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Rabbi Bulka's Weekly Question

Rabbi Bulka's Weekly Question

How has the Internet affected your faith group? Has it brought them closer together, or divided them into ideological subgroups?

The Internet promised to bring us all together, much like the telephone of yesteryear. In a quantitative sense, this is probably true. But in a qualitative sense, it is probably less than true.

With the Internet, we can instantaneously send messages to almost the entire congregation. In days of yore, these messages were transmitted to the entire congregation when they were present and together in the communal meeting place, usually the synagogue.

Today, everyone can hear the same message, but there is no togetherness in the hearing or reading experience. There is an illusion of togetherness, but it is nothing more than an illusion. The togetherness comes as a byproduct of the Internet's ability to get a message through in a quick and cost-efficient manner to a host of people.

And there are challenges. Take a simple matter like notifying the congregation about an upcoming event, even one that comes up suddenly. The Internet is a great help -- easy and within reach of all, or almost all.

Yes, there are people who still do not have computers, and rely on more personal modes of communication. These tend to be older people. They are therefore at somewhat of a disadvantage in terms of receiving instant news. And they do feel somewhat isolated and left out. We owe it to them not to allow this isolation to fester.

I am not sure how the Internet divides people into ideological subgroups, as you put it. Through the Internet, people can link to sources that dovetail with their beliefs, but this is hardly different from people choosing books based on their affinity for the ideas espoused in those books.

We need to swallow the harsh truth that aside from speed and volume (sometimes), the Internet is nothing more than an information source, with all the frailties of the written word.

Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen on  July 12, 2008

Mon, July 23 2018 11 Av 5778