Friday, November 23, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayetzei
9 Kislev 5773/November 23, 2012

Did you get that text message on Tuesday night? Did you get it from numerous people?
“Please set aside two minutes of your time! The army is entering Gaza. Rabbanim are asking everyone to say Tehillim 130, 121, 83, 20, 91, 143. Fwd 2 whoever u can. Ty.”
For one, there was is the blatant problem that the text was disseminating information that was simply untrue. The invasion did not occur b’h. Making people more nervous than they already are is not to be taken lightly. For those who have family members who are soldiers, and even all of us who are davening and hoping for the welfare of our brethren, it compounded our fear for no reason.
Personally I am also bothered by the ‘text craze’. It isn’t uncommon to receive a text from someone with an urgent message with no author attached to it, that has been forwarded many times over, and ends with the words (as this one did) “Don’t break the chain.” No one wants to be the malevolent evildoer who breaks the chain, so everyone keeps forwarding the text to everyone on their contact list.
I remember a certain Rabbi once saying that he feels that it is meaningless for a man to give his wife flowers every single week. He argued that when it becomes a standard gift each week it loses its appeal. It becomes expected and is no longer valued for its sentiment.
Whether you agree with his point or not, it is thought-provoking. Something that seems to constantly happen and doesn’t entail much thought or innovation lacks poignancy.   
I certainly have nothing against people davening for someone who is sick or in a desperate situation. Au contraire; there is nothing greater than the power of tefillah. If we can convince others to daven as well we should always try to do so. But from personal census I have found that people feel that they have done their share by forwarding such texts even without adhering to its message to actually daven. And because we get such texts so often and they are so easily sent around without anyone seeming to know who sent them, they quickly lack their ability to emotionally move us.
The Kotzker Rebbe lamented the fact that people seem more dedicated to minhagim (customs) than halachos (laws). He suggested that if G-d would have given us ‘the Ten Minhagim’ in the luchos at Sinai, people would be much more apt to keep them properly.
When these text messages go out everyone feels they must immediately forward them. We fear the accusing angel coming to us in our dreams waving an accusatory finger at us and saying “YOU! You were the one who broke the chain!”
Perhaps we should send urgent texts each morning that z’man kriyas Shema is in just three minutes: “Urgent. You only have three minutes left to say Shema before the z’man. Rabbonim ask that you please say all three parshios asap. Please fwd 2 as many people as you can. Don’t break the chain. OMG wants us to do so.”
I fear that people may perceive the wrong message from what I am writing. If someone is in need of assistance or prayers within a community, texting/emailing is a wonderful means to get that message out to the community as quickly and efficiently as possible. The same holds true within a family, G-d forbid. But I question the effectiveness of such texts and emails on a mass scale, especially when no one knows the source.
May we only need to share and hear good – and accurate – news.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
   R’ Dani and Chani Staum

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