Thursday, July 9, 2020

Pinchos 5780

Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Pinchos
18 Tamuz 5780/July 10, 2020
Avos perek 6
            During the last few weeks, there have been a plethora of signs cropping up on people’s lawns. Some wish congratulations to graduates while others thank teachers and health care workers for going above and beyond the call of duty during the pandemic. There are also many such messages appearing on the windows of cars, some of which include best wishes for couples who recently got married.
            There are always challenges and difficulties one encounters along the path of growth. When a person accomplishes something noteworthy which he worked hard to achieve, the congratulations wishes, blessings and encouragement of others help fuel him to forge on to the next level.
            However, there is a vital distinction between recognition and overexposure. So much of people’s lives are laid out on social media for one and all to see. Three billion people - about 40% of the world’s population - use online social media. On average, people spend two hours every day sharing, liking, tweeting and uploading. Studies have shown that Facebook usage has been linked to increased feelings of jealousy, and negative relationship outcomes. Social media usage effects people’s moods, and can increase anxiety and depression. The reasons for this can include cyber-bullying, having a distorted view of other people’s lives, and feeling that time spent on social media is a waste. Social media usage at night effects sleep patterns, which has on overall effect on people’s mood and wellbeing. More than half of social media users report feeling inadequate. For younger users, they also report feeling unattractive.
            But there is another component to the dangers of social media which is not so apparent: the effect that it has upon relationships.
            When Chani and I became engaged, and then when we were first married, there was one couple we were particularly close with who gave us much time and guidance. One of the things we noticed about them was that they would often giggle and laugh together.
            Everyone notes how cute it is when a young newly married couple laughs together and look like they are on cloud- nine. But the truth is that that isn’t so impressive; in fact, at that point, it’s more natural. However, when life becomes busier and there are a bunch of children, then it becomes rarer for couples to laugh together or share such moments. At that point it becomes that much more important to foster and share such times. The fact that this couple, who had numerous children, and a busy life, still shared private jokes and giggled amongst themselves was a great inspiration for us as newlyweds.
            Part of what makes a relationship special is its exclusivity. If there aren’t private social moments the relationship is lacking. When a husband or wife do something special for each other, it should remain between them. That privacy deepens the bond and connection between them. But if those special moments or gifts are posted online, that is a serious breach in the relationship.
            Many people don’t realize this point when they post pictures of their private anniversary dinner, or of a gift that their spouse gave them. Such beautiful events and gifts are no one else’s business.
            Shiva Asar B’Tamuz marks the day when the walls of Yerushalayim were breached by the Romans. A few painful weeks later, the Roman invaders destroyed the second Bais Hamikdash and initiated our two-millennia long exile.
            Yerushalayim was a city that symbolized our intimate connection with Hashem. It is, and has always been, a city of holiness, dedicated to serving Hashem on all levels. When the enemy infiltrated the city walls, it also symbolized the breach of our deep private relationship with Hashem. In a sense, we had allowed external influences to penetrate our private and exclusive relationship. Therefore, what had been private and lofty was now rendered obsolete because of external intrusion. That is part of what we mourn on Shiva Asar B’Tamuz. If the cracks in a relationship - like the cracks in the foundation of a building - are not repaired, the gap will slowly widen. Eventually, it will cause the whole relationship to be pulled apart, and the whole building will collapse.
            On Shiva Asar B’Tamuz it behooves us to also focus on the cracks in our relationships. That includes marriages, friendships, within our families and communities.
            We hope that if we work to repair and seal those breaches, it will prevent the Tisha B’avs of life, which are merely the result of ignoring the Shiva Asar B’Tamuzs of life.
            May it be meaningful and uplifting.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos
            R’ Dani and Chani Staum