[If you’re not singing the headline, you’re not as tickled as I am.]

When Al Gore invented the internet, no doubt even the great visionary who used to be the next President of the United States never imagined the information superhighway’s great spiritual potential. There’s a website for everything, and the internet has brought enlightenment to people of many religions in far-flung areas, providing them opportunities to enhance their knowledge and connection to spirituality. (Beliefnet and MyJewishLearning are two sites providing rich and diverse content, and then there are the myriad outreach organizations designed to reach spiritual click-and-seekers…)

But rabbinical ordination in Germany via Skype was a little off my radar until I read it in the JTA:

Benzion Dov Kaplan, Donnell Reed and Yitzhak Mendel Wagner received their ordination Jan. 2 from the Jerusalem-based Shulchan Aruch Learning Program of Pirchei Shoshanim. The Orthodox smicha ceremony, which also included several other candidates, took place at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

But since Kaplan, Reed and Wagner couldn’t leave Germany to study in Israel, the program enabled them to complete their training via Skype, the Internet telephone service, and other Internet sites, Reed said.

[…] Benzion Dov Kaplan, Donnell Reed and Yitzhak Mendel Wagner received their ordination Jan. 2 from the Jerusalem-based Shulchan Aruch Learning Program of Pirchei Shoshanim. The Orthodox smicha ceremony, which also included several other candidates, took place at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

But since Kaplan, Reed and Wagner couldn’t leave Germany to study in Israel, the program enabled them to complete their training via Skype, the Internet telephone service, and other Internet sites, Reed said.

But how kosher is it really to study over the internet? Wasn’t the internet supposed to be some sort of den of iniquity, giving “adult content” an epicenter and a reach that can serve to ensnare young Torah minds? Of course, but there’s also a way to find shelter from the porn. Er, storm. And true to rabbinic form, where there’s someone who’s machmir (more stringent), there’s also a more maykil (lenient) position:

Though it may seem somewhat unorthodox to learn over the Internet, Reed said several noted rabbis have endorsed the idea. Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, once told him that since Jews are urged to learn “while you sit in your home and while you walk on the way,” they ought to take advantage of modern technology to do so, Reed said.

About the author

Esther Kustanowitz

For more posts by Esther, see EstherK.com, MyUrbanKvetch.com and JDatersAnonymous.com.

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