Rav Chaim Kanievsky – regarded by a major portion of the Chareidi sector as the leading Torah sage at present – dramatically announced last week that it is incumbent on anyone who owns an Apple iPhone to burn the high-tech device.
Declaring in a published statement that it is forbidden to own an iPhone, Rav Kanievsky compared it to a weapon of war, due to its potential to harm the user.
The sage noted that he issued the new ruling after several businessmen queried him about whether it is halachically permissible to use the iPhone. He additionally cautioned against selling the device to a non-Jew, just as one is not allowed to sell a weapon to a non-Jew.
Rav Kanievsky’s statement is in sync with the general hard line taken in recent years by fervently Orthodox rabbinical leaders against the Internet and devices that can access it, due to the ready availability of illicit content online. In an attempt to reconcile modern technology with Torah guidelines, many Chareidim have obtained “kosher cellphones” that have no Internet connection and no facility for communication via text messages.
One month ago, Rabbi Lior Glazer oversaw a ceremony in Bnei Brak in which a number of iPhones were smashed to pieces. Separately, the Eida Chareidis has officially banned the use of the full spectrum of Internet-accessible communications devices, including iPhones, Android smartphones and BlackBerrys, claiming that they are responsible for purveying a “spiritual holocaust.”
Professor Yedidya Stern, who serves as director of the Israel Democracy Institute’s project on Religion and State, commented that – in his opinion – the Chareidi rabbinical leaders are more concerned with the ability of these devices to provide their users with complete access to all types of information, as opposed to the moral corruption of illicit content.
“Smartphones offer a gateway to the world through which they can access all manner of uncensored information which might influence their identity, despite living within the Chareidi ‘ghetto,’ ” Stern said to The Jerusalem Post. “Chareidim seek to isolate themselves from the world, but using an iPhone or any other type of smartphone can, with the flick of a finger and in a split second, give someone access to all kinds of information and values to which they were never before exposed.”
Stern added that – unlike with televisions and secular newspapers, which rabbis have previously banned and which are obviously visible if someone possesses them – it is more difficult to keep followers from utilizing easily concealable high-tech phones with Internet access, thus the heightened level of concern.