Tag Archives: winning

When is “Winning” in Social Media Going Too Far?

reed sea

Then Moses and the Children of Israel chose to sing this song to Hashem, and they said the following: I shall sing to Hashem for He is exalted above the arrogant, having hurled horse with its rider into the sea.

Exodus 15:1 Stone Edition Chumash

Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took her drum in her hand and all the women went forth after her with drums and with dances. Miriam spoke up to them, “Sing to Hashem for He is exalted above the arrogant, having hurled horse with its rider into the sea.”

Exodus 15:20-21 ibid

“How can you sing when my people are dying?”

Talmud Sanhedrin, 39b

I quoted from today’s Torah Portion and from Talmud as much as a lesson to myself as for others. I’m not speaking so much about celebrating or cheering when our enemies (or people we just don’t like) die, even a very deserving demise. I’m addressing how we cheer when we think we’ve trounced some else’s opinion particularly in the realm of social media including the blogosphere.

Believe me, I’m as guilty of this as anyone else.

But it occurs to me that at some point, when we attempt to champion our own cause at the detriment of someone else’s, we are trying to harm the other person.

Recently on Facebook (clicking that link will take you to an image some would find offensive so choose wisely) I engaged another person, someone in my local community who I used to work with, over the matter of women dressing up in vagina costumes for the national Women’s March of a weekend or two ago. To me, it looked incredibly degrading and seemed to be communicating that these “progressive” and “liberated” women saw themselves as nothing more than their genitals.

I believe they were actually responding to a comment attributed to Donald Trump which he made some years back (and which was recorded) about grabbing women by their “p*ssies which I indeed do find highly offensive.

However, I’m not sure that responding by dressing up as the object of Trump’s interest (as suggested by his comment) is the best way to protest and I said so.

Of course, I was accused of misunderstanding the symbolism involved and maybe even somehow denying these women the right to choose their own symbols.

We went back and forth a few times and then I dropped it (not everyone else did) figuring I’d made my point and people were free to disagree with me.

Did he “win” and I “lose” because I didn’t continue the “battle?” More importantly, if I had continued the exchange and if he became silent, should I have celebrated his “defeat?”

Just so you don’t misunderstand me, I do believe in standing up for morality and I believe vagina costumes and some of the language used by the women and men (yes, some men dressed up for the occasion as well) involved was offensive.

Now I know I can be accused of supporting the “Patriarchy” for that comment, as if I, as a religious male, have some sort of right to control the behavior of women. No, it’s not about control. I don’t “control” the behavior or dress of my wife and daughter (they’d explode if I even tried) and only exercise some control over my granddaughter’s choice of apparel because she’s just two-and-a-half.

Women are free to wear whatever they choose and to behave in any manner they desire (short of breaking the law or otherwise causing harm), but in this nation of free speech rights, I can choose to express my opinion on what I think is acceptable and unacceptable behavior from men and women based on my moral and ethical values. I would also object to men protesting while wearing “penis” hats (my friend said somewhere on Facebook that the Washington Monument is a giant penis symbol which I find kind of ridiculous since not everything that is taller than it is wide is a penis).

women's march 2018
Photo: Carolyn Cole, TNS – Found at Detroit Free Press

If I were a better person, I probably wouldn’t get into these debates at all since long and bitter experience has taught me that they do absolutely no good in changing anyone’s mind.

And yet, if no one objects to offensive and ludicrous imagery and symbolism, that amounts to tacit acceptance and agreement.

How far can we go in objecting before we find ourselves driven to metaphorically “kill” the person with whom we disagree?

For more, read Mrs. Lori Palatnik’s article When Evil Falls. It doesn’t directly address my point, but it is illuminating nonetheless.

Looking for Good

looking-for-goodEverything that occurs comes from Him, and He is only good.

But if you and your world are not prepared to receive such good, it may manifest itself as apparent bad.

Struggle hard to see the good, think positively—and then the good will become revealed.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

My father once said to a Rav, who labored in avoda and was an especially diligent scholar: A Rav must remember at all times and at every moment that he always stands on the threshold between being one of those who bring merit to the public and, G-d forbid, one of those who cause the public to sin – the threshold between the loftiest of heights and the most abysmal depth. All issues must touch him at the innermost core of his soul, literally, because his very soul is at stake.

“Today’s Day”
Tuesday, Adar Sheini 23, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan

For the past few days, I’ve written about my frustration over the apparently endless debates, which sometimes degrade into sniping and back-biting, in my little corner of the blogosphere over matters of identity and religious practice. It’s like one kid has some special toys and when he doesn’t share with another kid, the second kid just takes them and says, “these are mine, too.”

Anyway, I want to be done with all that now because I realize that it’s not really my problem.

Well, yes it is if only because I can’t be so callous about the body of Messiah and the Jewish people. As John Donne famously wrote, “Each man’s death diminishes me for I am involved in mankind.”

No one is dying on the blogosphere, but I’m still involved.

But as ticked off as I can sometimes get at the “goings on” on the web, I can’t let it affect me as a person of faith (although sometimes I do let it affect me). There are days I want to throw in the towel and be rid of the lot of you. If this is your idea of serving God, good luck with that.

But I can’t say that either, because I’m no better than the lot of you. I’m one of you if only in the most generic sense as a poorly functioning disciple of the Master and a barely ambulatory follower in Christ’s footsteps.

The above quoted words serve as message and cautionary tale, reminding us that we can choose to view the acts of God as either good or evil, and what we do can either serve good or evil. Do we magnify and sanctify the Name, or diminish and desecrate it? Our choice.

One choice I can make is to try to rise above the din and even if I should occasionally be a voice in that chorus, I don’t have to let it define me. I don’t have to crawl on the ground when I can stand up and step over the mud. As Rabbi Freeman says:

Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch, known as “The Rebbe Maharash,” the fourth in the golden chain of rebbes of Lubavitch, had an attitude.

Many wise people say if you can’t go under, go over. The Rebbe Maharash said, “Just go over.”

Meaning that instead of first trying to work through a problem by its own rules, and then—if that doesn’t work—gathering the strength and courage to step brazenly over it . . .

Instead, just start by stepping right over it, as though there were no obstacle to begin with.

After all, that’s why obstacles are there in the first place—so you will go higher.

Iván-Fernández-AnayaInstead of considering all the religious online chatter and discord as an obstacle, maybe it exists to remind me that blogging and pontificating is hardly the end-all and be-all of a life of faith. Certainly communicating is important, but only if it serves an uplifting purpose. Too many religious bloggers use their platforms to tear down their opponents, sometimes by name. I don’t want to be among that crowd. I’m afraid of what they’ll have to face when asked by God to give an accounting of their actions.

But I too am responsible, not only for what I write on this blog, but especially for how I serve him (or fail to do so) when I’m doing everything else.

Not long ago I read about a long-distance race with a very unusual finish:

Iván Fernández Anaya was competing in a cross-country race in Spain, running second behind Abel Mutai of Kenya. As they approached the finish line, he saw the leader mistakenly stop, thinking he had already crossed the line. So Fernández Anaya also stopped – and guided the Kenyan to the line, letting him cross first.

Suffice to say, this story would not have garnered much attention if Fernández Anaya had exploited the mistake by speeding past to claim an unlikely victory. It was the act of “doing the right thing” – ostensibly at personal expense – that earned Fernández Anaya the real victory.

True greatness does not come at the expense of others. It comes from doing the right thing.

-Rabbi Shraga Simmons

How do you define winning?

“A person should always strive to do the ‘right thing’ simply because it’s the truth. And [if one does so], the end result will be good.”

-Maimonides (Teshuva 10:2)

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8 (ESV)

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 14:7-11 (ESV)

Today, I will look at everything we talk about, and even if it seems, on the surface, to represent strife and self-serving, I will try to see the good in it, or by God’s grace, try to find the good in Messiah.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing…

2 Corinthians 2:14-15 (ESV)

68 Days: Encouragement

I really, really needed this post today. Sent it to my husband and daughters. The story about Rabbi Schneur Zalman was wonderful. Thank you for writing. You are indeed a benefit to the body.


-Linda in a comment on
one of my blog posts

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 (ESV)

Sometimes when I’m physically tired and haven’t had enough sleep, I irrationally become discouraged and “bluesy.” I was feeling that way last night, especially after reading some of the more recent and “cranky” responses on Gene Shlomovich’s blog. (Gene’s blog is fine and most of the respondents are too, but not all of them, alas.) This goes along very well with my “Days” series and my countdown to renewal or (virtual) oblivion.

But I’ve been receiving some encouragement. A lot of it is “behind the scenes” but some of it comes in the form of blog comments, such as the one I quoted above. I suppose it’s sort of ironic that I should be encouraged by someone telling me that I’m encouraging them. But isn’t that the point? One of the things I find greatly discouraging is all this bickering on the web between (supposed) brothers in Christ Jesus over who is right and who is wrong, as if this is some sort of twisted form of the recent Presidential debates, and God is the moderator who will decide who wins and who loses.

Really, if God is going to judge us on our actions, I seriously don’t think it will have much to do with our “debates” on all our blogs:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV)

I know in the church, we believe that we are saved, not through what we do, but by our faith in Jesus Christ. However, we see that self-same Jesus Christ judging by what we do or fail to do for our fellow human being (and ultimately, for him). I suppose there’s no contradiction here, since if our faith and trust is true and we are actual and authentic disciples of our Master, then our actions following that faith and trust should be almost automatic. We should naturally be found feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, comforting the grieving, extending hospitality to the homeless and lost, and much, much more.

I don’t think we’ll win the race (2 Timothy 4:7) by “winning” a blogosphere argument (and let’s face it, nobody ever changed their minds on the web because of someone else’s devastating argument or piercing witticisms).

So, in writing about what I always write about, that is, whatever’s on my mind and heart at the time, I managed, through God’s grace, to encourage another believer traveling her own path of faith. Fingers pressing keys on a keyboard, and electrons zipping across the Internet managed to communicate the will and kindness of God from one human being to another. How could I not feel honored that my small “service” has been accepted as it was intended?

But I truly believe that those who really have “fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith” probably don’t even know how to create a blog, let alone have the time to write on one. They’re too busy feeding the poor, clothing the naked, making sure the homeless have shelter, opening their homes to the needy, and doing a thousand other things that serve God and provide His generosity to the very least of His servants.

I’m glad, in the middle of my own meager efforts, that I was able to encourage one human being. Thank you Linda, and everyone else who has commented kindly to me, for continuing to encourage me as well. For that’s what our Master, and Paul, his Apostle to the nations, have commanded us to do.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35 (ESV)