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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Is self-promotion on social media kosher?

Daf Yomi Yevamos 73

“I’m sorry, Rabbi, thank you very much for offering to honour me at the synagogue gala dinner, but I’m just not looking for any kavod (honour),” said Joe, “I like to do things quietly.”
“This is not about you,” I replied, “it’s about the shul.  You are an inspiration to everyone in this city.  When they see that you are the honouree, they will be inspired to give generously!”
“Well, I don’t know,” responded Joe, “who am I already?”
“That’s exactly why we want you.” I said, “We don’t want the people who are running after kavod; we want the person who is running away from kavod!”

The Torah states, “The pure one shall sprinkle (the ashes of the red heifer) upon the impure one.”  The fact that the Torah calls him ‘pure’ means that he is actually impure.
Rashi explains: While he may be pure enough for this service, he is impure regarding other matters such as for example one who has been to the mikvah but not yet completed his purification process by waiting until nightfall, thereby disqualifying him from partaking of the priestly tithes.  If the Torah had indeed meant someone who was completely pure, it would not have called him anything since we anyway know that an impure person could not perform the sprinkling service.  Rather, the meaning of ‘pure’ is ‘a little pure.’

People who are pure don’t call themselves pure.  If someone wants everyone to know that they are pure, you can bet that they’re hiding some kind of impurity.  Truly righteous individuals don’t seek acclamation for their efforts.   They’re happy just to do the right thing for G-d and man.

There was a time, way back before the days of Facebook, Twitter and other social media forums when people would go about quietly doing good in the world without the need to use it as an opportunity for self-promotion.   Today, we live in a very confusing era, when everyone is fighting to carve out their space in the limelight.

So what is a humble person to do?  Run the other way; continue to do the right thing and avoid social media?  It really all depends why you are employing social media.  If it’s for your own kavod, then cut the cord and stay far away from the internet.  But if you’re doing it for the Almighty’s honour, then do it! 

We’re all familiar with the contrast between Noah and Abraham.  Noah stayed home building an ark while Abraham travelled the countryside promoting monotheism.  Do you think Abraham would have shied away from social media in the name of humility?  Absolutely not.  He would have utilized whatever means possible to get his holy message out to the world!

If you’re looking for the spotlight because you’re seeking kavod, that’s impure and you’re doing the wrong thing.  But if you’re doing it for G-d, run with it!  That’s completely pure!  May you merit to always be an ambassador for the Almighty, using the best PR and technology available, and may you be forever pure in your intentions to occupy the limelight not for yourself, but for Him alone!  

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