(by Christopher Fredrickson aka Rabbi Eh'bed Baw'naw)
Living for Hashem requires a life of constant personal growth we must always seek out tikkun (personal correction) in our theology, and in life in general through the embodiment of Torah principles. It is good to do an hour of hitbodedut (self secluded time of prayer and conversation with Hashem) each an every day. We must battle our yetzer hara (evil inclination) every morning and also every night. It is good to study the Torah, Ketuvim, Nevi'im and Brit Chadasha as well as the words of the sages on a daily basis. For it is written:
"Study to show yourself approved......."
(2 Timothy 2:15)
For years I have been using social media and the internet to share my research, a little chochmah (wisdom) and a little da'as (knowledge) from the things I have learned in this journey to help those whom have had questions and to help people apply the mitzvios (commandments) of G-d. I used to have to spend countless hours on social media, email, and other things internet based. And the fact is, I was unable to run from thousands who wished to be constantly connected. Many times I would be in hitbodedut prayer and I would hear my iPhone, or my iPad or laptop sending me notifications that someone wished to speak to me via social media such as facebook, skype, email, text message, etc. Several times, with the worry that something might have been important, I would cut my prayers short to check these messages. I realized several hours of my day, in my free time, was absorbed by modern technology. My prayer life suffered, my studying suffered, my daily battle against the yetzer hara suffered. And I soon realized the yetzer hara was winning this battle.
We have all been on the internet, checking facebook or surfing the internet and get sidetracked, we see something that looks interesting and we click on it and read it or watch a video that seems to bring a great revelation about a news story or of something that interests us in some way. And then we realize, "oh no I was supposed to be asleep hours ago to be up in time for work", or "oh my goodness it is only an hour to shabbos and the house isn't clean and the dinner is not made" we have seen this happen. When this happens the yetzer hara wins out, because it takes us away from advancing in our observance, and it keeps us from fulfilling mitzvios.
Many use the excuse that they use the internet mainly to research the Scriptures or the words of the sages and only watch teachings or listen to teachings and they use it for educational purposes. And the fact is there are many great resources out there such as Nazarene Media, or YeshuaCast or NazFlix or Ahavat Ammi, or One Faith One People Ministries, etc there are undeniably some great resources out there on the internet. They may be far and in between but the fact is they are there. But at the same time, despite if they are getting good information on the internet or bad information (and lets be honest there is more bad information than good information on the internet) is irrelevant because observance of mitzvios is doing as opposed to just learning for the sake of knowledge. For what good would the greatest mind in the world if the individual with the greatest mind in the world didn't apply what it is he knew and put his knowledge to good use? It would be a waste. The same is true with our faith, we can speak all day about the two most important commandments, which is to love Hashem and love your neighbor, but if you are not face to face with people how can we apply this mitzvos fully? The fact is we can't and it would be impossible.
For roughly 7 years of this journey, until about a month ago when I left social media and radio so I could apply what it is I had taught for several years, I mainly was in this weird vacuum of internet teaching and there is this weird Twilight Zone dimension that is internet ministry. The reason I say this, is because when I closed down my facebook account and other social media accounts on December 16th, 2014 I through myself into serving flesh and blood people in my community by becoming the rabbi of Kehilat Melech Mashyach in Morganton, North Carolina. I went back to school to pursue my degree in special needs education, and I was sucked out of the weird vacuum of the internet by conversing across the desk or across the table from people and serving them, and it was a world of difference than doing it on the internet. I was able to apply more by limiting my internet time and realizing that hitbodedut comes first, servitude with my two hands and actual people comes second, and my study comes third. Checking email, or any of that became a lower priority and I found it to be much easier to battle the yetzer hara and I was better able to fulfill the mitzvos of chesed (loving kindness) much better than I was previously able to. I was able to see a real difference in my spiritual condition, and I didn't even realize my spiritual condition was wounded until I took that step of prioritizing and limiting myself. There is also another layer to this as well.
When we engage in social media the words of others have an affect on the universe as we know from our sages and from the book of Mishlei (18:21). Every word, positive and negative continues to exist in the cosmos thousands of years after they are spoken. The power of chayyim (life) and mevet (death) are within the power of the lashon (tongue). Our words, spoken and written have amazing power and spiritual attachment that can affect your shalom bayis (peace in the home). When we argue on social media or even see negative comments to someone else, an unedifying word jumps out from that computer screen or that cell phone and it affects the person who reads it in a negative way, it is like an airborne virus, those negative words, and they then infect those who read them. They may not start to feel the affects of it immediately, they may even forget about it a few minutes later, but like an airborne virus it has already made it's way into the immune system and the bacteria grows slowly and undetected then something happens and the person infected with the virus then spreads the same virus onto others.
"Put on the whole armor of Hashem for you to able to stand against the nechalim (scheming deceitfulness, wiles, evil plots) of HaSatan. Because we are not wrestling against basar vadahm (flesh and bloof), but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of the choshech of the Olam Hazeh, against the kokhot ruchaniyim ra'im (evil spiritual forces) in Shomayim.
"And you being dead in your peysha'im and chatta'im, in which you amol fier zich according to course of the Olam Hazeh, according to the Sar Memshelet HaAvir, the ruach now working in the b'nei haMeri"
Am I saying that each person reading this needs to totally disband from the internet and social media? Of course not, but however it is important to realize that the yetzer hara of another has the ability to jump and affect others as does chesed, and anything tov as well. It is important for believers in Mashyach to limit their "technology time". Setting strict guidelines to advance the nefesh (soul) is a part of Jewish life. There are certain things we don't do that are prohibited in Torah and tradition....why? Because as Rav Sha'ul said:
"All things are lawful? But not all things beneficial; All things are lawful. But not all things edify"
(1 Corinthians 10:23)
Some of the guidelines I have set for myself that have increased my emuna, as well as my ahavah, and chesed is setting designated times for certain things when I am not at work. As a diabetic of course there are certain things like eating schedules and things of that nature. But also like a child, I give myself a designated allowance of time on the internet, I have a set amount of time in my day towords hitbodedut, towards study, etc. It is also good to limit cell phone usage and set your phone to not allow any sort of notifications to come through during certain times of the day except for text messages and phone calls which could be important. Because as technology increases and we become more reliant on our gadgets; the fact is we are more apt to unknowingly feed the yetzer hara with things that are not beneficial and we starve the yetzer tov because we do not do the things that are beneficial because of our distractions. It is a cleaver trick by that of both the internal and external adversary.
It is important to also realize that any such thing unedifying that may pop up on your computer screen, whether it be an argument between 2 or more people, or something sexual from a pop up, or maybe even a movie you watch on your computer, phone, tablet or television can manifest hara and can manifest tov. Now, I am also not advocating for a person to get rid of their television either, some think that if they get rid of their television but have the internet they are better off, which actually is not the case, because you can control what you watch on television but you cannot control what pops up on a news feed on your social media accounts.
Setting limits, I can say will help you advance in your personal growth, and in your da'as, mussar, ahavah and chesed, when you control the access that foreign elements that are contradictory to these things in your life and do not allow them to attach themselves to your bayis. Initiate restraint, research and grow using hitbodedut and from hardback books will take you much further than surfing blogs and youtube videos.
Theological Insights from Rabbi Eved Banah at Beit Geulah in Morganton, NC (www.BeitGeulah.com)