Haredim are at it again. As…
MP4s are devil's device, says Orthodox Court
Ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem enraged over sales of MP4 devices, considered 'devil's way of driving people to sin.' Orthodox Righteous Court of Law issues formal ruling banning vendors from stocking devices; two stores selling them vandalized
Technological advancements have always posed somewhat of a problem for the ultra-Orthodox community. The rabbis often choose to ban any public contact with any unfamiliar gadget, for fear their users might be exposed to inappropriate content; and so MP4 players, which allow users to watch films, have now become the newest threat to chastity.
The fight against the device reached a new level last week, when an MP4 supplier, whose store is located on the outskirts of Jerusalem's Meah Shearim neighborhood, found it vandalized – its window and showcases smashed.
A second store, located just off the capital's Shabbat Square, did not fare much better: It too was vandalized and its repair lab burnt down. Some say that was an event waiting to happen: For several weeks prior to the arson, a dozen-or-so yeshiva student used to demonstrate in front of the store every week and protest the sale of the banned devices.
The storeowners even found pashkevilim (informative ads or posters often plastered in the Jerusalem's religious neighborhoods) distributed against them: "A terrible plague is upon us, calming victims every day… these sinful devices were banned by all the great rabbis, but are still common in the haredi world… their devilish distributors want nothing more than to drive the people of Israel to sin, through movies and other abominations," read the ads.
Another pashkevil, by the "association for the saving of the youth in the Holy Land," informed the public about a rabbis and an Orthodox Righteous Court of Law ordinance banning MP4 devices all together: "This little device is the devil's way to try and gain entrance to our protected homes and yeshivas, disguised as something you can listen to Torah lessons through," it said.
Ynet has learned that the Orthodox Righteous Court of Law [i.e., Beit Din Tzedek of Jerusalem, Badatz Yerushalyim] had, indeed, held a session on MP4 devices. The court ruled that the devices must be banned and issued a warning to all vendors not to stock them, saying those who do "will be subject to a court hearing," and giving vendors three week to comply with its ruling.
The police have reportedly launched an investigation into both vandalism incidents.
The leading rabbi behind Badatz Yerushalayim is Moshe Sterbuch. His English-language mouthpiece had this to say about the arson:
The problem of renegade kanoim - is a growing plague in the chareidi world. These are lawless animals who are endangering the life and limb of others - in their self proclaimed campaign of terror - to rid the world of all they find offensive. Their actions are not in accord with the Torah - and they are a major chillul HaShem.
Erev Shabbos an electronics store was burned down in Geula for selling mp4 players (video). It seems a miracle that aside from people who broke their legs escaping from the fire - B"H no one was killed. In addition the fire required police and firemen to endanger their lives - as well as forcing them to work on Shabbos…
What we have are three possibilities:
- Rabbi Sternbuch fails to foresee how his rulings will be treated by the extreme haredi street.
- Rabbi Sternbuch does foresee how his rulings may be used. He just doesn't view the consequences as serious enough to curtail his own extremism.
- He sees exactly what may occur and rules hoping those "renegade kanoim" act.
I'm not sure which choice is correct. I suspect, however, that all three come into play at different times, and that so-called renegade kanoim are as often than not useful to Rabbi Sternbuch. And I think the latest cases are examples of number three run amok.
[Hat Tips; Aryeh the Lionhearted and Madame Guenevire; Michelle.]