Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 53

Rules of Engagement

February 19, 2021

Dear Holy Friends,

I hope this correspondence finds you well and in good health. We are all eagerly looking forward to sharing a joyous virtual Purim together next week. Please see below for details on the multiple offerings we have for this year’s celebration.

Please also join us this Monday night, February 22 at 8:00PM, for the third installment of our Author Series. We will host our colleague and friend, Rabbi Henry Glazer (also a Canadian, by the way!), who will share with us about his ground-breaking book, I Thank Therefore I Am, and his approach to writing.

Over the course of the last year, we have all been spending a disproportionate amount of time on our computers.Whether for services, classes, or virtual birthday gatherings, our eyes and typing fingers have probably been on overload!For younger people, this situation is exacerbated by their passion for social-media apps including Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.Statistics tell us that 90% of young adults, between the ages of 16-24, are active on these media sites multiple times per day.

Two weeks ago, we read of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.Although Moshe, our teacher, may not have been able to imagine the kinds of communication tools we have today, here are six concepts of Torah wisdom that would have likely resonated with him and that we should all consider before, during and after we make our next social media post:

  1. Leviticus 25:17 ­ "Do not aggrieve your fellow man." Postings can be a vehicle for unity, building and healing, or the opposite, division and destruction.Be positive and caring and do unto others as you wish to be done to you.Applaud genuine achievement and let your postings manifest our joint commitment to Jewish values.Do your part to raise the collective bar.
  2. Exodus 20:8-11 ­ "Work for six days, then observe Shabbat."Provide yourself with a weekly digital detox. Shabbat can be a great time for catching up with our loved ones, but when interacting with them, aim to be fully present. Let’s follow Heschel’s idea of creating a sanctuary in time for each of us, by putting down our phones.

  3. Numbers 15:39 ­ "Don't stray after your heart and eyes." Of the five senses, eyesight accounts for 80% of our sensory stimulation.What you see often dictates your experience. Just as Kashruth teaches us to be careful about what we put in our mouths; we must similarly choose wisely regarding the images we put before our eyes. With today’s media saturated with provocative images, we have endless opportunities to reaffirm "guard your eyes.

  4. Genesis 1:27 ­ "Man was created in the image of God." Everyone needs validation that their life has value, importance, and meaning.Emotionally healthy people generate this validation internally. To rely on external sources, often called likes or reposts in today’s social media culture, we develop a false sense of self.Be true to yourself and know that you are holy (even if your message doesn’t get retweeted).There never was, nor will there ever be, another person with your exact combination of talents and circumstances.

  5. Exodus 20:14 ­ "Do not covet what belongs to others." Numerous studies have shown a correlation between the amount of time spent on Facebook and elevated levels of anxiety and depression.We scroll through curated posts of people’s seemingly perfect lives ­ happy relationships, gorgeous homes, and amazing vacations ­ bemoaning that we will never be as happy or fulfilled as them.Do not be fooled by it.Remember, the one who is wealthy, is the one who rejoices in his / her own portion.

  6. 6.Leviticus 19:18 ­ "Love your neighbor as yourself." Focus on helping others and being a true friend, one who feels the pain of others, takes joy in others’ success, and goes out of the way lend a hand.Support positive social and religious causes to make the world a kinder place.

Friends, as we enter Shabbat, remember that all of the world has the potential for goodness, kindness, caring, positivity, and love.Let’s always keep these Torah values in mind to help ensure that this amazing technological era in which we live, brings a blessing to the Jewish people and all of humanity.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD
201 562 5277

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