A little bit like the Amish... I just want to know if such an ideology exists in Judaism. I know that the Hatam Sofer and Rabbi Hillel Lichtenstein opposed modern philosophy, maybe one Rabbi opposed modern technology. Not necessarily all modern technology, but at least part of it, like the Amish that allow health technology. I am also looking for a simple statement against technology.

  • In cas you're interested -- on the topic you mention of modern philosophy, here's a very strong chassidic statement against it (from Likutei Eitzos): azamra.org/Advice/alien.html
    – Kordovero
    Jan 30 '15 at 1:48

I don't believe so.

I'm aware of those who view change as something suspect; and who are afraid of opening a can of worms of applying modern science to rules of thumb that had worked otherwise. (For instance, the Talmud seems to say that certain kinds of fish are kosher because their parasitic worms do X, and now the scientists are saying that parasitic worms do Y.) There was one hyper-traditionalist Hungarian rabbi who felt that Chinese food was dangerous because it was newfangled and nontraditional! Very few follow his opinion, put mildly. Many have opposed the Internet, but not because it was technological per se -- out of concerns of what it could do.

So anytime new technology comes along, it's reasonable to ask, "how does Jewish law and philosophy view this?", and "is it wise for us to adopt this with arms wide open?" But that doesn't mean ban it outright.

I have heard that there are some Hassidic individuals who drive cars, use cell phones, and the like; but will only wear a mechanical pocketwatch, not a quartz wristwatch, as they prefer that their personal dress follow tradition. But that's rare.

Lastly, sometimes modern technology + Judaism = better modern technology. Your grandmother's oven could have been safely left on for a 48-hour Jewish holiday; then in the 1990s they added automatic 12-hour shutoffs and all sorts of bells, whistles, and indicator lights that kept Jews from being able to use their ovens on Jewish holidays. In response, Rabbi Moshe Heinemann of Baltimore (a man who was frequently spotted tinkering with his car engine in between Talmud classes) worked with engineers at the appliance companies to add in programming for a "Sabbath mode" -- you enter the right key combination, and suddenly the oven is programmed to behave like a 1950s model.

  • Thanks! Who was this hungarian Rabbi you are talking about?
    – far22
    Jan 29 '15 at 21:54
  • 1
    @far22 Rabbi Menashe Klein. Fascinating person. Had some very, um, interesting opinions; but still behaved like a gentleman to those with whom he differed.
    – Shalom
    Jan 29 '15 at 22:05

I'm unaware of any rabbi that completely banned the use of modern technology for whatever was "modern" in their time. I don't believe that it's totally possible, because, often modern technology is actually necessary to either solve halachic problems or necessary for medicine.

Examples - Computers are extensively used to check Sifrei Torah. Sometimes, the computer finds mistakes that humans will not see, and the computer finds it quicker, too. Would a rav who rejected the use of the computer for this purpose, rather risk reading from a passul Torah b/c there was a known mistake somewhere but a human can't recall where it was?

Rabbi Shuchatowich in Baltimore, spent years researching the permissible use of hearing aids and cochlear implants on Shabbat. Why? Because he has (I think) 3 deaf kids with implants. Then he wrote a few significant books on the subject. I guess he could have easily rejected the use of implants altogether and had his kids use ASL, but because he didn't, he benefitted not just his family, but numerous others since he wrote about his halachic findings.

I need not list the thousands of medical inventions, esp. many of them invented in Israel, that have saved lives - sonograms, MRI's, etc. What "honest" rav would reject using these?

Finally, I have often seen a team of rabbanim state outright to others, "Don't use the internet for any reason at any time." Several years ago, they even had a huge "rally" in Shea Stadium (or was it Citifield, by then.) Yep, an "anti-internet" rally. One huge problem - Guess how these same rabbanim advertised the event? Yup! They used the internet!

I'm not stating that this is a majority or even a significant number, but, this is a fact - some rabbanim that reject modern technology are hypocrites!

  • 1
    I understand. But if you want to tell people who use internet that it is better not to use it, you can find them only online...
    – far22
    Jan 29 '15 at 22:40
  • @DanF While I don't remember the source off the top of my head (although I want to say R' Moshe) I believe you might be mistaken in the second paragraph. One has no obligation to have a computer scan through a Sefer Torah to find a mistake; this falls under "Lo Bashamayim He" - the Torah only obligates us to act within the realms of human capacity. If a computer is needed to find the mistake, it doesn't make the Torah Passul. (This is like the 'bugs in the water' question. No one denies that they exist, the question is if we need to remove them due to limits in seeing it with the naked eye). Jan 30 '15 at 0:17
  • @Salmononius2 true, but if I can find them with enough work, it isn't Bashamayim (like the stories going around how someone had a whole word missing from their tefillin and no one found it even though it went through a few checks) Jan 30 '15 at 1:13
  • I am not sure they want to ban the internet totally but have some sort of Rabbinic Firewall so that you can only visit websites with an approved hechsher. A bit like their own security certificate...
    – CashCow
    Jan 30 '15 at 13:15

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