Antisocial Media

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, has come under fire for attending Wimbledon, and attempting to avoid the spotlight. Preferring to stay low-key, eager fans were chastised for snapping pictures of the princess. She just wanted to enjoy the moment, couldn’t we just let her be?

In Parshat Balak, wicked sorcerer Bilam is on his way to meet King Balak, who has contracted him to curse the Israelites.  Suddenly his donkey stops.  He hits the beast to no avail.  Suddenly, it opens its mouth and begins to kvetch to Bilam.  Hashem then opens up the sorcerer’s eyes and reveals to him an angel standing in the way of the donkey, not allowing them to pass.

Rashi explains that while the donkey saw the angel all along, Bilam did not, because Hashem allows animals to see more than human beings.  For if we were to see the spiritual beings all around us, we would go crazy.  Rabbeinu Yehuda Hachasid (1150-1217) offers a different rationale: Animals can see more, because they can’t speak; whereas human beings, upon seeing the secrets revealed to them, would immediately promulgate them to the world. And they would no longer remain hidden and spiritual.

Rabbi Wolf Zicherman suggests the lesson we derive from this teaching is that one should resist the urge to broadcast everything one sees and hears.  The more you are able to guard the secrets to which you are made privy, the more Heaven will open your eyes to situations and experiences, not revealed to the average person.

We are entering summer season.  It’s the time of year when we enjoy our blessings, and it’s tempting to share our unique experiences with the virtual social media world.  But we must be careful and sensitive.  Maybe the Almighty’s taken you places that others seldom visit.  Maybe He’s surrounded you with family – a loving spouse and healthy children, blessings the likes of which not everyone is afforded.  If we’ve been blessed with opportunities not readily available to others, we need to take the time to think about how others might be feeling before we showcase our awesome lives online.

Does that mean we shouldn’t share any of our experiences with our friends and loved ones?  Or that we should shut down our Facebook and Instagram accounts?  Of course not.  It’s okay to share our good fortune and life’s blessings – those who truly love you will rejoice with you.  But, at the same time, it’s no mitzvah to ply them with a never-ending stream of photos and videos.

Think before you post.  And always strive to find the right balance between sharing & caring versus flaunting & haunting.

Heaven’s bounty is a privilege for which one must be constantly grateful.  The more you are able to guard the secrets of Heaven’s blessing and not feel the need to tell the world, the more He will reveal His bounty to you.  When you’re a princess or a prince of Heaven, sometimes it’s better to experience life incognito!

About the Author
Rabbanit Batya Friedman is the senior rebbetzin of Hamsptead Suburb Garden Synagogue in London, UK. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Brooklyn College and her MBA from the University of Alberta. She previously served the community in Edmonton, AB Canada.
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