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Beit Midrash Family and Society Understanding Circumstances

An Addiction Cured

Rabbi Berel WeinShevat 5 5781
12
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For the first few decades of my sojourn here in Jerusalem, I was absolutely addicted to hearing the news seven or eight times a day. Since this included the time of the two intifadas, the two Gaza wars, numerous Israeli elections, American political upheavals, and other assorted interesting events, I did not feel that I was necessarily overdoing it. During the rest of the day. I often wondered whatever happened to a particular story from that day, and why, if it was so important and earth shattering in the morning, that it received no further attention during the rest of the day.

Nowadays I have been concentrating more on my writing – I am middle of, God willing, producing two more books within the near future – and writing requires concentration that should not be easily broken by listening to the broadcast of distracting news. And, finally, I have reached an age where I do not feel as interested in the day-by-day vagaries of human behavior.
At my stage in life, I do not see any reason why I should go looking for trouble and causing myself the stress and aggravation over events that I cannot control, and that rarely affect me on an individual basis.

I do believe though, that every citizen here in Israel should be well-informed. But there are a lot of stories and pseudo-facts that somehow make it into the news broadcasts here in our wonderful little country. There is no reason for me to know about the private lives of certain people, nor ideas that others speculate about and predict events in which they have little expertise or foreknowledge.

So, now I listen to news broadcasts in Israel at the most twice a day, and there are entire days that I remain blissfully ignorant regarding politics, predictions, and expert opinions of others about present or future circumstances and events. I have noticed that this in no way diminishes my interest in life and in world and national events. Now, with news broadcasts in proper perspective, it no longer dominates my day, abuses my mind, nor raises my blood pressure.

By not listening that often to the news broadcasts, I find that I have time and patience to truly assess the events that occur around me. and to form an intelligent position on issues that are current. I feel that I am no more ignorant than I was before, but I am a lot calmer and more settled now that I have been able to get over that absolute addiction of listening many times a day to news programs.

I often wonder if we are much better off than our ancestors, in terms of personal behavior, without radios, TVs, smart phones and, in most cases, even newspapers. Somehow, entire societies without these instruments were and are able to function, and are aware of important national issues, and were able to make decisions based upon their own personal knowledge, experience, and beliefs.

I do not advocate a return to the dark ages, nor do I favor remaining technologically backward in the fast-developing technological wonderland of our world today. Nevertheless, a few moments of self-contemplation during the day, of self-criticism and thought analysis, free from distractions of the technological gadgets that have come to run our lives, would certainly be in order and a benefit to all concerned. We are so busy with the outside world that surrounds us that we have no time to realize that it is the inner world within us that really counts and should motivate and drive our behavior and attitudes.

The distractions of life are many, and there are always obstructions to the development of our spirit and personality, of our true being and mission on earth. I certainly agree that it takes a great deal of discipline to purge the information and addiction that infects us. However, as is the case in conquering all addictions, the road is hard, and the climb is steep. And there always is the danger of falling backwards and reverting to previous behaviors. As in all cases of addiction, there can be success at the end of the road of discipline, and, at least in my case regarding a cure for being a news junkie.
Rabbi Berel Wein
The rabbi of the "HANASI" congregation in Yerushalim, head of the Destiny foundation, former head of the OU, Rosh Yeshiva of 'sharai Tora" and rabbi of the "Beit Tora" congregation, Monsey, New York.
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