If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll know that I’ve been writing about – and struggling with – internet addiction for as long as ‘www’ has been a word.

Although strictly speaking, that’s not true, because before I decided to quit my job 10 years ago, there was no real struggle: the internet had eaten me up, body, mind and soul. Once I realized just how bad my preoccupation with the net was for me and my whole family, I got the internet out of my house, and went cold turkey.

Over the next 6 years or so, I mostly had it mostly sidelined. I’d go to the local library to upload things and gorge myself on geula sites and a bit of news twice a week, but it was manageable – and I have to tell you, I got a lot of other stuff done over that time, mostly hidden in my home and internally, but still a lot.

Then for a lot of different reasons, the internet came back via a plug-in internet stick, and the internet addiction also started to creep back in under the guise of all this ‘important’ stuff that we were now doing online.

But it was kind of manageable still, until the middle of last year, when our disastrous house purchase blew up, blasting my last ounce of spiritual strength away with it.

The internet addiction roared back, and I found myself obsessively checking earthquake sites, and geula blogs, and even the occasional Youtube video or documentary.

And there was nothing I could really do about it, because there was a big, gaping hole where things like ‘satisfaction’, and ‘peace of mind’ and ‘real happiness’ should have been, but just weren’t. So all that internet stuff was my escape out of a reality that I really didn’t want to be in any more, but couldn’t see a way out of.

To put it another way: I gave up.

Of course, all still with the plug-in stick, and what I’m describing as ‘internet addiction’ probably wouldn’t even register on the radar for a lot of people, but for me, I understood that I’d got to a very low place, spiritually.

Then I had that awful experience erev Rosh Hashana, when someone who had previously been quite friendly all of a sudden did an ‘Anakin Skywalker’ and went over to the dark side. She sent me an email a few hours before Rosh Hashana began that upset me so much, it nearly threw my whole Rosh Hashana over to the forces of evil.

I wonder if she has even an inkling of the huge amount of damage and pain she caused me, with her five line email?

All of a sudden, I realized that most of the people I’d been ‘hanging out with’ in cyberspace where anonymous psychos that I actually knew next to nothing about. And that threw me for another loop, because if I hadn’t been interacting with real people, then who the heck was I actually dealing with?!

This thought creeped me out in a way that’s hard to explain, but I think it comes back down to that lack of authenticity.

I felt like I’d been participating in some warped, geula-fuelled version of The Sims for the last few years.

Anyway, straight after Rosh Hashana I deleted my blog in an attempt to avoid getting pulled into any more machloket online, and I also permanently blocked every single geula blog I’d been looking at from my PC. I figured,

maybe, this was God’s way of telling me to stop blogging, and to go and do something else, something better.

So I tried, I really did, to find those other things. I bought a new painting set, I tried to do a real shiur with real people, that didn’t exactly work as fabulously as I hoped. I got to work on the book on volcanoes. I tried a few different shuls locally on Friday night, to see if one would ‘click’.

Long story short: it all flopped. It all failed. And after two months of no blogging, I realized that God wanted me to write, and to return to blogging. And I was really angry when I found that out, because

It’s so much easier to be completely ‘offline’ than to try to use the internet judiciously.

So I started blogging again, half resentfully, and now I started to realise how much of my internet use had been done as a reaction to try to make me feel better about the mess my ‘real life’ was in.

The equation went something like this:

I feel bad / lonely / lost => go online and lose yourself in Youtube.

I feel bad / lonely / lost => go online and read a geula blog written by an anonymous psycho

I feel bad / lonely / lost => go online and post up something you wrote knocking something, or someone else, to try to make yourself feel better

Things were a little better now I’d blocked the geula blogs, but again, the internet was eating me up, body, mind and soul, and after my all efforts to run away from it, I just kind of rolled over and let it happen.

What, I’m going to try to get it out of my life again? I’m going to make another failed attempt to pull away? I can’t. I’m tired. I’m finished.

But God had other plans.

——

About three months ago, my youngest daughter started going completely beserk about what was going on in the house.

She started berating me for not doing the washing up promptly, for not doing sponga every week, for not making fancy suppers every night. She started complaining that the house smelt ‘bad’, and would come home and immediately splashing economica all around. My house smelt like a public baths for three weeks.

I’ve had to do a lot of praying to figure out what was really going on, but at its root, God sent this teenage obstinacy to me as a gift. He wanted to shake me out of my complacency, and to encourage me to make some very necessary changes in my life. But for weeks, I was trying to ignore Him.

Leave me alone, God. I can’t do all that ‘trying to improve myself spiritually’ stuff anymore. I’m finished. I’m done. I’ve officially retired from making any effort, and that’s that. Nothing else to talk about.

But God wasn’t having any of it. The teenager got more and more abusive, more and more difficult to be around, more and more stressful to live with – until I finally realized:

She is right.

She is 100% right.

I need to pull my socks up, and try to make a change for the better here.

This is so easy to type, but at the stage I’d arrived at recently, it was so very hard to even begin to contemplate.

What, I’m going to try again?!

After the million failures? Why bother? Let me continue to escape into Youtube, and gamarnu.

But God – and the teenager – didn’t give up. I got really ill around four weeks ago, and I know from experience that when a serious health issue shows up, that’s because I’m ignoring the message I’m getting at the emotional / mental level. God was giving me a shot across the bows:

Don’t keep ignoring the message to change things, Rivka, because it’s only going to lead to a bad place if you carry on doing that.

And I knew what I had to do: I had to get offline again, and stop using the internet as an escape hatch from reality.

But how?

Last month, I started looking around for hubs in Jerusalem. Long story short, there are quite a few, but all of them seemed to be miles away, in the centre of town where there was no easy parking. I didn’t have the strength to make such a big effort, so I sank back into feeling miserable and stuck, and just gave up again.

But God said:

Not so fast!

Annette Gendler, a writer friend of mine, was in town and speaking at a Writepoint evening, and invited me to come. It was pouring rain, but when I realized she was speaking somewhere that was a 5 minute walk away from my house, I decided to go anyway. The event was taking place in a hub in Talpiyot, that I’d never heard about, and all of a sudden, I started to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

I was still feeling ill, so it took me a week to get back there, but when I returned, I met the manager – and realized I knew him from London. That particular hub wasn’t so suitable for me, but he told me about another place that was also a 5 minute walk away, and which is aimed at creatives.

It would cost me 1,000 shekels a month to get a hotdesk there, but if I did it, I could get the internet out of my house again.

I wavered for a fortnight. The internet had taken over so much of my life, I knew it was going to be a huge, massive change. Also, that’s a lot of money to spend, and I wasn’t sure we could really afford it.

But somehow, last week, I finally took the plunge, and signed up for a month. I told my husband to hide the stick – and on Monday, it finally hit me just how much of an emotional ‘crutch’ the internet had become. I mamash went into some sort of drying-out crisis, like a heroin addict climbing the walls.

Now it’s just me and my life. No running away. No getting away from those lonely feelings by surfing. No dodging the dissatisfaction anymore.

I had a really hard couple of days, because all the things I’d been trying to ignore for months came sharply into focus.

But now, I’m starting to feel better again. There are things I need to work on, things I need to improve, things I need to pray about. And BH, now I’ve pulled the plug on the internet escape hatch, that stuff will start to happen again. I can’t watch Youtube in the hub – it’s a serious place, where people are doing serious work – but I can do all the stuff that I need to do online, like check emails and upload blog posts.

But not all the time, and not 50 times a day.

Hopefully, I’ve made some space to start reclaiming my life again.

And now, like magic, the teen has cheered up and stopped nagging me, even though I’m still not so hot on doing the washing up. And like magic, I’ve found the energy to start work on Secret Diary #2, which is going to be written like a real story, not just a bunch of blog posts pulled together in book. And like magic, I’m starting to get a little bit of the energy required to look the internal black hole in the face, and to get on with the job of shrinking it again.

I’m still feeling pretty shaky, emotionally and physically at the moment. I’m still feeling pretty weak. But now I’ve got the internet out of my house, I’m also feeling calmer and happier. I know there’s a lot going on out there, I know the earthquakes and meteors and volcanoes are picking up, and never mind all the political cack that passes for ‘news’.

But I also know that at this stage, I have to take a step back from that stuff, and to do much less online than I have been doing. I have other things to write, other things to think about, other stuff to work on.

And for the first time in ages, I’m looking forward to getting on with things again.


Annette just sent me a lovely post she wrote about a quick tour we took of Musrara, my old hood, when she was here a few weeks’ back. You can read it HERE.

This is another oldy, but goody. From January 2016 – but still ever so relevant today.

Someone just kindly sent me a document that was signed by pretty much every Gadol Hador you care to mention from the last few years, decrying the emergence of ‘haredi’ news sites, and warning the frum public to stay away from them.

What’s wrong with ‘haredi’ news sites, you might ask?

Don’t we need to know what’s going on with all the Rebbes, and all the issues in our local schools and communities, and all the latest appointments being made in our institutions?

Here’s where we hit a huge, halachic reality check that most of us, maybe nearly all of us, would prefer to completely ignore and pretend it doesn’t exist: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ‘GOOD’ NEWS.

What do I mean by that? I mean that even the most ‘haredi’ news site is regularly reporting things that fall completely foul of even the most basic laws of lashon hara, or evil speech.

Remember, any negative information about a Jew, even if it’s true, still counts as lashon hara.

Sure, there are times when negative information about Jews has to be publicized toelet, for a good reason, such as in cases of abuse, or to avoid potential harm or danger. But the rules governing these instances are very specific and very exacting, and they’re being completely ignored by even the most ‘haredi’ news sites.

Worse, every news site, every blog, every facebook group has its own slant, bias and agenda, even if it’s just implicit. So the ‘news’ you’re getting from that site – or from any other place – is subjectively colored by the beliefs and the desires of the people putting that information together.

Even when people are Torah-observant and well-meaning, they still have any number of subconscious biases, grudges, and prejudices that will color how and what they write, often without being consciously aware of the problems at all.

If you ask that Ashkenazi Litvak guy why he loves running negative pieces about Sephardi poskim, he probably has no idea that on some level he’s trying to prove ‘his’ approach and worldview right, at someone else’s expense.

Or, if you ask the Chassidic writer why so many of his stories are focusing on the teens going off the derech in the non-chassidic communities, he’s not going to know that he’s still fighting a subconscious battle in print with his very difficult yekke parent.

There are hidden agendas going on all over the place with the media and the people who are putting the information together, both obvious and less so. The problems of lashon hara, and people slanting information occur even with very well-meaning and genuinely God-fearing people.

But when the people putting the news out are not well-meaning, not God-fearing (however ‘frum’ they look on the outside) and very emotionally-disturbed – well then Houston, we have a problem.

Because knowledge is power. Readership is power. Huge numbers of visitors reading your site is power. And power, as well all know only too well, is completely corrupting (and also hugely attractive to emotionally-disturbed people who crave attention and influence.)

I’ve been a journalist now for more than 20 years. I started off on a financial mag straight out of university, before going on to work at a Jewish weekly in London, then freelancing for the nationals in the UK, and then going into PR and speechwriting for the British government.

A big reason why I left journalism is because I once went to a class on lashon hara in Gateshead, where the Rabbi spelled out the more basic laws so well, that I immediately understood that most of the stories I was writing for my Jewish paper – even in a well-intentioned, God-fearing way – were lashon hara.

I asked that Rabbi what a Jewish journalist should do, to avoid transgressing the laws of lashon hara, and he answered very succinctly: “Quit!”

Because I’m (trying to be…) a God-fearing Jew, I took his advice seriously, and a few months’ later, I went into PR and speechwriting instead of journalism (which had its own issues, but that’s a story for another time.)

To put this another way: God-fearing people don’t write the news.

Even on ‘haredi’ sites, they don’t abide by the laws of lashon hara, and they’ll write whatever will get the most people flocking to their sites, even if it’s outrageously deceptive, morally corrupt and completely destructive.

If they were truly God-fearing, they’d quit.

Our generation has so very many tests to contend with, I know. Sometimes, the gap between what many of us know is correct, and what we see happening in our own lives and communities is so enormous, it can plunge us into the deepest pit of despair and apathy. In our modern world, how can we not follow the news? But Hashem’s laws haven’t changed, and the rules of lashon hara still apply today – probably even more so than previously.

After I realized just how morally corrupt and corrupting all the Jewish news sites really were, even the ‘haredi’ ones, after the whole debacle with Rav Berland a few weeks’ back, I went cold turkey on reading them.

Man, it was pretty hard going the first few weeks, as following the news is addictive (which is another sign that it’s spiritually ‘bad’, because no-one gets ‘addicted’ to saying Tehillim, or eating lettuce.) I decided I needed a proxy to help me wean off the toxic Jewish news, so I picked….BBC news!

BBC news is so biased, so PC in all the worst ways, and so blatantly manipulative and untruthful, I can’t bear to spend more than 5 seconds looking at it. My yetzer gets its ‘news’ fix, but I don’t believe a word of it, because I know what a filthy place it’s coming from.

I’m not claiming this is a perfect solution, but it’s a ‘real’ solution, and at some point soon, BH, I’ll stop checking that news site, too.

The last thing to say is that while I’ve been writing about news sites, this all clearly applies to things like blogs, newsletters and Facebook groups, too.  I’ll cover Facebook in a separate post, but every time we read or write something online, the potential for contravening the laws of lashon hara are huge.

The Chofetz Chaim famously wrote that lashon hara is the sin that destroyed the last temple and caused the exile. When a person speaks negatively about another Jew, or reads something negative about another Jew, that causes hatred to blossom in their heart towards that other person.

There’s enough hatred in the world towards Jews already, without us adding more fuel to the flames.

All week, every time I go to the hub to try to get online, Hashem is giving me 10 minutes, max, before He pulls the plug.

Let’s be clear that everyone else’s connection to that same internet is fine. But as soon as I’ve done the bare minimum of what I came to do online – zap! – the connection disappears and nothing I do brings it back.

Yesterday, I got a call from M., who asked me some very thoughtful things about using smartphones. The basic gist of our conversation was this: clearly, the technology is very bad, and is very addictive, and is causing millions of people (millions of Jews…) enormous difficulties on just about every level.

But M. made a hugely important point, that people only get addicted to this stuff in the first place because they are feeling some huge ‘lacks’ in their real lives, and that’s especially the case when a couple is going through a very difficult patch in their marriage and family life.

Clearly, internet addiction and smartphone use is a kind of emotional ‘crutch’, a form of escapism that people use to give them some respite from their own, truly very difficult, lives and personal relationships.

So given that, what’s really the answer, to taking down our time online and minimizing our connection to smartphones?

Over on spiritualselfhelp.org, I’ve just put up a kind of ‘three stage plan’ that sets out how to start the long process of overcoming our internet / screen addictions. As I mentioned in a previous post, internet is akin to food for most of us today, so at least at this stage of human development, the question is how can we interact with it in the most healthy, and least spiritually-damaging way? And not: how can we get rid of it entirely (although man, I really DO wish that was a practical option, and who knows, maybe one day soon it will be again.)

I go into the practical aspects a lot more on spiritualselfhelp, but here’s the crucial first step behind what I’m proposing over there:

STEP 1) ADMIT THE PROBLEM

Many people balk even at this first stage, because they already really know in their heart of hearts, that they’re using the internet / eye-phones / social media / obsessive checking of news sites as an emotional crutch or to self-soothe, or to ‘escape’ from their loneliness and frustration.

That was certainly what was going on with me, a couple of weeks’ back, when I realized I was smothering down a whole bunch of dissatisfaction and bad middot by checking my emails five times a day.

The more we ignore our real feelings and real issues, the bigger that pile under our mental carpet grows, and the scarier it becomes to lift the lid on what’s really happening in our lives. I take a fairly honest look at my real life on a fairly frequent basis, and I still had quite a tough week as all my ‘repressed stuff’ gushed out into the world again.

If people have been repressing things and ignoring their true feelings etc since childhood, or for any length of time, then to rip the scab off that massive wound simply isn’t going to work for most people.

So, admitting to the real problem has to be done cautiously, and with a lot of self-compassion, prayer and patience.

And what is the real problem, ultimately?

ANSWER: That we feel disconnected from God, our souls, and the people we most love.

Tachlis, that we feel profoundly lonely in our marriages, ignored by our parents, and unknown on a deeper level by even our closest friends.

THAT’s the real problem underpinning internet addiction (and every other addiction and bad midda and negative habit in the whole world.)

Coming to terms with that problem is a lifetime’s work, so this first step has to be attempted with maximum self-compassion, and with a lot of talking to God about what’s going on, every single day.

Without that strong connection to Hashem, most people will simply be unable to find the strength to acknowledge the REAL problem underpinning their internet addiction, and to face up to their true feelings and circumstances.

Then, we can talk about the more practical aspects of how to minimize internet and eye-phone use as much as possible, and I do that HERE over on spiritualselfhelp.

I’m really not into Facebook.

I got an account two years’ ago because all the book marketing stuff I was reading told me I HAD to have Facebook, if I wanted to get anything done online!!! So, I got an account, and used it to set up some ‘fan pages’ for my blog and books, so I could post stuff from Emunaroma straight from my blog, and that’s it.

Until about two months’ ago, when I was so desperate for The Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife to do well, I decided I should probably have more of a presence on Facebook. That was my first mistake. My second mistake was starting to accept ‘friend’ requests, as that instantly transformed me into someone who was ‘consuming information’ from Facebook, and not just putting it out.

I had about 12 friends until yesterday.

Yesterday, I clicked on a ‘friend notification’ message and found myself in the middle of one of the most poisonous, disgusting and mentally-ill pieces of writing I’ve ever had the misfortune to come across on the web.

Worse, this masterpiece of slander and evil speech had 10,000 ‘likes’, and a slew of equally warped, poisonous comments.

It was an orgy of hatred and bigotry. There’s simply no other way of describing it.

And the fact that it was written, commented on and ‘liked’ by so many externally frum Jews, in complete contravention of all the laws of evil speech and slander, all the laws of avoiding machloket, all the laws of seeing our fellow Jew with a good eye, and respecting Torah, and Torah scholars – well, the Shechina surely tore kria and sat shiva for these people’s souls.

Tens of the generation’s leading rabbis were publicly slandered and scorned.

Tens of thousands of upstanding, God-fearing Jews were arrogantly dismissed as being gullible, brain-dead ‘cult members’ – almost as sub-human, in the author’s eyes, as people who voted for Trump…

Dear reader, I literally felt like I was going to throw up, I got such a strong whiff of Gehinnom floating across from the computer screen. I decided there and then that I had to show God that I wanted absolutely no part, no connection to anything so frankly evil – so I permanently deleted all of my Facebook accounts, there and then.

It’s like when Korach went after Moshe Rabbenu: anyone who had even the slightest connection to the guy, or his followers, even to the smallest degree, also got sucked down into the pit with him for eternity.

I felt SOOOOO much better afterwards!

But still very disturbed by what I’d seen. I started to ponder, what is it about Facebook that’s causing such rampaging mental illness to be accepted as ‘normal’? How is it that Facebook is bringing out the very worst in people, and turning formerly nice, thoughtful individuals into hate-filled demagogues?

After pondering it, I think there’s a few things going on. Firstly, Facebook constantly bombards you with pritzut – immorality, licentiousness, lack of modesty, in every sense of the word. It’s in all the pictures of people sharing very private occasions very publicly, all the comments, all the ‘look at me!’ and ‘please like me!’ attention-seeking.

A Jewish soul gets so de-sensitised to ‘gutter culture’ on Facebook, it can no longer easily recognise the difference between right and wrong, good and bad.

Facebook also exacerbates whatever mental illness a person has in the first place.

It encourages bullying narcissists to bully more, depressed types to feel even more like sad, invisible losers who are getting left behind by life, people with anger issues to ‘take it out’ on whichever poor sap’s post they happen to see first, whiners to whine more, exhibitionists to show off more, critics to criticise more – you get the idea.

And again, the more this behaviour is indulged in, the more ‘normal’ it becomes.

Writing reflects the inner dimension of a person much more accurately than the external social manners and mores so many of us have perfected from a young age. How a person writes, is how a person is.

That’s why there’s so many obvious psychos on Facebook, and so many people with obvious (and worsening…) mental health issues.

That stuff is actually there in these people all the time, just few places enable it to be expressed as easily, or as publicly, as Facebook.

Hang out with psychos, hang out with sociopaths, hang out with narcissists, hang out with mentally-ill people – and you yourself will start to think the way they think, and speak the way they speak, and do the terrible, evil, anti-Torah stuff they do online (and elsewhere…)

It’s properly scary.

So, I’m incredibly relieved that God permanently sprang me out of Facebook yesterday. As time goes on, it’s increasingly becoming the 8th circle of hell – a kind of modern add-on to Dante’s inferno.

I can’t think of anything more hellish than spending eternity online, plugged into Facebook, and swapping hate-filled, arrogant lies and calumnies about Tzaddikim and other upright Jews with your mentally-ill Facebook chums.

But what do I know?

So the last few days I’ve been trying to figure out WHAT, exactly, has been causing me my eye problems and health issues.

Again, it’s a fundamental principle of emuna that nothing happens ‘stam’ or by accident, and that everything is 100% tailored from Hashem to give us some sort of message about what we might need to work on, change or fix in our lives (and souls) – so I’ve been pondering this a lot in my talking to God sessions the last few days.

Here’s what I was exploring:

1) After last week, I got 100% that my eyes went funny because I was looking at stuff that was coming from a very bad place spiritually.

2) WHAT was that stuff, exactly?

I wasn’t so clear on number 2, because I had three possible areas that I’m currently engaged in:

1) I’m reading books by Immanuel Velikovsky at the moment, who was basically an externally secular Jew who took on the scientific establishment after World War II. Velikovsky was extraordinarily erudite, and he demolished their arguments about things like the age of the world, and about how and when massive, comet-induced natural disasters devastated the planet, and also showed how the events described in Torah and Tanach is to be found all over ancient history – if you know where to look for it.

Now, he definitely wasn’t a religious man in the modern sense of the word, but he believed in God, and believed in the veracity of the Torah and Tanach (which makes him more ‘frum’ than a lot of the apparently orthodox people walking around in 2017.)

Was that making my eyes funny?

Or, was it:

2) The research I’m doing on the ‘Electric People’ book, where I start off reading equations from people with impressive PhDs in quantum physics and then two seconds later I find myself reading about a Tibetan view of the afterworld?

(It’s a crazy thing: Chemistry seems to lead to atheism, and physics either leads to God, or to avoda zara, or to a belief that ‘aliens’ created life on earth…)

Was it that, that was making my eyes funny?

Or, was it:

3) Jewish blogs and websites by ‘frum’ Jews who aren’t so into believing in Tzaddikim, definitely aren’t into Rav Berland, and have a very ‘cool’ take on what it means to be an orthodox Jew in 2017?

I cracked open Rebbe Nachman’s Book of Traits (sefer HaMiddot) and this is what I got:

“It’s forbidden to learn from one who draws after idol-worship, and one who learns from him is liable to the death penalty.”

Gosh, well that seemed to be pretty clear cut. It seemed like number 2 on the list was the culprit. Except….when you’re doing hitbodedut, and really talking to God about things, things are rarely so cut and dried.

As I was rolling around the idea that I have to quit writing ‘Electric People’, Rav Natan’s maxim that ‘whatever brings you closer to God is true, and whatever takes you further away from God is false’ popped into my head.

Just yesterday, I was sketching some of my ideas from Electric People out to a friend, and she told me that I’d just given her emuna a real boost by what I’d described, because it really showed her that people aren’t in control, and only God is.

Hmmm.

So maybe Electric People wasn’t the problem after all (although clearly, the Tibetan ‘channelling’ PhDs are people I need to stay away from…)?

So what WAS it, then? Reading Velikovsky’s stuff has also brought me much nearer to God, and His awesomeness, and has similarly made me realize how God is really the only One in control of what’s occurring down here on planet earth.

So I don’t think it’s that, despite all the disturbing packaging that some of Velikovsky’s ideas come wrapped in. (Briefly, he compared the mythologies and histories of ancient peoples to try to find some sort of big, world-wide natural disaster that would synchronise ancient history. Boy, did he find it… But that’s a post for another time.)

So then that left me with the frum Jewish blogosphere…

To cut a long story short, the last few weeks I was trying to connect to a whole bunch of Jewish bloggers and internet people, to interview them about their stuff, and to hopefully get the word out about my new book, The Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife.

I spent literally hours poring over different websites, trying to find good ‘fits’. Then, I spent a bunch more time emailing people, to see if we could collaborate somehow. I’ve had a few nice responses (mostly from the less obviously ‘frum’ people) – and some really yucky responses from the more apparently ‘frum’ people, who castigated me for publicly supporting Rav Berland on my blog.

Bingo!

After I got another yucky response last week, I had a fleeting moment when I thought maybe I should take the stuff about Rav Berland down.

I mean, if it was limiting my marketing opportunities, blah blah blah, stopping me from connecting to other cool, creative, ‘frum’ Jews, blah blah blah, making me feel like I’d done something ‘bad’, blah blah blah…

After talking to God about it all, I decided to stick to my guns, and to continue to support the Rav with everything I’ve got, for as long as it takes for the truth to come out, regardless of how many ‘opportunities’ it’s costing me.

When I applied Rav Natan’s rule, I realized that trying to cosy up to these ‘frum’ bloggers had taken me pretty far away from emuna, and emunat Tzaddikim, or believing in our true Tzaddikim.

To put it another way, these guys were REALLY bad for my health!!!

And for my soul. And for my spiritual connection to Hashem, and His holy Tzaddikim.

So, now I’ve figured that out, I’m going to continue trying to demolish all the lies modern science is built on (that leads to atheism…), and I’m going to continue trying to show how human health really works (which could lead to avoda zara, unless people are firmly connected to the Torah and the true Tzaddikim…)

And I’m also staying away from pretty much every Jewish blog and website out there – because when you’re striving to be a believing Jew, that’s the REALLY dangerous stuff on the internet.

Last week, I was in Ikea with my kids in the badatz kosher cafeteria there.

(Even though I’ve lived in Israel for more than 11 years’ now, I still find kosher Ikea wildly exciting.)

It was the last days of Summer, and the cafeteria was packed with all sorts of people and their kids. Ahead of me in the queue was a cute-looking frum woman with a long skirt, long sleeves and regal head covering, who had a handful of younger kids holding on to her by her skirt.

Every two minutes, this woman took her massive i-Phone out of her bag, and started obsessively checking the headlines on Arutz 7. She’d scroll down for a couple of minutes, go over and check her emails, put the phone back in her bag (usually because some kid was tugging at her pretty aggressively, to get her attention) – and then two minutes’ later, repeat the whole ritual again.

I stood behind her for 15 minutes, and I saw her do this at least six times.

There are many things to be said about why i-phones are bad – like how easy they make it to access all the smut and degradation on the internet, especially for men; or how they chain people to work and checking their emails all the time, even when they’re meant to be hiking in nature with their families and relaxing; or how they suck people into a self-absorbed, pretty immodest culture of taking selfies and checking their appearance every 10 seconds.

But today, I just want to focus on one aspect of why i-Phones are so bad, which this one, average frum woman in Ikea really encapsulates: i-Phones give us no time to really ‘be’ with ourselves. I-Phones are addictive, because surfing the internet is addictive, and it fills the ‘space’ and the time that we’d otherwise be left alone with our thoughts.

People are so miserable today, and so uncomfortable with themselves, and so uncomfortable about the notion of exploring what they really think and feel about their lives and their relationships, that escapism has become the Number 1 ‘self-soothing’ activity of our generation.

The equation goes something like this:

Time to think = an opportunity to recognize what’s not going so well in my life, or what is maybe not so healthy or helpful = an impetus to change or improve = a push to actually do something different = SCARY AND DANGEROUS!!! = stay away from thinking at all costs.

i-Phone = escape into news, facebook and fantasy = no time to think = can keep busy at all costs = COMFORT ZONE = go back to sleep, everything’s fine (and don’t forget to take your anti-anxiety medication…)

i-Phones cut us off from thinking and being, and as a result, they distance us from our own souls.

They waste our time on addictive behaviors like obsessively checking emails, Facebook or Arutz 7. They suck us into a fake, plastic, superficial world that’s full of spiritually-dead, emotionally-ill people who spend so much time online because they also can’t just ‘be’. They prevent us from really interacting with the people standing right in front of our faces, because we’re too busy scrolling through old email conversations and sharing new stuff we just found out about.

And that’s if we’re ‘only’ using them for ostensibly kosher reasons.

If the sites we happen to visit are morally corrupting in anyway (which is like, er, 99.9% of the internet…) then the spiritual problems connected with i-Phones only continue to grow.

Do you really want to be immersed in a world where God is absent, people descended by chance from monkeys and where anything goes, morally and socially? And if by chance you really want that for yourself, is that what you really want for your children?

No-one needs an i-Phone.

(I know there are supposedly haredi ‘rabbis’ who are carrying around their i-Phones and claiming they need them to serve the community, but it’s all just fluff and excuses put around by people who forget that God is running the world, and that emails don’t have to be answered within 20 seconds of being received. Can you imagine Rav Ovadia using an i-phone? Or Rav Kanievsky? I rest my case.)

We don’t need to carry-on buying into a culture that has made ‘escapism’ and ‘keeping busy’ it’s bywords, because it’s dead from the soul-down and is trying to run away from all the human misery it’s created with its God-less, heretical and materialistic approach to life.

Take a moment and imagine how different that woman’s trip to Ikea could have been without her i-Phone.

Maybe, she’d have started a conversation up with one of her kids, and learnt something very helpful. Maybe, she’d have given another kid a hug, or a back tickle, to alleviate the boredom of waiting in line. Maybe, she’d have noticed that she has nothing to say to her family, and that would have made her wonder why that was the case, and what needed to change to get her back in touch with herself and with them, more?

Instead, she checked her emails and Arutz 7 six times, until it was her turn to order the schnitzels and fries.

Life is so, so precious. Every moment can be used to reach out to others, reach up to God, or to reach inwards, to our own souls.

But when we’re carrying an i-Phone around, it’s so much easier to turn on to the emptiness of the internet, than to tune in to our own lives and loved ones.