Batya Ivry-Friedman

Facebook Fast For Israel

Today my cat, Sadie, passed away. She was a good friend.
Just had a wonderful gym workout!
Enjoying our vacation in the Bahamas!
IDF announces one soldier unaccounted for.

That was the Facebook feed I woke up to this morning.  And I was deeply saddened.  Not just by the last post, which of course is the greatest source of my pain.  But I find the other posts also troubling.  It pains me when I see that some of my Facebook friends don’t appear to be affected by the current events in the Holy Land.

To all of you who are posting about the war in Israel – IDF videos showing the courage and emunah that the soldiers are feeling, the bold speech from PM Netanyahu, the awful propaganda from Arab news – I commend and thank you. But to my other dear, dear friends, I ask you:  When our people are at war, why do you feel compelled to tell me about your vacations, your pets or your favorite restaurants?

I feel guilty taking my daughters to the park or the pool while my friend Chedva cannot venture from her house further than a few hundred feet with her children since they live in Netivot, a mere twelve miles from Gaza. How can we kvell in our vacations or be proud about our gym achievements while our brothers are in the crossfire; while there are thousands running to shelters; while hundreds are in hospitals?

But what can we do thousands of miles away from the conflict? Should we just put our lives on hold?

“We should fast for times of distress that befall our people until there is mercy from Heaven (Maimonides, Laws of Fasts 1:4). Throughout history, our leaders have proclaimed fasts to save the Jewish people.  Till today, we continue to fast on some of these occasions, such as the Fast of Esther, called by Queen Esther when Haman wanted to destroy us.

Normally we think of fasting in terms of abstaining from eating and drinking. But that’s not the only kind of fast in our tradition.  One Yom Kippur, in addition to the regular fast, I took upon myself a Taanit Dibbur – a fast of speech, where I only spoke that which was absolutely necessary.  In today’s world of social media I propose we have ‘Taanit Posting’. Yes, we cannot stop living, but maybe until our brothers and sisters get home from Gaza and the sirens stop throughout Israel, we could “fast” from posting on Facebook, Twitter, etc, unless it is something that relates to Israel.   It would achieve two things: firstly, it would remind us of what’s really important at this dangerous time for the Jewish people; and secondly, it would follow in our tradition of appealing to G-d for His mercy by fasting, i.e. afflicting ourselves, in our time of distress.

Israel is at war. Our brothers and sisters are on the frontlines fighting for our safety and security. We cannot forget that for one minute.  While we cannot stop living we can stop reveling in our safe and secure lives on social media.  Facebook and Twitter should be filled only with Israel related feeds.  Israel needs to know that we are with them every second. That we are not just continuing on with our lives while they are giving up theirs.

About the Author
Rabbanit Batya Friedman 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 Hamsptead Garden Suburb Synagogue in London, UK and in Edmonton, AB Canada.
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