This article has a problem. Do you know what it is?

(this blog post is written in English with a smattering of Yiddish words. it’s catered toward my orthodox Jewish readers, but enjoyable by all. Posted here after being declined for publication by a major Jewish website, possibly due to being too provocative…)

The answer is: it’s posted online.

 

Which means, that unlike newspapers in print, anybody and everybody, with a few taps on his computer keyboard, can respond within minutes, and without much thought for as to if what they are saying has value to add, or not. And of course, with the ability to post anonymously, it’s not like we actually have to face up to what we say in real, offline, life, right?

 

Many of us, having grown up in the internet generation, are, whether we want to admit it or not, news junkies. Why wait for the hour or the half hour for headlines when you can get the latest headlines in moments? Or even get them, “pushed” to our smart phones so we can have the news before it hits the airwaves as breaking news?

 

I have no axe to grind; for me, personally, the internet has been a blessing. And even when some anonymous fellow posted a negative comment about me in one of the forums, it led much traffic to my website… and, after my giving of a seminar in Brooklyn at which the anonymous poster attended, the remarks were mysteriously removed.

 

Why?

 

Because, to that anonymous individual, I was no longer someone “out there” that they’d never met. They had spoken to me, one-on-one, and now knew me- and realized that their words had no basis in real life. I had been able to help them.

 

As a chassidishe yid that works out there in the wider, non-Jewish world, I have a unique understanding and appreciation for both the amazing opportunities that there are “out there” on the internet. No different from 13th avenue, which has all kinds of shops and businesses, some good and some bad, the internet is a highway and not a destination.

 

I say this so you know; I am by no means a paragon of perfection in my personal or professional life. So my words here are not said in a condescending manner; I am guilty myself of the very same charge that I am about to mention here as something that we, frum users of the internet, need to understand, so that we can understand what sometimes goes on inside of each of us…And here’s the word:

 

Schadenfreude. Sameach B’Takalas chaveiro.

 

It’s a German word, whose shoresh comes from two words Yiddish speakers will understand: Shuden, meaning loss, and freyd, meaning happiness.

 

Meaning: Both you and I have a natural tendency to get a certain kick, or pleasure, out of another’s misfortune.

 

When an article comes out, critical of yidden, it takes mere moments sometimes for the commenters to start having a blast; poke fun at the gedolim, say “serves ‘em right!” when someone gets into legal troubles, and make many other kinds of arm chair general, where we sit in the comfort of our own home and decide exactly what happened and who deserves the blame.

 

Earlier this week, there was a post on one of the major jewish blogs, vosizneias, about a Lubavitcher Chassid in crown heights who was arrested with the article indicating that passersby has taken a video of the man getting arrested. Reading the article and then the comments, it was quite amusing/shocking to see that a fair number of the commenters did not even understand WHO had been arrested- was it the driver, for speeding close to shkia to get home, or was it a bystander trying to explain to the police that he should not be forced to be mechallel Shabbos, ticket, fine, or not?

 

Many of the readers of this page have no interest in hearing drashos about teshuva- nor am I qualified to give one! The self righteousness of practically each and every person who registers to leave comments on a blog post are sky-high… to the extend that reading sites like the Wall Street Journal using firefox and a plug-in called adblock that blocks unwanted advertisements and images sometimes seems like a better alternative than reading “kosher” sources of news.

 

And for those posters, who even after reading the above can’t resist leaving a comment: yes, there are spelling and grammar mistakes on this post. Yes, I did write it totally for self promotion and because I’m haughty and selfish… and yes, you are right, I shouldn’t be on the internet…

 

Now that we have covered all your objections, can I please get at least a slight acknowledgement that the concept about being more careful in comments in the future that can, and have, hurt people, changed lives, and in general been something less than a mitzvah is perhaps just a tiny bit true? That there isn’t a need to critique and poke fun of everything we read about on these sites?

 

When a Jewish owned bank or real estate enterprise had major troubles, could you have done something more helpful for yourself and for them then you did? I know that I could have.

 

And one more thing: when you visit a mall and meet an Israeli guy there, you schmooze with him as if you two have something in common, even though if you saw him on a bus in Tel Aviv you wouldn’t look his way; because, you really do have much in common with him, just that its not that noticeable when on an Israeli street there is so much more then seems different about you two, right?

 

Well, as Klal Yisrael grows, humans like to feel comfortable… and one of the ways we keep our circles comfortable is by excluding people. So for example, when you are a (insert brand name here) Chassid, you might elevate the members of that same group to “peer” status… and without even realizing it, downgrading other groups to a second tier status.

 

this is why it seems so much easier to think negatively about another group of Jews, be they Chassidish, Litvish, Sephardic, modern orthodox, or even… gasp… non religious Jews.

 

When someone you know is in a hospital, they are bound to be utilizing the selfless services of organizations like Satmar bikur cholim… when someone is in need of an emergency place to stay anywhere in the world, they know that they are welcome at a Chabad.

 

When someone calls Hatzola, he can be the most chassidishe person in the world, when they call that number and selfless volunteers from every section of unzere come running, or when an attorney, chaplain, accountant, or government employee (yes!! Even politicians!!) is needed for some selfless, thankless task, we think about the things we share, the ideas of yiddishe nachas and we are glad there is someone that we can call and trust to do whatever is necessary so that you and I have a better nights sleep.

 

(And not to mention that much of the tzedakah that support our communities organizations come from people that some might consider “not as frum/holy/torah-true as us!”

Can we try, in this age of push button, digital publishing, where everyone has a deia’h, to try to wait at least 60 seconds before posting a comment?

 

I wish you a git gebentsht yohr… a year in which as Rebbe Elimelech of Lizensk zy”a says is full of seeing only the good sides of our friends and fellow Jews, and none of their defects.

 

And remember the rule… no comments for 30 seconds… and think before you leave one!

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7 comments to This article has a problem. Do you know what it is?

  • You are very correct in saying that the online environment leads to rushed snap emotional comments. Sometimes when we read something for the first time, we do not see the text correctly. we see it as we want, with an emotional bent, or with tinted glasses. On second or third read, or with time to digest what was read, the context or meaning of what was read be different or become clearer.

    We should all take some time before we post. And if we do decide to rush to make comments or state opinions, we should do so with the negative framed as a positive.

    Also, I like the use of Rebbe Elimelech of Lizensk zy”a in your post. I recently got his book Noam Elimelech and am learning so much about how to be a better Chossid.

  • yossi

    I can’t help but agree with the above.

    How often we criticize everyone who is not exactly like us.
    What do we say about “Tuna Baigels” and then who do we turn to when we run out of gas.

    You can’t pick and choose who “ve’ahavta L’reacha Kamochah” applies to.
    When we got the Torah it was “K’ish Echad Beleiv Echad”, unconditional love between people of a common goal. Regardless of what type of hat they did or did not wear.
    If we want to keep the Torah it has to be the same way.

  • Rabbi G.,

    Good point, but it holds true not only on the Internet – it’s part of human nature. Most of loshon hara people speak is a product of not taking 30 seconds to think about the implications of what’s about to be said.

    The Imrei Chaim of Vizhnitz used to say that the pasuk “Vainhag et tzon achar hamidbar” (Shmot 3:1) teaches that the right hanhaga is “leacher et hadibur” to postpone speech. Often just deciding to hold off saying something helps conquer the urge.

  • Go on Rav Issamar, tell it like it is! How true your words are, hope the right people read them and more important internalize them. What I want to know, who was the major media that rejected this very sober article? A Git GeBentsh Yohr, Gemar Chasima Tova

  • I’m not Jewish and don’t understand some of the terminology, but this post definitely applies to all of our communities. It’s extremely easy to get so blinded by our own thoughts & belief systems that we are unable to look beyond our self-imposed walls. We live in a critical society where the overall trust level is low and most of us spend the majority of our time with selfish pursuits. It’s time we dropped the walls and started focusing on our communities..

    A great read – thanks for sharing!

    Derek

  • Very well written post and all true. A little more achdus and ayin tova would go a loooooong way. I will certainly try to take everything you said to heart.
    Gmar Chasima Tova!

  • gavriel horan

    Well said. In general I am bothered by a certain journalist’s critiques of klal yisrael’s behavior because the people he is critiquing will never read his column and if they did, they wouldn’t care what he said. In this case, however, all readers can benefit.

    The only problem is that you didn’t hire a professional writer to clean it up–then it may have been published!

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