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Social media rules for Jews on High Holidays
As the High Holidays approach I start feeling anxiety about whether I’ll work during the holidays. Will I do two days or one? Will I write emails and send them? Or not hit send until sundown, or just not write emails at all?
It’s part of being Jewish to have a workaround for everything. For example, this is a picture of my sons participating in a not-real bat mitzvah for their cousin so we can take pictures because you can’t take pictures during the real bat mitzvah.
I’ve read that people who have willpower don’t actually have willpower. Rather they make decisions for themselves that have clear parameters and then they don’t reconsider them, so those people don’t need any willpower.
I’m pretty sure that my everything-is-negotiable approach to Jewish holidays requires an insane amount of willpower that I’ll never even come close to having. But I in that vein, I propose a few guidelines for those of you who are like me and trying to figure out what to do with social media on High Holidays.
You can live tweet during services if you’re in a synagogue that allows that. I’ve personally never seen a synagogue that allows that, but I’ve seen a lot of people furtively check their phone. Maybe live‑tweeting Rosh Hashanah is like sharing the services with everyone. Of course, it could be argued that live‑tweeting Rosh Hashanah is sacrilegious, but you can let people know that it’s not sacrilegious to you by using #reform to denote your personal preference.
If you go to synagogue and show up for everything you’re supposed to be doing, then you could just answer emails in the bathroom and take calls when you’re away from the synagogue, and no one will really know. I think this would fall in the category of keeping up with the goyim. The truth is there’s a long history of Jews bending the rules of Torah in order to keep up with the goyim. If we’re feeling good about this, we call it assimilation. If we’re feeling bad, we call it a shanda.
If you’re fasting during Yom Kippur you’re already so tortured that perhaps God will forgive you for distracting yourself with social media. After all, think of all the distractions people had during Yom Kippur when they lived in those tight little communities in eastern Europe. Maybe you can consider Facebook your own High Holidayshtetl.
If you’re not fasting on Yom Kippur you can still participate by having a social media fast. This has not been officially ruled by the rabbis, but I think it’s reasonable.
Think about it: There are a disproportionate number of Jews who have Asperger’s, and people who have Asperger’s have a proclivity toward eating disorders, and Jews have disproportionate numbers of obsessive readers, which means, on a whole, it would be more difficult for more Jews to have a social media fast than a food fast.
In a big city you’ve got to find out where the cool people are going to synagogue, especially if you didn’t buy tickets. Then you’re a free agent the day of. So a good way to find where your Jewish friends are that day is to use Foursquare. Foursquare, of course, is not anything near appropriate for an observant Jew because it’s a doubleshanda– you can’t travel and you can’t use electronics to figure out how to travel. So I’m not saying Foursquare is going to pass the most rigorous test, but I am saying that you could have your own test: Is good for the Jews?
My parents used to tell us this was the test for voting for president, is it good for the Jews. So if it’s a good enough rule to use when voting for the president, then it’s probably good enough for Jews searching for their tribe on Yom Kippur. So I say if your Foursquare intentions are good for the Jews, go ahead and use it.
5. Online dating sites
There is going to be a preponderance of Jews who are not at work and not at synagogue. It’s those in‑between people who were raised in a way that would make them ashamed to go to work on the High Holidays, but not so ashamed that they have to splurge for tickets to go to a synagogue. These people are looking for something to do that’s low profile enough that they won’t have to reveal to their friends and family that they weren’t quite living up to their own Jewish standards on the High Holidays.
This is where online dating comes in. JDate is full of possibilities of finding these people. OkCupid is too, by the way. Did you know that if you want to hook up with someone, OkCupid is the place to go? So I think the ruling on this one will be if your intentions are to find a long‑term relationship with a Jewish person, then it’s good for the Jews. So go ahead and do it on the High Holidays, which means JDate is okay and OkCupid is not.
Still, if you’re allowing yourself to read on the High Holidays, I’m recommending the OkCupid blog.
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