In the latest issue of Tradition (44:2), Rabbi Yitzhak Blau unleashed a powerful and thorough, if scattershot, critique of television from the point of view of the ideals of Modern Orthodoxy. Rabbi Blau argued emphatically in favor of getting rid of the television in the house, and having children and adults spend their time more constructively. This can be done by reading newspaper articles on serious issues of the day, reading serious books like Dostoevsky and generally being an intelligent religious Jew and democratic citizen.
In the following essay, I intend to critique Rabbi Blau’s important, but in my opinion deeply flawed, essay on two fronts. The first will deal with Rabbi Blau’s primary criticisms of television, which I address according to their general category. The second will deal with the more fundamental issue which Rabbi Blau touches on, but does not address directly – the contemporary inability of Orthodox thought to view leisure, or “fun”, as anything other than a necessary evil to be restricted as much as possible.
A brief confession is in order before we begin. I am an avid consumer of both serious articles and books and of television and movies. I have downed several tomes that come close to or exceed a thousand pages on matters from political philosophy to military history and everything in between. On the other hand, I have also spent much of my life absorbing television shows and movies of varying quality – from the powerful and insightful to the cringingly bad. I write, therefore, as one who is fully cognizant of the advantages and disadvantages of both media.
Next: Is TV Really So Bad?
Note: Rabbi Blau also critiques the internet, but for the sake of simplicity and straightforwardness, I will focus solely on the issue of television. There will be an appendix at the end of this series which briefly addresses the many reasons why I think the critique of the internet is off-base.