By Yochanan Gordon
Whether we have dedicated our lives to learning, pursuing a living or a combination of the two the unifying force between all Jews is that we are servants of G-d. The Mishna says, “Repent before the day you die. Being that no one knows the day of death, all of our days should be spent towards repenting.
It has been said that Journalists have the hardest time repenting. Being that every inspiring story is good material for the paper or today, the blog, very little time is spent in introspection, internalizing the deeper aspects of these stories and how they can impact our lives for the better.
Case in point is the very recent earthquake that shook the core of the Haitian population. Recent reports estimate the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, including an entire hospital which collapsed as a result of the quake. Imagine the shock, grief and agony of the survivors searching the rubble for the remains of their loved ones! Today, more than a day after the initial shock, people still unaware of the fate of their nearest and dearest and we sit here in a race to see who could carry the story quickest or get their hands on pictures, better yet, videos, showing various angles and perspectives of the disaster.
Rashi in Bereishis quotes a now famous Midrash which says that G-d created the world on behalf of the Torah and the Jewish people who are called one or firsts. There is a Gemara which says, “Ein Puronios ba l’oilam ela bishvil Yisrael (G-d only brings punishment to the world as an arousal for the Jews to amend their way of life).
As a result of the dynamics in the creation of the world, nearly every creation contains a positive and negative element. The most righteous pursuits can be perverted and the most coarse or vain exercises can be used in a positive light, towards building the world. This I believe was the original point of dispute which sparked the debate regarding the usefulness or permissibility of the technological advancements on a public scale within Jewish life and observance. We have all seen the positive and negative aspects of the T.V and Internet. Notwithstanding its positive abilities to connect and educate a world in a matter of seconds, some feel that its negative aspects and abilities pose too great a threat and that it is better to avoid despite the good that it enables us. On the other hand, there are those that suggest that the purpose of these technological advances is to use them towards serving G-d and that they should be used and self control practiced in avoiding areas unbefitting or detrimental to a servant of G-d.
In the days before Internet and Television, when stories such as these would break, since their ability to spread them was limited, I imagine more time was spent on internalizing the personally relevant aspects of the story. The Baal Shem Tov as well as other Baalei Mussar have written that everything one sees or hears during the course of the day was predestined for a specific purpose in the greater scheme of each of our lives. However this realization sometimes gets lost or overlooked when our focus is on reporting rather than internalizing.
While this lesson appears only to be relevant regarding Journalists or bloggers, I believe that it is relevant to each of us on various levels. In today’s day where the internet is used on many levels especially to get the latest news in and around the world we all could become insensitive or apathetic to the messages that lie at the core of these stories and our purpose of hearing or seeing them in the first place.
Many, often times dismiss stories such as the earthquake in Haiti as distant and non threatening or relevant to us on a personal level. But the truth is that based on the aforementioned Gemara it is apparent that the purpose of the earthquake was for us to take notice and repent.
If we open our eyes and look around us, we would unfortunately behold no shortage of Jewish tragedies as well. If we would take the message the way it was intended the first time around, perhaps these calls closer to home would be unnecessary. But there is that human impulse within us thirsting for more news and more breaking stories to spread that disallows us to see the real story to its core.
This nature of Journalists specifically or people looking for the next breaking story in general, can as well serve as an impetus towards the betterment of our society and the world at large. Our ability in this day and age to convey a message or report a story thousands of miles in seconds can serve as a wakeup call if we just allow ourselves to see past the superficiality of the report. This time, once and for all let’s be attentive to the message that G-d is sending us and may we need no more reminders in order to welcome the final stage of redemption and the rebuilding of the everlasting Temple speedily in our days.
Yochanan Gordon is a contributing Editor at the 5 Towns Jewish Times. Comments are welcome below or to firstname.lastname@example.org.