Erev Shabbos Parashas Nitzavim 5775"

Dear Parents,

Many of us have a hard time sincerely and honestly feeling that there is something so amiss in our behavior and Yiddishkeit so as to become emotionally distraught about it. We go through Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, try very hard to shed a tear, but we rarely feel that something is really so broken. We know we could do better, maybe we recognize greatness in others, but at the end of the day, we basically feel – “I’m OK.”

The secret weapon of the Yetzer Hara, our evil inclination, is surprise. No matter how hungry we might be, we will not walk into a McDonald’s. I daresay spotting a $100 bill on the sidewalk during a Shabbos afternoon walk will not pose much of a trial for us. We think about Shabbos and Kashrus, we’re aware and we’re conscious. No surprises there. We are focused on our principles. Where do we trip up – what is the source of our greatest tests? Perhaps it’s in the areas of our behavior that we fail to link to religious obligations. There are activities that due to surrounding circumstances, seem to evade our notice and form a shield against Halachic boundaries and moral conduct.

One of our greatest tests comes from… social media. Surprised? Exactly! We fail to think of the consequences of our chatter. We somehow become oblivious to the requirements to guard our tongue (or keystroke) from speaking ill of another, a group of others, or shuls, Yeshivos and organizations. The normal rules against causing pain to another seem not to apply when it’s on Twitter, Instagram or a blog. Because we haven’t thought deeply about the implications of our behavior online, we are caught off guard. Surprise!! We remain unaware at our own peril.

This Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur affords us a golden opportunity to refocus and revisit what we do when we’re clicking away. Now is the time to reexamine the nature of our online communications and relationships. Perhaps if we look at ourselves and our behavior through the eyes of our innocent children, we’ll be jolted into reality.

If we can devote some time to thinking about these issues, we should have no problem shedding a tear this year. Once we take that first step in the Teshuva process – that of feeling bad for what we’ve done, we can proceed on the path of changing our ways, making a commitment for the future, earning Hashem’s forgiveness and embark on a journey that will bring real joy, satisfaction and Nachas to our family, and all of Klal Yisroel in the year ahead. And, who knows? Maybe our `friends’ will come along for the ride.

Best wishes for a Kesiva V’Chasima Tova,

Rabbi Kalman Baumann

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