Thursday, May 19, 2011


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Bechukosai

16 Iyar 5771/May 20, 2011- 31st Day of the Omer

Pirkei Avos – Chapter 4

Osama is dead. “With the destruction of the wicked is joy” (Mishley 11:10) “May the name of the wicked rot.” (Mishley 10:7)

Your browser may not support display of this image. The now-famous photo of President Obama and his team in the White House ‘Situation Room’ has received remarkable attention:

For one, Secretary Clinton claimed her facial expression and the positioning of her hand in front of her mouth may have been caused by seasonal allergies and was not necessarily an expression of anxiety over what they were viewing live.

The other woman in the background received much attention too. Who is she and why was she there? Suddenly the nation was introduced to Audrey Tomason, the director of counterterrorism. One reporter noted that, “the fact that we can see her face could potentially jeopardize her career”.

The Yiddish newspaper, Der Tzitung came under heavy condemnation for illegally tampering with a government photo by photoshopping Secretary Clinton and Mrs. Tomason out of the picture. It was also was viewed as discriminatory and chauvinistic, which the newspaper vehemently denied.

France 24 News reported that the photo was analyzed with software called Tungstene, produced by French company eXo maKina. The software uses various filters to detect the different stages of alterations a photo may have undergone. Among their findings was that the left side of Obama’s strained face was highlighted, apparently to further stress the tension of the scene. In addition, the light on and around Secretary Clinton was enhanced, while other parts of the photo were slightly darkened. That may have been done because Clinton’s stricken expression is what conferred the most intensity to the photo.

The article concluded that, “None of the elements in the photo (apart from the tie of the man standing behind Clinton) are actually fake, but the alterations the image underwent all aim for the same effect: to enhance the impression of tension, but at the same time of efficiency and power, that the White House hopes to convey.”

The Chofetz Chaim explained that G-d allowed the invention of pictures and videos to strengthen people’s belief in the words of the Mishna (Avos 2:1) “Know what is above you: an eye sees, an ear hears, and all of your actions are written in a book.”

Today whenever something interesting or unusual occurs, or when any noted personality is in view, multitudes of cameras (or more likely camera phones) suddenly appear, and clicks and flashes ensue. Everything seems to be captured in pictures (or videos). So it seems that once a picture is taken the moment is captured forever. The picture is undeniable proof of what occurred. Just gaze at the photo and you can relive the moment. But today’s advanced technology has demonstrated that pictures are no longer trustworthy.

The Torah tells us that our sins and mishaps are not eternal and we can rectify our iniquities. Pictures can be altered, touched up, photoshopped, and censored. In the World of Truth too there are second chances. Every ‘celestial picture’ can be changed or deleted, depending on our subsequent efforts.

The holiday of Pesach Sheni symbolizes the idea that there is always a second chance in regards to spiritual matters. Even when the ‘picture’ is lucidly incriminating and condemning, it can be revised and modified. Those who were impure or (spiritually) distant the first time have the opportunity to rectify their recalcitrant attitudes. In the words of Rabbi Nachman, “If you believe you can destroy, then believe you can fix.”

There is unquestionably an eye that sees, an ear that hears, and a hand that records. However, we have a G-d granted ability to influence exactly what is heard, seen, and written, even after its been recorded.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum