Religion & Beliefs

Cell Phones: Evil, But Not Trayf

Forgive me if I really don't understand this, but what's kosher about a cell phone? Apparently, we've now got a hechsher for technology.  And I find this more than a little bewildering: Advertisements placed recently in Der Yid and Der … Read More

By / May 4, 2007

Forgive me if I really don't understand this, but what's kosher about a cell phone?

Apparently, we've now got a hechsher for technology.  And I find this more than a little bewildering:

Advertisements placed recently in Der Yid and Der Blatt, two of the Satmar community’s Yiddish newspapers, made clear in strong and unequivocal language that only certain cell phones were acceptable: those that bore the rabbinic endorsement, the hekhsher, of the Vaad Harabanim Le Inyenei Tikshoret, the Rabbinic Commission on Communications. And what kind of cell phones might those be? Those that eliminate many of the features of the “third-generation” phone. On the rabbinically approved phone, there’s no Internet, no camera, no text-messaging options. A “kosher cell phone” is one that resembles nothing so much as, well, a phone. What’s more, calls are limited to those within the network of other “kosher cell phone” users who, as it happens, are readily identifiable by the sequencing of their phone numbers.

I don't mean to say that I don't see a reason for restricting technology.  We live in a world, as the Forward points out, with increasingly ellusive boundaries.  So, for a population desperate to keep the boundaries in place, I understand the need for limitations. 

But applying kashrut to technology (or almost anything but food) freaks me out.  It seems false.

When observant Jews don't like immodest clothing, they don't require a hechsher for modest clothes, do they?  When they dislike a book they might ban it… but it doesn't mean that ALL other books must be kosher to be read.

See, my objection is about what we rule out, and what we rule in. 

 When we rule something OUT, we limit only that thing. The rest of the world is still, in theory, okay. Innocent until proven guilty.  When we rule something IN, we assert that the world is so terrible we are going to avoid everything BUT the things we've accepted.  That's nuts.

It seems to me a frightened way to live in the world, and a dangerous one.   A slippery slope.  It seems to me to suggest that in all of God's creation, we can only trust like, 172 things.  Out of gazillions. 

Finally, it seems a barrier to increased observance (and I see this a lot lately) among the non-orthodox.  Is this what they want? A divider? A general tightening of the fence?   Us and them?  I have to assume so…

As someone who is, myself, moving toward observing the mitzvot, I find this decision crazy. Lanatic.  While I've just begun shopping at a Kosher grocery store, and limiting the meat I eat…. even thinking about keeping strictly kosher… I'm suddenly forced to redefine what I think of the people in charge of  the hechsher. 

I mean, I'll let them them monitor what's in my kitchen, but if they want to monitor what's in my brain… I'm afraid I'll go back to my trayf ways.