As 2017 comes to a close I have been thinking about what I might say in this, the last Shabbat message of the year. After all, it has been a year in which we have found ourselves “living in interesting times.”
Then I came upon a tweet from Rabbi David Wolpe that made clear what I wanted to share today. (Yes, my final Shabbat Message of 2017 is based on a Tweet!) Rabbi Wolpe wrote:
“I was going to delete a tasteless tweet of mine but then I found the superior solution of not writing it.”
Rabbi Wolpe reminded me of a teaching found in Martin Buber’s wonderful book, Tales of the Hasidim. It states:
Rabbi Avraham once told his disciples that they [and we] can learn something from everything.
“Everything can teach us something,” he taught, “and not only everything God has created. Everything we humans have made also has something to teach us.”
“What can we learn from a train?” one student asked.
“We learn that because of one second one can miss everything,” said the Rabbi.
“And from the telegraph?” asked another.
“That every word is counted and charged.”
“And the telephone?” asked yet another student.
“That what we say here is heard there.”
Rabbi Avraham could never have imagined that, within milliseconds of the push of a key or a tap on a screen, words and thoughts could instantly be shared with anyone with a Twitter or Facebook account. Yet his admonitions that each word counts and what we say [post] here is heard there, are more relevant than ever.
Social media is neither good nor bad, neither a blessing nor a curse. It is simply a communication tool. How we use it determines whether it is a social good or a social bad. All too often during the past year we have seen it used as the latter.
Moreover, as Rabbi Wolpe suggests, once a Tweet or Facebook post is live, it is out in the world… even if we later choose to delete it.
In this coming year may we all use social media, and all forms of communication, to express love, to build bridges of understanding and to engage in thoughtful, respectful discussion. Every word, Tweet or post counts. In 2018 may they count for the good.