Posts Tagged 'Facebook'

Passover Selfie

I have noticed recently that we as a society have been talking a lot about the rise of the “selfie”. This is ironic in that we are talking about ourselves taking pictures of ourselves. It is as if we have ensnared ourselves in a viscous Narcissistic loop. And yes I mean that  literally and  literarily. It seems that with the advent of technology that allows us to capture our every move we are more interested in documenting the lives we are living then just living those lives. We are so busy preparing to remember the moment that we are never actually in the moment.

Recently I saw a wonderful campaign by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. On their website they wrote:

By now we’re sure you’ve heard of the selfie fad sweeping social media. Everyone from kids to celebrities are jumping in on the fun. This trend got The Fellowship wondering what it would look like if, instead of focusing on ourselves, the trend focused on the needs of others. We invite you to join us in our quest to reinvent the selfie and celebrate selflessness. We will be sharing images of people who help make the lives of others better, as well as those whose lives are forever changed by actions of love, kindness, and generosity.

 Simply put they want people to post their  own #Unselfie on Facebook or Twitter. While I think there is a lot to say in terms of advocating and educating people to be more altruistic, is the rise of the selfie synonymous with the rise of being more selfish.

I ask this because I just got a wonderful cute Holiday e-card from the good people over that the Schusterman Foundation.  Along with the following cartoons they were asking people to take Selfies of themselves doing Passover  to post their  own #PassoverSelfie on Facebook or Twitter. I have to admit that I did not get the top right picture right away, but then I realized it was a Selfie of Pharaoh during the plague of darkness.

Passover SelfieI particularly love the picture of the bottom left. It is funny to imagine Moshe taking a moment to take a selfie as he is going through the miraculous divided sea. But why is this so funny? Well it seems self-absorbed to not just take in the miracle as compared to the compulsion to capture and share this moment with others.

Then I got to thinking about the very enterprise of having a Seder and I started to reconsider my anti-Selfie judgement. What is driving us to have a Seder. We learn in the Talmud:

B’CHOL DOR VADOR CHAYAV ADAM LEEROT ET ATZMO K’EELU HU YATZA MEE-MITZRAYIM- In every generation one must look upon him/herself as if s/he personally had gone out of Egypt .” (Pesachim 116b)

To fulfill this we have a Seder every year to preserve/create this memory. We see in books like Prof Yershalmi’s Haggadah and History that every generation rewrote their Haggadot to speak to the very issues of their generation. I think this is easy to see through The Four Children by Noam Zion – There you can see artistic representations of the four children throughout history. How they depict the four children tells us a lot about how they see themselves. In this way the Haggadah itself is a pre-Techonologic Selfie which helped every generation take a picture of themselves and share it through the media of the time so that they could look upon themselves as if they personally had gone out of Egypt.  If you are so moved I wanted to encourage you to do the same. Go to and make your own Haggadah/Selfie. For some of use technology frees us from slavery and for others technology has become  the new slave master. We need to find a balance between living in the moment and reflecting on that moment. Have a liberating and meaningful Passover.


Populist Torah

At the end of Yitro, this week’s Torah portion, we read that we should make an altar of earth and not of stone (Exodus 20:21-22). It seems to make sense that in response to our having just received the Torah we would feel the drive to respond to God’s revelation with sacrifice. But, why the commandment to make alters out of earth and not stone?

I think an answer to this question is found in Yitro’s critique of Moses which itself serves as the introduction to the giving of the Torah. Moses is sitting all day adjudicating God’s law for the people. Yitro says:

The thing that you do is not good. You will surely become worn out and you are well as this people who are with you for this matter is too hard for you. You will not be able to do it alone.” (Exodus 18:17-18)

At the core Yitro is telling Moses to reveal God’s Torah to all the people directly. Torah needs no agency.

The centrality of earthen alters over hewn stone seems to reflect a populist notion of devotion. Everyone should have access to this response, not just those who have the money or the physical strength to make a stone structure. Everyone should have access to saying thank you to God just as everyone should have access to Torah itself. Neither Torah nor a response to it is in Heaven; they are both in reach. In a world with Google, Wikipedia, and Facebook every aspect of knowledge is within reach. The more I learn about Jewish history the more I want to say thank you. Why not find new ways to learn about our heritage? My challenge stands, just as Yitro, that we all find some good people to join in learning Torah. While Torah is not in heaven it is much easier to reach in the context of a community. And the best part is with the help of the internet, we are no longer limited to finding community in the context of the stone buildings of our institutions. Our community might be right there in our backyard.

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