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Only One 'Like'

Friday, 9 September, 2022 - 5:31 am

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Can you imagine a world where people base their moral choices on how many ‘likes’ they will get for their social media post?

I get it if people base their fashion choices on the feedback they get from people around them. Clothing and fashion are after all have very much to do with making an impression on those around us.

But moral choices? To decide whether I will feel good about being charitable or not, do I really need to hear from some stranger giving me a thumbs up?

You don’t have to imagine a world that looks to ‘likes’ for moral guidance.

It is here already.

At this juncture I can go two ways.

I can start raining down ‘brimstone and fire’, using rhetoric that will make us wish we were born in the pre-industrial-revolution days.

Or I can be true to the core values of Judaism through the enlightening prism of Chassidic thought.

And that indeed is what I will share.

The Rebbe taught that the way to look at technological advances is not that it’s something to bemoan or wish that it goes away.

Hashem made His world and guides the world. Inventions are G-d allowing humans to innovate. That innovation has a purpose. It is to be used for holy, moral, blessed and benevolent things.

We live in the reality of 5782-2022. It is this exact world that Hashem has created for us at this moment of time. We must be mindful in what kind of a unique moment of history we are blessed to be living. And we have but one question to ask ourselves.

How should we be conducting ourselves in our contemporary environment.

The answer has never changed. From the very first communication of the Torah at Mount Sinai the message has remained eternal and unchanging.

We have a mission from G-d.

The ‘playing field’ of this mission is our current world. If you were born in the Middle Ages, that would be your reality. But you weren’t born then. You were born in this generation. If you are born in our current age, then this is a G-dly sign that this is your set of circumstances. Tailored immaculately for your mission.

That mission is to do what is right in G-d’s eyes. Even if it may be at the price of ‘going with the flow’.

Even at the cost of ZERO LIKES from those around you.

Avraham our Father went against the entire pervading culture when he declared his belief in One G-d.  The idol industry didn’t give him any ‘likes’. They even had him thrown into a fiery furnace when he wouldn’t change his monotheistic ‘tweets’.

The days leading up to Rosh Hashana are an appropriate time to do a little introspection.

Taking into account and recognizing that we currently live in a world that is so clued in to what every single person is thinking at the other side of the globe, we need to solidify and strengthen our internal GPS system.

Try to do what is RIGHT regardless of what is POPULAR.

Is social media our enemy?

Granted, it can be very destructive.

On the other hand, social media can be an amazing tool. It can help create a vibe. The goal is to make it popular and ‘cool’ to do what is right.

Technology and scientific advance is not a curse G-d forbid. It is a blessed tool from the Almighty which is intended to allow us to get closer to him and promote Divine values.

Humans who are grounded in moral values choose to use technological tools in a productive and wholesome, holy manner.

To give us credit for fulfilling our mission, Hashem also provides a challenge in the form of choice. Technology can also be used or bad and even horrible things.

As the Torah clearly states: G-d says that ‘I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. And you shall choose life, so that you and your children may live’.

It is up to us to make the right choice and channel the commodities and tools at our disposal to holy and good things.

It seems to me that the Torah speaks directly to the point of not being dependent on ‘likes’ in this week’s portion.

How so? The Torah was transmitted by G-d thousands of years ago. Where does it talk about ‘likes’?

Towards the end of this week’s Parsha the law of collateral and securities for loans is taught. (Interpolated translation by Kehos Publications)

‘As you have been taught, when a loan comes due and the borrower does not have the means to repay it, the lender may take him to court and demand collateral against the unpaid loan. Similarly, when you demand back something that you loaned your fellow Jew—even something other than money—and he cannot return it to you immediately, you may demand collateral. However, you must not enter his home to take his collateral.

Rather, you must stand outside, and the person from whom you are demanding the return of what you loaned him must bring the collateral to you outside.

Also, as you have been taught, if he is a poor man, and the only thing in his possession that he can give you as collateral is his night clothing, you must not lie down to sleep with his collateral still in your possession.

Rather, you must return the collateral to him by sunset, so that he may lie down to sleep in his garment. Similarly, if he is a night-worker and gives you his daytime clothing as a security, you must return it to him by morning. 

He will bless you for your consideration, and even if he does not, it will be counted for you as a merit before God, your God.

(Emphasis is mine, the Torah text doesn’t have emphases or highlights per se).

Imagine the scenario. You have given a poor man a loan. He has given you his silk pajamas that remind him of better days as a security. He doesn’t have another pair of pajamas. The Torah thus instructs you to return his pajamas every night so that he can sleep properly.

You find yourself majorly inconvenienced every evening in returning those pajamas to the man who owes you money.

And because you expend so much effort in tending to this poor person, you feel like a saint. For lending him money in the first place. For returning his collateral every night.

You expect the beneficiary to appreciate your efforts.

Indeed, the Torah points out, that ‘he will bless you for your consideration’.

But then, he happened to send you an email intended for his friend. He sent it to you by accident. Before you realized it wasn’t meant for you and stopped reading it, you noticed that in his mail that he is complaining about you in the context of the loan that he owes you.

Let me ask you to take this self-assessment test.

Stop to ask yourself how would you feel?

You thought till now that he feels so blessed by your efforts. Now you find out HE DOESN’T EVEN APPRECIATE YOUR EFFORTS!!!

I am guessing you may not be feeling so positive about what has happened. You may feel like you have been taken advantage of.

You may be screaming WHAT CHUTZPAH. WHAT NERVE that fellow has after all I do for him he doesn’t even appreciate it???

You may consider reacting negatively and even do nasty things in trying to reclaim your loan. Not because anything has changed in terms of dollars and cents. And deep down you know that you did the right thing. But the ungratefulness of the recipient gets you indignant and very upset.

The Torah continues:

it will be counted for you as a merit before God, your God.

Cool down.

Stop relying on others to make you feel validated.

Ask yourself, what does G-d want me to do?

How does Hashem look at my deed.

Hashem tells us in His Torah LOUD AND CLEAR. Even if the recipient doesn’t bless you as he should, in the eyes of G-d it will be considered a merit.

Stop looking at how many ‘likes’ you are getting from the people ‘out there’.

Start living your life based on what He, the Almighty in Heaven, and the ‘piece of G-d’ within ourselves ‘likes’.

That is all that counts.

And I have some good news for you. When you do what HE says is right, ultimately the society around you will also appreciate you. Maybe not instantly but ultimately.

Leaders, parents, educators, this is especially important for you.

It’s time to ween ourselves off ‘likes’.

Its time to provide to those who look to us for leadership and guidance the moral clarity and guidance that they are looking for. Albeit they may protest outwardly. They may not bless you.

But if G-d has put you in the position of leadership/parenthood/teacher-hood, then He has given you the responsibility and mission of acting and doing what Almighty G-d wants you to do. Lead the way forward in moral G-dly behavior by personal example of keeping Mitzvahs and by teaching the truth of Torah.

 ‘It will be counted for you as a merit before God, your God’

Shabbat Shalom

Shana Tova

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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