23 Cheshvan 5782 / Friday, October 29, 2021 | Torah Reading: Chayei Sarah
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More Torah, Less Internet

What if someone would stop you when you’re about to consummate a huge profitable deal and ask you to look at the latest news on the internet or smartphone...


In my previous article Turn Time into Treasure, I explained three of the four reasons given by the Chofetz Chaim for people slacking off in their Torah studies. The fourth reason is newspapers. In our times I think we can substitute the words  smartphones”  or “internet” whenever he mentions the word newspapers.  


The Chofetz Chaim says that he's not talking about newspapers and magazines that promote heresy. These are certainly forbidden. He's talking about media that solely give updates on current events. Even these can lead to the sin of bitul Torah. A person squandering his time  by  foregoing precious opportunities to learn Torah is like a person who exchanges diamonds worth thousands of dollars for worthless commodities and remains impoverished.  


We must internalize and take to heart the preciousness of the opportunity to learn Torah. Hashem in his kindness rations out limited numbers of days and hours so that we have opportunities to learn Torah and fulfill mitzvot in order that it should be good for us all our days and to acquire eternal currency of infinite value. 


One of the first questions we will be asked when we enter the next world is: “Did you establish set times for learning? Hopefully we'll be able to answer yes. However, if we squandered a lot of time on the newspapers or the internet, woe to the humiliation and shame if we must answer for this. It will be an unspeakable embarrassment to see the time that we wasted when our whole life is shown before us. 


The Chofetz Chaim gives a parable of a person who must travel far away for business to acquire merchandise that is unavailable in his hometown. If someone were to approach him precisely at that time when he is about to consummate a huge profitable deal and ask him to stop to read a newspaper or look at a smartphone, the businessman would yell at the person. Stop bothering me. Every moment you bother me you're causing me a loss. I traveled a great distance to get this connection and to make this deal that will support my family for a whole year! 


The lesson is clear. Before coming to this world, our souls dwelled above. To avoid the bread of embarrassment, Hashem wants us to earn our reward. He bring us into this physical world for a short time. Each of us is like a stranger in a foreign land with a finite time to accumulate Torah learning and good deeds.  The Evil  Inclination  works to  convince  us to  allocate  precious  time to newspapers, surfing the web, and other wasteful  pastimes. 


We need to respond strongly to the Evil Inclination. Don't you know that I descended thousands of spiritual miles from where I was dwelling? I'm here for a very short time. Why? To accumulate merchandise so it'll be good for me for all eternity. You're going to bother me with nothingness and vanities? What am I going to say to the One who sent me? 


The Chofetz Chaim says that now we can understand something very important about Moses. He named his first son Gershom meaning I was a stranger in a foreign land. He named his second son Eliezer which means the God of my father helped. Really, it seems that he should have named his first son Eliezer. What is the benefit of saying I was a stranger?” 


When Moses first came to live in his father-in-laws home, it was before Yitro converted. At that point he was still a practitioner of idolatry. Moses was concerned lest he be swayed by his father-in-law's ways. Therefore, he called his son Gershom to establish firmly in his mind that here in this land he was a stranger and that in the future he would be returning his soul to its Source. He reminded  himself of the need to be extremely careful  with his actions. If Moses, the greatest and most  holy person of all time needed to be  careful,  how  much more so do we need to be careful,  especially  with such easy access to toxic images and content in seconds! 


How can we put this into practice? For most of us it's not realistic to think that we're going to be perfect immediately and completely give up our smartphones and internet access. The thought of this is enough to discourage many of us from even trying. Therefore, let's work on increasing our ratio of Torah time to smartphone time.  


I suggest that each of us set a goal consistent with our current practical needs and spiritual level. The first key step is to measure the amount of time that we spend on the smartphone or the internet for non-work-related or non-Torah uses. Some of us may be able to set a goal that for every 10 minutes we're on the internet we're going to engage in 20 minutes of Torah study. Others may set a goal for every 10 minutes we'll spend an equal amount of time or maybe half the time on extra Torah study. Others may be at the level where the best they can do right now is to say that for every 10 minutes I'm on the smartphone I'm going to spend a minute on Torah study and a minute talking to Hashem.  


The most important thing is to make a commitment and get started. Once we make a sincere commitment to improve, make an initial effort, and appeal to Hashem for help, we will certainly make gradual and continuous improvement to maximize our Torah study and reduce  time  squandered on the internet. Each little step and each attempt is so very precious to  Hashem.  He will certainly help us in our quest to increase our Torah learning and attain a closer relationship  with Him. 


At the Siyum HaShaas in Met Life stadium last year I’ll always remember Rabbi  Yissocher  Frand  saying: “Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  


We need to do what we're capable of doing right now and use this as our launching pad. Success breeds more success. 


In the merit of redeeming more and more of our precious minutes, may we accelerate the time that Hashem will redeem our people and the world speedily, in our days. 


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