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The Rabbi on the Beach @ The Shul on the Beach

The Non-Virtual Social Network


Last week, my Shabbos morning Drasha (sermon) sought to give meaning to the Torah’s laws regarding evil speech and gossip. As punishment for these social crimes an individual would contract a spiritual disease that was similar in appearance to leprosy. Once the disease was was diagnosed by the halachic authority (Kohen) as the spiritually caused leprosy the individual would need to leave the town and stay outside the city for a little while.

The crime was social and the punishment was social. By speaking ill of others the individual became separated from the fabric of society and could only learn this lesson once physically removed from the social environment.

We touched a number of other points and expanded this point further as well.

The upshot of the Drasha was to remind everyone of the importance of tolerance and that we must embrace our interdependence on one another. The perfect Torah society will be a perfect social society.

I contrasted this with the society I noticed in the ESPN.com poll which I blogged about last week. (If you have not seen that yet – check it out.)

I am always asked for “examples” of how we can improve our behavior or work on ourselves. In this context I was asked, “how can we make our society more interdependent?”. I am very reluctant to dispense such advice.

You will always know better than I, what you need to work on. I always say “I am sure you know what you need to work on, and if you don’t, ask your spouse or a parent”.

A news item came to my attention today that may help give people some practical advice.

A Rabbi Rosen in Israel says that there is a religious imperative to return phone calls and voice messages. His idea is that respect is a basic element to the observant Jew, and we cannot allow ourselves to become caught up in the increased technology and forget to behave appropriately.

This is good advice. My father once told me that a good public servant (Rabbi, educator etc.) must return phone calls. (I know I try my best to return phone calls and email messages in a timely manner, especially to members of PJC.) Who knew that it is really so important? Rabbi Rosen is reminding us all that civility and good social behavior are religious imperatives and never go out of style.

In a world like ours, where where virtual social networks like Faceboook and Twitter are more popular than actual-factual social (non-virtual) networking, we need to be extra vigilant to maintain the social standards of the Torah lifestyle in our non-virtual world.

The mere fact that I am using the term “non-virtual” signals a giant shift in how we view our world. It used to be understood that the world was real and there was also a “virtual world”, now it is almost as if there are two equal worlds, the non-virtual and the virtual. Crazy. How do we fix this? How do we ensure our world maintains some level of social interdependence?

Rabbi Rosen says to start with returning phone calls. I say, that is a great start and let it serve as a reminder that in this digital age we need our human relationships more than ever – don’t neglect them.

Our non-virtual social networks are suffering and we need to work hard to foster the social interdependance the Torah wants from us. If we are able to implement and execute a good social society it will help us be as happy and productive as we all desire.

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Filed under: All Posts, Musings & Observations, My Links, , ,

One Response

  1. E. F. Shaar says:

    Twenty years ago, William Safire came up with the word “retronym”, meaning words that need adjectives that didn’t used to: analog watch, brick and mortar business, real-time, whole milk, (and some would say) safe sex

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