Yeshivos Determined to Make Zals Safe

By reporter

The yeshiva experience has always been one that requires that those within it be fully immersed in the environment. If a bochur wishes to succeed, his entire world must consist of the yeshiva and his devotion to learning.

In recent years, this has become particularly challenging due to one device: the smartphone. 

The presence of a smartphone in a bochur’s life changes the dynamic completely. This is due to an undeniable fact that even the best filters can not combat: smartphones are distracting. They provide access to a world outside yeshiva that grabs the bochur’s attention and focus; the damage extends far beyond the wasted time. 

The hanhalos of Chabad Yeshivos Gedolos came together to answer a question: how can we take back the yeshiva experience and give our bochurim a chance to thrive and succeed? How can we remove the distractions that are counterproductive to everything they set out to gain when they enter our doors?

Yeshiva is meant to be a place where a bochur can grow and flourish,” one menahel told “There is absolutely no way for anyone to grow, when they are thinking about the news and updates they are getting on their phone.”

To achieve this end, the yeshivos have come out with a joint statement about the place of a smartphone vis-a-vis yeshiva. This, they hope, will give every bochur an honest chance at success. 

The statement, which was signed by hanhala of nine major zals, strictly prohibits the possession of any smartphone. The new policy is not simply another discipline tactic, but a statement to every bochur: it is impossible to be a true talmid in yeshiva with one foot out the door.

Aside from the issues of morality and yiras shamayim, and the disruption to a bochur’s success and the yeshiva atmosphere, there is another factor involved. The yeshivos consulted with mental health professionals who are involved in adolescent development, and they shared that digital technology stands in the way of the development of a teenager’s mind. Even in secular society, parents are being warned of the detrimental effects smartphone usage has on a teenager’s neurological and social emotional development. 

The addictive nature of even seemingly benign applications can wreak havoc on a young person’s ability to manage their time, develop self discipline, sustain focus, and communicate effectively off-screen.

In short, a bochur with a smartphone is not truly in yeshiva and he is unable to benefit from what the yeshiva and the hanhala is trying to give him.

In light of the above, the yeshivos have determined that a firm resolution must be in place: A bochur with a smartphone will be suspended for 10 days, at which point it will be decided if and under what conditions he should be re-accepted.

The rule regarding smartphones is actually nothing new; these devices have never been allowed in yeshivos. Now, however, the hanhalos have all come together to close any loopholes that might have been present before, and to make a joint policy that will be enforced across the board. It is clear that they aren’t simply looking to protect their yeshivos, but are setting a standard for bochurim in general. In many communities, even when it’s accepted for married people to have a (protected) smartphone, it is out of the question for a bochur to own one; this is what the new policy aims to achieve. 

Each yeshiva has committed to invest in educating the bochurim about what makes these devices so necessary to avoid completely while in yeshiva. The goal is to help the students understand that even after they are no longer in yeshiva, every single year that they can put off owning one will make a tremendous difference in their success, in their ruchniyusdik wellbeing, and in their ability to use it appropriately when the time comes.

In addition to the personal benefit to each individual bochur, there is no question that the absence of smartphones creates space for a rich yeshiva environment in which bochurim can truly succeed. The bochurim’s ability to focus on ruchniyusdik growth, to invest in learning, and to connect with each other in healthy, meaningful ways is a gift that will benefit them for years to come.

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