in my view.

    Note also that in the summary you linked, the authors assert: “The mean for texting on Shabbos (1.18) was significantly higher than that for those who violate Shabbos in public (.88) implying that significantly more adolescents than just those who violate are texting on Shabbos (using paired samples t-test)”

  198. Gil – you are probably right about the broadness of my statement above but I did not want to drag it into the details while in general – with of course exceptions – I believe it’s truer than false. The message you stated I think is correct – we determine Halacha – at least from chazal onward and Hashem accepts it ( do I need to quote rambam, ramban, ran,ritva and chavot yair on the halachik process- did that once before [ getting old and don’t remember which was what without hitting e books when not at home]). I do not understand why you think lo bashamayim is so limited – no I am not advocating anarchy and overthrow of halachik guidelines either.

    Nor do I believe anything goes or as RAL calls it ” when there is a will there is a way” aspect to Halacha. Surely, there is a happy medium – which existed pre modern times and has existed in mo going back to whatever gadol you would like to. Don’t understand the references to single woman and mikveh and pilagshim – nothing to do with what we are discussing here. Halachik process is historically observationally based while we know that any given psak maybe ahistorical ( actually this gives more flexibility to the posek which may not be
    intuitive).
    I agree that adults are fundamentally flawed in trying to find a heater for what kids are doing. One has nothing to do with the other – IMHO- here. Texting on Shabbat is halachikally impermissible. But that does not mean it can’t change one day based on some other reason since there is no real torah or rabbinic law being broken ( assuming that the technicalities on kativa are overcome via technology). Nor do I think it currently should – I do not. But what message do you send to kids when you overstate the matter a la hatam soferim logic and try to make certain acts impermissible for shady logic? There are consequences both ways. Is it smart to increase the height of our walls in our enclave? Will that save us from the world around us?

    There are 2 separate issues here that need to be separated: changing nature – or adaptability- of Halacha and young adults doing issur malacha on Shabbat.

    A perfect example of Halacha changing is the bat mitzvah. The first yeshiva written in 1927 declared it assur m’deoriata. Things eventually changed – people’s attitudes changed and it was the laity. Not the rabbis that led the change – that is history and the halachik process.

  199. Correction above: last paragraph should read: first teshuva written ….
    Hate this iPads self correcting spelling mistakes.

  200. Jesse A: Or, a sizable fraction of of the 7.7% who admit to texting on Shabbos but won’t admit to breaking Shabbos in public are just not admitting how far they’ve strayed. In both cases, I’m figuring that the majority of the misreporting are kids trying to minimize their own distance from O. (And also, the TINY percentage of C and R schools contributed a population that was entirely in both statistics. Last, not everyone in an O school comes from an O home.)

    I would therefore say that Half-Shabbos is apparently at most 7.7% of today’s teens from MO homes and quite probably far far less, whereas a minimum of 10% are off the derekh.

    Meanwhile, R’ “Itchie” Lowenbraun of AJOP told me he is convinced that Half-Shabbos is more of an issue in Lakewood than Teaneck. But YU’s survey was 91% teens in MO High Schools.

  201. Micha – i think the numbers from the survey are worthless since they are old and the phenom is less than 5 years and has only gained momentum in the last 3 (when was the survey?). lets not forget that grouping all the kids as mo and their parents as well is incorrect (questionable methodology). to extrapolate will only lead to faulty conclusions – see former yu’s comments on this or the other thread. also, how are you defining off the derekh ?

  202. IH-thanks for your response. I would suggest that you also check out many of the Seforim from RSZA’s talmidim such as Shulchan Shlomoh, R Nevenzal’s sefer as well as Orchos Chaim, the latest edition of SSK, as well as Orchos Shabbos, a three volume compendium on Hilcos Shabbos-just to see how RSZA’s Psak has not been viewed therein as a basis for a wholesale revisiting of Psak Halacha, but, at best, a Snif LHakel in cases of great need.

  203. Dave and Former YU-I agree with your responses. Far too many parents, regardless of their hashkafa, are merely seen as banks with two legs, by their teens today.

    FWIW, Micha’s response confirms that texting on Shabbos knows no hashkafic boundaries.

  204. My contentions are, regarding the phone vs. modern electronic gear:

    if RSZA was saying “plug in the phone only with great need”, then surely using the phone is a lesser problem, so it could be done absent great need.

    if RSZA was saying “pick up the phone only with great need” (and this must be something less than pikuach nefesh, because that’s a category that’s doche shabbos independent of the kli being for a melacha or not), then again, if picking up the phone creates the circuit, then that’s again analogous to turning an electric device on & off, not to adjusting it. Which leaves my great-uncle’s radio volume control permissible, and similarly the buttons on my e-reader, if I left it on before Shabbos.

  205. Steve b – as you know it doesn’t matter how rsza’s students view his psak… It matters how a later Posek will interpret it in a new or old way if he so desires. That is the Halachik process.

  206. Ruvie-WADR, we disagree. When it comes to Psak, it is especially and extremely relevant how the talmidim muvhakim of any Adam Gadol,such as RSZA or RYBS, understand the POV of their rebbe, before it is distorted or misinterpreted bgy others who were not talmidim of that Adam Gadol in any way. Twisting the Psak of any Adam Gadol in the manner of a pretzel so that it cannot be reconciled with the POV of the author is IMO at best Pilpul but hardly evidence of the Halachic process at work and may even be evident of a lack of understanding or distortion of the same.

  207. steve b. – you misunderstood what i wrote. when a later gadol or a posek comes and uses a previous shut he quotes the teshuva and either supports or demolishes the proofs there in. he doesn’t quote (usually)someone’s interpretation of it as the original meaning. the tshuva stands on its own internal logic perceived by the later posek. there is no twisting etc. if you disagree please provide some examples – we are talking about poskim and halacha – no philosophy.

  208. I realize my comments are coming late – hope some will have time to read/respond.

    First of all – this is an excellent post about the potential sanctity of shabbat and an insightful comment of how it changes the whole demeanor of the week.

    Second – I think Mr. Aronin’s observation that most of the comments on The Jewish Week and other blogs are about the technical halachic issues is accurate. I also think it points to one of the roots of the problem. Our teens have grown up overwhelmingly aware of the technical aspects of shabbat, but they are lacking in the qualitative issues. For that, I believe we have none to blame but ourselves for our complacency, our not engaging them in shabbat meals (how many of us have our kids at the table when we have guests?), not infusing our meals with holiness, not paying up to have teen programs on shabbat for our kids, keeping them from engaging non-religious kids in settings like NCSY etc.

    Maybe this will be a wake up call? If not, we are in even bigger trouble.

  209. The Sabbath was made for man (and beast), not machines. I find it rather stupid when a site like artscroll turns off its ecommerce capabilites and displays a message “This website rests for the Sabbath.” No it doesn’t. The server is still running! If it was really resting, I would get a 404 error saying “this site cannot be reached.” If the server sends me a response “Sorry I’m resting for the Sabbath” then its still running, not resting at all. The machine is still on, still using the same electricity, still responding to hits from users. It isn’t doing ecommerce, but it isn’t resting either. It would be like if you closed your stored, but you sat there and answered the phone so when I called you picked up and said “sorry, we’re closed; I’m resting for the Sabbath.” Really, then why are you in the store answering the phone to tell me you’re resting? But we’re talking about a machine. Couldn’t the silly computer take my order for that book on the Sabbath and then the people just wait to do anything with it until the Sabbath is over? Its silly. I guess now, on the Sabbath, you have to unplug your wall clock so it can rest. Go and switch your breaker off so all the wires in your house can rest. Make sure not to leave air conditioner on; it needs a rest. The Sabbath was made for man (and beast), not machines

  210. And teens by nature avoid work. They’ll send a text on the sabbath or call a friend, but if your number shows you’re calling for work, even if they’re Gentiles, they aint answering.

  211. Some have commented that the real issur here is writing. But if words appear ephemerally on a screen and then disappear forever into cyberspace — never becoming actual physical representations — is that really in the category of the av m’lakha?
    What is more troubling is the MO mentality that it is better not to condemn the prohibited behavior; rather, it should be tolerated until the “sinner” learns that the true beauty of observing Shabbat is more rewarding than violating it. As long as a person is still considered OTD, some actions can be overlooked.

    L’havdil, this is a symptom of an all-too prevalent attitude that has been applied to much more heinous acts. I am reminded of the statements issued by MO leaders when American Orthodox mitnahalim murdered and assassinated innocent Palestinians in the West Bank (or should I say Judea and Samaria?). The “rabbis” never vilified them as terrorists to be outcast from the community; instead, as long as they were shomer mitzvot (like observing the Sabbath now being desecrated by texting) — or, in modern parlance, still OTD — they were officially “good boys whose deeds were unfortunately misguided.”

    As for the “spirituality” gained by studying in Israel — is it not more important to worry about these texters being sent to study in Israeli yeshivot who openly preach disobeying Israeli law in the name of establishing illegal yishuvim in “liberated” territories?

  212. Turns out my teens do move in the same circles as Julia and Chani, the girls interviewed for the story in The Jewish Week. I had a chance to ask them about it on Shabbos afternoon. They themselves never heard of “Half Shabbos” nor met kids who were texting but otherwise committed to Shabbos, except perhaps as a first step out the door. Chani complained about how badly her words were reduced to snippets and then manipulated.

  213. I think that you’re wrong, dear author, with your implication here: “Those technical discussions may have some value as Torah study, but in this context they are mostly beside the point. The world of Torah will not be seriously undermined by some rebellious teenagers testing limits by using up-to-date media (with which they are more familiar than their parents) to communicate with each other on Shabbat.”
    Such a statement assumes that the halachik debates on the internet are absolutely moot and further debate will not reveal everything. Apparently, you know all the answers to torah; care to share your opinions on various chok?

  214. how does texting during kedusha compare to texting during (shabbos) kiddush? is this just chickens coming home to roost?

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