Tuesday, September 25, 2012

It Really is Closer to Home: Corporal Yontatan Yahalomi

Netanel Yahalomi a"h with his father
By now everyone across the Jewish world knows about the heroic efforts of Private (now Corporal) Netanel Yahalomi, and his murder at the hands of terrorists attempting to infiltrate the border with Israel. Yet, people from Israel always said that here it seems much closer to home. I'm getting a sense of what they mean.
Yesterday, I was happy to renew acquaintance at an Orot in-service day in Ariel with a new instructor, Rabbi Dr. Eli Kohn, who was my Shanah Bet Madrich during my second year at Sha'alvim. After catching up, I asked how thing were and he noted that in his yishuv - Nof Ayalon - things were quite tense, as Netanel's family lives in Nof Ayalon, meaning an unending river of visitors to the normally sleepy yishuv.
From Ariel, I drove to my son's yeshiva in Mizpeh Yericho for a father-son learning program. When his Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Sabato, began his talk, after noting his acts of bravery in battle before he fell, he mentioned that Netanel had graduated from the yeshiva two years prior, and that after he was killed, they found on his body a Chumash Dvarim, a siddur, and a copy of Orot HaTeshuvah (a book by Rav Kook on Teshuvah).
Sitting in that Beit Midrash next to my son, among hundreds of other fathers and sons, I suddenly felt a sense of identity. This wasn't them, there. This was one of our children; he studied at my son's yeshiva. Interestingly, I wasn't filled with thoughts of fear or anxiety for my own children. I hope that as Netanel did, they too will feel a sense of pride and a desire to fulfill the mitzvah to protect the Jewish people, and pray that God protect the young men (including my nephew) and women who man those borders protecting the people of Israel from harm.
I will close with the two, distinct prayers offered by Rav Sabato about Yonatan:
תהא נשמתו צרורה בצרור החיים - May his soul be bound up in a bond of eternal life.
ה' ינקום דמו - "May God avenge his blood."

Monday, September 24, 2012

Hiring a Rabbi - The Saga Continues - Part 2

Last I left you, the shul decided to conduct a search for a rabbi for the community, which was split into three camps: those who want a rabbi (group A), those who don't (group B) and those who don't seem to care very much (group C). While group A seems slightly larger than group B, and won the vote over whether or not to even have a rabbi, group C seems largest by far, not having voted at all.
Once the community decided to have a rabbi, the board commissioned a very well-meaning committee to steer the search. They went through an extensive process of evaluation, interviewing members of the shul, speaking to candidates, communicating with experts in the field of shul rabbis (they exist here, even though there aren't that many shul rabbis), finally culminating their work with the conclusion that the main goals of the shul's new rabbi would be:
  • Uniting the community
  • Inspiring the membership
  • Working with the youth
To a seasoned American-trained rabbi, none of these rabbinic tasks seem at all shocking; they're actually well within the purview of your standard community rav. But think about the items that are not on the list: psak halachah; giving shiurim; serving as the representative of the community in communal affairs - these not only weren't in the top three. They're not on the list. And, it's not because the community takes these things for granted. Rather, most people already have a personal posek (the rav of our yishuv is an amazing man) and community members already give a ton of shiurim.
Also, it's important to understand that while, as an American, these tasks seem perfectly suited to a shul rabbi, when you think about them critically, they're more oriented towards social work (other than inspiration) than rabbinic work. That's fine, because your average Chutz L'aretz rabbi really is, to a large degree, a social worker. He counsels. He organizes. He visits the sick. He arranges events and programs. Those are all aspects of social work. Sure, he teaches and paskens and speaks publicly as well. But I always saw each of the elements of my job as core to the rabbinic mission.
Israelis haven't really experienced that type of rabbi. By and large, Israelis have really only seen the rabbi who they see in shul or call to ask a question. They don't see their shul rabbi as having a major role in their lifecycle events, nor do they look for a personal connection with a rabbi the way people raised in Chutz L'aretz do. So, when they hear "hire a rabbi", it's just another person who will give another shiur, or add another layer of beaurocracy (and expense and infighting) to the community. I sense that in our shul, the Anglos and Israelis are using the same words (hire a rabbi), but are envisioning very, very different things.
The shul advertised, and was ready finally to invite candidates only by early summer, very very late in the process. Out of the dozens of resumes that we received, only about 15 were remotely relevant, and only four candidates would fit the requirements that the shul was looking for. (Meaning, some were respected rabbonim, but they wouldn't be willing, interested or qualified to reach out to individual members, unite the shul, or work with the youth).
In the end, two candidates dropped out - one because he was hired by another shul, and another decided he just wasn't interested - leaving us with two rabbis who would visit for Shabbat over the waning summer weeks. Both are relatively young (late 20s - early 30s), and none has communal shul experience.
All of this leads to a delicious irony. When I announced my decision to make aliyah, I was told over and over again that I would have great trouble finding work as a community rabbi, because the job simply didn't exist, and also because Israel is overrun with rabbis. (Let me be clear: I wasn't asked, nor do I want to be the rabbi of our shul. I like being a member and contributing to my community in my own way. I also like the freedom to be a regular person too.) Ironically, in my own shul we discovered that there aren't enough community-minded rabbanim in Israel. There are not enough rabbis trained to serve their communities, run programs, reach out to the unaffiliated - to simply do the work that the Orthodox community in America takes for granted. And all the American rabbis making aliyah won't really make a dent in that need because they won't hire us. For better or for worse, the language and culture barriers can be singificant, and even if they aren't, Israelis by and large won't hire an American rabbi anyway. That's just how it is.
What happened with the candidates? That's for the next post.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Baalei Teshuvah and Aliyah

At the end of the Parshat Hashavua shiur this past week, the topic of Ba'alei Teshuvah and aliyah came up. I have no idea what the percentages are, but it just seems like a significant percentage of Anglo olim are also Ba'alei Teshuvah.
This observation makes sense to me for two reasons:
First and foremost, Ba'alei Teshuva, in fundamental ways, have already altered their lifestyles. They've changed attitudes, neighborhoods (often), friends, eating patterns; life after frumkeit is different in almost every way. So, while making the jump to Israel is certainly significant and daunting, BTs are used to change and have already been willing to make it for ideological and faith-based reasons. Aliyah is just an extension of that. FFBs, by contrast, never really undergo fundamental change (unless they turn chareidi), so the thought of uprooting your life and moving to another continent is understandably daunting.
A member of the shiur pointed out another reason why it's easier for BTs to make aliyah than FFBs. As we all know, the chagim are a time when families gather together, making holidays especially challenging for olim, as they watch their Israeli friends and neighbors gather together. The thought of leaving family, and spending chagim essentially alone is challenging, to say the least. BTs, on the other hand, have already "left" their families for the chagim. Their families don't celebrate most of the holidays together, and the ones that do are not kosher, and certainly not the type of Yom Tov a frum family celebrates. So, they don't find the challenge of spending Yom Tov without family as pressing, because they're already doing that in Chutz L'aretz.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Audio Shiur: Parshat Netzavim - The Ultimate Return

Audio Shiur:
Parshat Netzavim - The Ultimate Return

The Torah describes a process of return that strongly resonates with us, but also seems different than the process that we're witnessing take place around us. What is the ultimate return? When will it take place? What are the conditions necessary to make that promised Redemption come to fruition?

Click here to navigate to the shiur on YUTorah.org.

Click to play the Shiur (or right-click to download)

Now you can subscribe to this shiur as a podcast, directly from iTunes! To subscribe, click here.

Got an Android phone? Want to listen to the Parshah shiur on the go? Simply click here and let the phone do the work! You may also want to download a podcasting App like Podkicker.

The View from Here: On Iran, Rosh Hashanah, and What We Can Do About It

This might sound strange to the average American, but I’m not entirely sure that we know or feel the situation in Iran any more than you do. With instant global communications, we’re reading the same websites and watching the same news. I daresay that in America, the Jewish community might be more aware of the Israel-Iran issue, and more frightened. Of course Iran comes up on the news here. But there’s also other local news that doesn’t make it to the English-language press. Try the following experiment: check out the English version of Ynet, and then the Hebrew version. The English version almost always deals with security issues; the Hebrew one almost always leads with local Israeli news. I just tried it now. English site headline: “Panetta: US has only 1 year to stop Iran.” The lead story on the very same site, but in Hebrew? “White House: Obama has no time in his Schedule for Netanyahu.” 
That’s not to say that Iran isn’t a concern; of course it is. But like Jews do around the world, we here live our daily lives, worried about the normal things that occupy our time: our jobs, the economy, getting the kids to sleep and the laundry done. At least for now, we’re not talking about an imminent threat; we’re discussing whether Israel should take action to prevent Iran from becoming an imminent threat.
So, at least personally, I don’t really walk around worrying about Iran. I certainly don’t walk around carrying a gas mask. I walk around worrying about gas prices.

What, then, can and should the American Jewish community be doing about the Iran threat? I have two thoughts. 
As we all know, when Yaakov Avinu prepared to face Eisav, he did so in three ways: he sent gifts to Eisav; he split the camp preparing for a fight, and he prayed. In other words, he prepared to fight; he engaged in diplomacy (the gifts), and he turned to the רבונו של עולם.
In my view, the American Jewish community can and must play a role in each of these critical areas:
  • Diplomacy and fighting: American Jews won’t fly the planes, and neither will I. But American Jews can and must play an active role in the American political process to ensure that Israel has the very best planes to fly, and has the diplomatic backing of the American government behind it, without which those planes might not get off the ground. Israel enjoys incredible support in the halls of Congress. But let us not imagine for a moment that we can take that support for granted. It’s the result of decades of work that many in the Orthodox community haven’t engaged in. I’m a big believer in the work that AIPAC does, and I’ve seen the power of its work firsthand. If ten percent of the people hearing a drashah about Israel on Rosh Hashanah this year committed to become more involved in AIPAC, not just by giving money, but by getting involved in this coming year’s election, Israel would enjoy a better, stronger position to deal with Iran.
  • Tefillah: Obviously, this isn’t just the domain of Israelis. We all must pray for the wellbeing of the Jewish State. I heard a talk last week from the Rishon L’tzion, Rav Amar, who emphasized the special need for tefillah this coming year. Noting that Chazal explain that ה' withheld children from our אמהות because ה'  is מתאוה לתפילתם של צדיקים, Rav Amar suggested that the current Iran crisis demonstrates that ה' really wants us to call out to Him; to pray with passion and fervor for the safety and security of the Jewish people.
One final point: the Gemara in Brachot (4a) wonders: if God had promised Yaakov והנה אנכי עמך ושמרתיך בכל אשר תלך – why was Yaakov so afraid of Eisav? After all, he had God on his side! The Gemara answers that Yaakov never doubted God’s ability to protect him. Yet, אמר, שמא יגרום החטא – “he said, perhaps the sins that I have committed will cause [me to lose God’s protection].”
In the end, we place our trust in the Master of the Universe. Yet, will we merit God’s divine protection? That’s really up to each and every one of us. Each of us has the power to raise the merit of the Jewish people, or, God forbid, lower it. Whether we value that power and take measures to protect and cherish it is up to us.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Fringe Benefit of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

My good friend Rabbi Asher Lopatin, has recently been appointed as the new head of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. Rabbi Lopatin is a brilliant, eminently talented and devoted rabbi, and I have great confidence that he will lead YCT capably and expertly.
What are his goals as he begins his tenure beginning next June? Rabbi Lopatin told the Times of Israel that,
he wants to maintain the school’s outreach-oriented approach, but one of his first priorities will be gaining broader acceptance within the Orthodox camp.
“I want to make sure Chovevei Torah is an integral part of the Orthodox world,” Lopatin told JTA. “I do think there’s a perception that Chovevei is left, for liberal Orthodoxy,” he said. “I want to start with getting the word out that we’re open to right and left.”
Will Rabbi Lopatin succeed in gaining broader acceptance within Orthodoxy? Will he finally convince the RCA to accept YCT semichah - something Avi Weiss could not accomplish? I have my doubts. One need only read the occasional outbursts appearing in the Chareidi press when one of YCT's graduates does or writes something that they feel crosses one red line or another. (see here for example).
And yet, I've been noticing some recent developments that I directly contribute to the growth and maturation of YCT. To be specific, with a new left-wing target, the right has begrudgingly begun to accept Yeshiva University, and especially RIETS.
I offer one piece of evidence. As a graduate of the Yeshiva of Greater Washington, I recently received the following email:

If you can't read it, "Rabbi Aharon Lopiansky, Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva of Greater Washington, spoke at Yeshiva University this week as part of their guest lecture series on Rosh HaShana." You can access the shiur here.
What? Really? Did I read that right? The Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva of Greater Washington spoke at YU? That, in and of itself is news, even though YGW really isn't all that right-wing (although it pretends to be). Most shocking is that YGW actually publicized the fact that its rosh yeshiva spoke at YU. 
This isn't begrudging willingness to speak. It's outright acceptance.
I am one of probably hundreds of YGW graduates that has attended YU, proudly so. But I never really felt that the Yeshiva administration really wanted us to go to YU. They knew we were going, but if they had their druthers, they would have much preferred that we attend Ner Yisroel, or if they really did their job right, a right-wing yeshiva with no college program. So, I truly found the email surprising. (Just to add a delicious twist of irony, does anyone want to guess where Rabbi Dov Linzer, Rosh Yeshiva of YCT went to high school? That's right: the Yeshiva of Greater Washington. Actually, back then it was just the Yeshiva High School, but who's counting. I have vivid memories of a summer shiur that Rabbi Linzer gave at the yeshiva to a bunch of guys at night.)
So, the email is either a mistake, or it represents a shift in attitude towards YU - which I think is the case. Why the shift? What suddenly has made YU more palpable to the semi-chareidi public? Without a doubt, the Roshei Yeshiva at YU have appropriately garnered a significant amount of respect owing to the fact that they're world-class talmidei chachamim. But it's gotta be more than that? YU has always boasted incredible rabbinic leadership? What's changed recently? 
The answer, I believe, is YCT.
With an institution like YCT occupying the left wing of Orthodoxy, YU now fills that space somewhere in the middle, and the ground between it and the center-right institutions like Ner Yisroel and YGW has become that much smaller.
Which is a good thing, because the Orthodox world needs more unity and mutual acceptance, and not less, and the more integrated YU and the rest of the frum world grow, the greater work they will be able to do on behalf of the Jewish people.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Should we be Worried?

As we approach the coming New Year, it seems that we've got a lot to worry about. The Prime Minister keeps beating the drum about the impending danger of a nuclear Iran; rockets are still falling on Sederot (which is pretty close to where I live), and gasoline reached an all-time high this week (what goes up doesn't seem to want to go down, either!) All of these worries don't even begin to touch on the personal concerns each of has for our families; for their health and well-being; for our children's continued growth and development. As I said, there's a lot to worry about.
But should we worry? Is worry something good and positive, or is it an emotion we should specifically try to control and minimize to whatever degree possible? The answer, of course, is that it depends on the subject of our worry.
In the classic Mussar work אורחות צדיקים, the anonymous author describes worry as a negative, destructive trait.

הדאגה. זאת המידה היא רעה ברוב ענייניה, והיא ניכרת על כל הפנים, כדכתיב (בראשית מ ו): "וירא אתם והינם זועפים"; וכתיב (נחמיה ב ב): "מדוע פניך רעים, ואתה אינך חולה". ואמר אחד מן החכמים: איני מוצא כלל באנשי נפשות העליונות סימן דאגה. הדואג על עולם זה להשיג מאומה – הוא מגונה מאוד, והיא לא נמצאת כלל באנשים הבוטחים בשם ומאמינים בו. הדאגה והיגון הם מכלים הלב, והם חולי הגוף. והדאגה הרעה שבכל הדאגות היא שירדוף אחר העבירות, ובעת שלא ימצא כל חפץ לבו – אז הוא דואג ומצטער. הדואג על עולם זה הוא רחוק מאוד מן התורה והמצוות והתפילה. לכן יחוש מאוד לתקן המידה הזאת, להסיר אותה ממנו. ואין צריך להאריך ברעתה, כי כל הטובות הבאות מן השמחה – הן היפוך הדאגה.
Worry. This attribute is almost always negative, and is recognizable on every face, as it is written, "And [Yosef] saw them and they were sad." (Bereishit 40:6) and it is also written, "Why is your face sad, and you are not sick." And one of the scholars has said, I have not seen worry in the spirits of the higher-level souls. On who worries about achieving anything in this world – this is very obscene – and is not found in those people who trust in God and have faith in Him. Worry and anguish destroy the heart and they are sicknesses of the body…Thus, a person should make great effort to fix this attribute and remove it from himself. And there's no reason to write at length about the negative nature [of worry] because all of the goodness that comes from happiness – is the direct opposite of worry.
In essence, "Don't worry, be happy."
But there is a type of worry that is positive and productive. We find in the Gemara in Brachot (4a) that although David Hamelech considered himself generally righteous, telling God שמרה נפשי כי חסיד אני – "Save my soul, for I am righteous" (Tehillim 86:1), nonetheless at the end of Chapter 27 of Tehillim (לדוד ה' אורי – which we recite twice daily throughout Elul), David seems to think differently of himself.

אל תתנני בנפש צרי, כי קמו בי עדי שקר ויפח חמס. לולי האמנתי לראות בטוב ה' בארץ החיים...
Deliver me not over to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen up against me, and breathe out violence.  If I had not believed to look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! (Chapter 27:12-13)
On this verse the Gemara quotes David as saying to God,

רבונו של עולם, מבטח אני בך שאתה משלם שכר טוב לצדיקים לעתיד לבא, אבל איני יודע אם יש לי חלק ביניהם אם לאו!
Master of the World – I am sure that You give proper reward to the righteous in the future. Yet, I do not know if I have a portion among them or not.
What happened to the confident, self-assured Chassid? Where is the righteous David Hamelech, who declared his goodness to God? The Gemara answers: שמא יגרום החטא – "perhaps he would lose [his reward] because of sin."
David Hamelech was indeed worried. He wasn't worried about his enemies attacking him or global warming or even whether he'd be able to afford the new iPhone. Rather, he was worried about himself, and whether he'd be able to continue to serve God properly in the future.
This, says אורחות צדיקים, is the only proper type of worry.  We can and should indeed worry whether our actions over the past year have drawn us away from God. We should be concerned, even anguished over the mistakes that we've made. And we should definitely use the power of worry to keep us from sinning in the future.
It seems, then, that we're worried entirely about the wrong things.
Should we worry about Iran? That's not really in our control, and worrying about it will only make our lives more miserable. Should we even worry about our livelihoods and the exorbitant price of gasoline? Again no. We should try and work on ourselves, so that we recognize that our sustenance lies in the hands of the Creator, who "provides bread to every living creature." We of course should pray for good health and blessing, but worrying about it won't help at all.
Still, there is something we can and must worry about: ourselves. We must worry about the insidious, seductive nature of sin, so that we can learn from our mistakes and commit ourselves to improvement, return and renewal.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Bezalel's Bar Mitzvah: Shehecheyanu V'kimanu...

This Shabbat we're celebrating the Bar Mitzvah of our second son, Bezalel, born in West Hartford, CT - I can still remember the wonderful Shabbat brit milah (which we shared with the the Feingold Bar Mitzvah - it was a great Shabbat for Agudas Achim). There's not much time to write now, but it's a very exciting time. I feel very blessed for the amazing community in which I live, the family members and friends who are joining for Shabbat, and the support and friendship of so many others.
May we celebrate only happy and joyous occasions together!
Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Audio Shiur: Parshat Ki Tavo - A Symbiotic Relationship with God

Audio Shiur:
Parshat Ki Tavo - A Symbiotic Relationship with God 

As Moshe winds down his final address to the nation before the Tochecha, his choice of words tells us a great deal about the relationship of God to the Jewish people (and visa versa), our obligation as parents raising our kids, and a critical message about Eretz Yisrael.

Click here to navigate to the shiur on YUTorah.org.

Click to play the Shiur (or right-click to download)

Now you can subscribe to this shiur as a podcast, directly from iTunes! To subscribe, click here.

Got an Android phone? Want to listen to the Parshah shiur on the go? Simply click here and let the phone do the work! You may also want to download a podcasting App like Podkicker.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

An Astounding Discovery: The Lost Screwtape Letters

I have written before about the great value I have found in reading The Screwtape Letters, (which also seems to be available for free download as an ebook here) a powerful work of human nature by C.S. Lewis that I try and reread around Rosh Hashanah time. As luck would have it, I have gotten my hands on a recently discovered, previously unknown letter, which has only now been discovered, perhaps through a faulty Internet Service Provider. (Apparently, they're now using email.) After exhaustive research, I cannot fully vouch for its authenticity, but I share the letter with you nonetheless.

To: wormwood@pergatory.org
From: exec-vp@pergatory.org
Date: August 27, 2012
Subject: Using a Smartphone for work

My Dear Wormwood,

I am gratified to learn that your subject has recently received a smartphone from his work. Like all implements, this new gadget is nothing more or less than a tool to be used for our purposes, or to bolster the cause of the enemy. I find myself astounded at the myriad of applications our enemy has instigaged in a desperate attempt to minimize the damage these phones can do to their cause. Audio lectures, texts available – I recently learned that they are even developing an application so that a person can study the entire Talmud with a single device.
Contrary to what you might think, these are not negative developments for our cause. Quite the opposite. There is no more titillating experience for us in our work than having your subject use his phone for what he considers to be spiritual purposes, when in fact he achieves almost no benefit at all. Encourage him to download a lecture on a heavy text so that he can listen while he jogs. What emerges is the quite amusing situation in that he thinks that he has spent an hour studying while he runs, freeing him during the rest of his spare time for leisurely pursuits such as watching a baseball game (or, preferably, a situation comedy), when in fact, we know very well that he has not really studied anything at all. At best he has heard the material, and absorbed almost nothing. This is the ideal first step as you slowly reel him into your grasp: to have him feel like he's engaging in valuable, worthwhile endeavors, while in fact he is doing nothing of the sort.
Yet, the smartphone presents a far more delectable opportunity for our purposes. I am not referring to the possibility of his accessing pornography via the phone. That cheap thrill, of course, can be of some value to us, and there are a few rare cases where tempters succeeded in using the pornography to instill a deep sense of guilt that distanced their charge from the bright light of the enemy into the shadows of our Home. Yet, if you wish to tempt to pornography, you will need to steer your subject towards a real computer. No, the smartphone presents even more delicious opportunities for those in our line of work.
With his new phone, your charge will instantly be connected with a myriad of services and websites that previously required him to sit at a computer. He will find himself under a constant barrage of emails from work, friends and other acquaintances that you must convince him to attend to immediately, without delay. Remind him, after all, that he must be constantly available, or he'll be considered a second-rate employee by his boss. Also encourage him to download as many social networking applications as possible, including Facebook (we're still working on that award for Mr. Zuckerberg) but also Google Plus, LinkedIn, and as many applications as possible that share silly pictures, funny quotes, and other useless information.
These applications offer many great benefits to our cause, of which I will share two:
1. They blessedly rob your charge of any free time. One of our greatest dangers is the mere possibility that those under our care spend time in reflection and contemplation. As I have written to you in previous letters (that you have clumsily ignored to this point), our greatest enemy is our subjects' ability and desire to think; to look around the world and contemplate the mystery of the Universe; to wonder about eternal questions. At these moments, our counterparts – when they are wise and quick – lead the man down a road we cannot follow – leading to potentially disastrous consequences.
For this reason, we must thank our Father daily for the curse (blessing to us, that is) of these devices. Armed with such a device, your subject will never, ever have the time to think or contemplate anything. Stuck on the line at the grocery store? Remind him that he's wasting his time, and that he could be spending this "wasted" time doing something far more useful, pointing to his Smartphone. He'll never bother to ask why scrolling through endless vapid comments on Facebook is useful. After all, it's on his Smartphone. (I do love that name! People who use them consider themselves smart! Fantastic!) Get him into the habit of taking out the device whenever there's a lull in his day: on the train to work; during meetings at work; before you know it, you'll have him using the phone during the "boring" periods at religious services – again a win-win for us: he thinks he's praying, while we know that he's answering his email.
2. Yet, this is only a secondary benefit of these wonderful devices to our cause. The main benefit these devices offer us is that they can, when used (by you) properly, drive a subtle, critical wedge between your charge and his loved ones.
You must, ever so slowly, instill in your man a sense of insecurity that causes him to constantly check his phone for updates. As his sense of self-worth diminishes, he will find himself needing to check for new messages with increasing regularity. And, the more he checks the phone and finds comfort from the messages of others, the less self-assured he will become. If you play your cards right, he will begin to evaluate himself solely on the number of "likes" that he receives on a picture he shares, and the number of Facebook friends he has amassed, irrespective of how many of those people he knows (or even cares about).
Moreover, as time progresses, he will begin to think of these virtual relationships as "real", and ignore the very real people in his life. Imagine him sharing a meal with his mother at a local restaurant. As his mother attempts to conduct a conversation with him, she finds him constantly glancing down at his phone to check for updates and messages. She will (assuming her tempter hasn't fallen asleep) blow up at him because she can't get in a word without him checking "that damn phone". You can then, quite easily encourage him to respond with equally righteous indignation, as you insist in his ear that he was, "listening to every word she said." Thus, you have used your phone to distance your man from his beloved mother, and gotten him to blame her for it in the process!
In a way, Wormwood, you are fortunate. Had such tools been available during my tenure, many more of my subjects would have certainly found themselves in our Father's house, and I would have received my well-deserved promotion many centuries ago, instead of having to wait for my previous superior's unfortunate repeated blunders (in which I deny any culpability) that allowed me to achieve the prominent position I now enjoy.
Don't get any ideas. Smartphone or not, you're nowhere near my pay grade. And, I am watching you.

Affectionately yours,