Friday, May 24, 2024

A Matter of Time


Why don’t I feel bad for Mark Zuckerberg? Who is Mark Zuckerberg, you ask? He is the CEO of Facebook, which, of late, has lost some of its immense popularity. Thousands of users have for the moment stopped using this service and its corporate stock value has plummeted about 60 billion dollars. Why? Because it has been revealed that the privacy of 50 million users was compromised, as their personal information has been acquired by other companies without their consent. Facebook was perfectly aware of this and did nothing to prevent it. Now, they and other social media giants, such as Twitter and YouTube, are being investigated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, various congressional committees, and the United Kingdom Parliament.

Zuckerberg has been forced to get down on his hands and knees to beg people’s forgiveness. He has made rare media appearances and taken out full page ads in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other publications, vowing that from now on, the company will be more vigilant in protecting their customers’ privacy. People will do this when there is money at stake.

So why don’t I feel bad for Zuckerberg? Because he and the other social media sites are still doing quite well financially. Their stocks will soon recover and they’ll manage to put food on the table. People are so addicted to these sites that very soon, they’ll forget about this scandal and continue using them. In fact, this very same problem was brought to light in 2011, when Zuckerberg faced similar inquiries, and he emerged smelling like a rose, not having to pay a fine and laughing all the way to the bank.

One wonders about the public outcry about compromised privacy. Why the feeling of betrayal when the users of these services brought it upon themselves? They should have known that Facebook and the other companies offer their services for this very purpose: to gather information about individuals and to evaluate their lifestyles so that they may be targeted with advertisements that are custom-made for their desires. And they have only themselves to blame.

What should concern us is the fact that the use of these services has become rampant amongst our fellow Yidden. Much has been said and written about the devorim ha’assurim found on these networks. Individuals and families have become ruined because of them. They have become vehicles for lashon hara, shaming talmidei chachomim, and hashkafos anathema to a Torahdike lifestyle. Yidden have forgotten the beauty of mah tovu ohalecha Yaakov, maintaining the tznius of a Yiddishe home, and instead have turned themselves into a reshus harabim by posting everything they do on these websites.

Not only don’t I shed tears for these companies, but I daven for them every day in the bracha of Velamalshinim. “Vechol harisha kerega toveidAnd may all the wickedness perish in an instant and may all of Your enemies be cut down in an instant.” Yes, they are enemies of Hashem, agents of the Sitra Achra, and we pray that with the coming of Moshiach soon, they will be wiped out.

I recently parked my car near a supermarket here in Monsey and noticed that in the car right next to mine sat a fellow in the driver’s seat glued to the screen on his smartphone. When I returned a half hour later, he was in the exact same position. And I have seen this numerous times. But why talk and write about this topic so much when it doesn’t seem to be accomplishing anything? The problem seems to be getting steadily worse and we are fighting an uphill battle. But if even one person is affected by reading about it, then it is well worth it. Furthermore, we, shlomei emunei Yisroel, who do not indulge in this garbage, need to constantly strengthen ourselves to remain steadfast in our convictions.

Well-known is the saying of Rav Yisroel Salanter: Why is Parshas Tazria, which discusses tzoraas and plagues, right next to Parshas Shemini, which deals with food that we are prohibited from eating? Because these plagues come due to the aveirah of lashon hara. While people are extremely careful when it comes to matters of kashrus, demanding the best hechsheirim and chumros, they are not as careful with the honor of their friends and the way they speak about them. For this, the Torah put these two parshiyos together to teach us that we must be just as careful with the words that leave our mouths as we are with the food that enters our mouths.

We may add another reason for the association of these two parshiyos. “Vayehi bayom hashemini…” The Medrash says that this was Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the day of the inauguration of the holy Mishkan. It was a day as joyful for Hakadosh Boruch Hu as the day that He created heaven and earth, for on this day, the Shechinah rested in the Mishkan and a new fire descended from Heaven (Yalkut Shemoni, Vayikra 520).

On the other hand, there is a Medrash that says that this was a day of worry for Hashem, and it gives a moshol for this. There was a king whose queen was cantankerous and always complaining about something. He asked her to make for him a beautiful royal garment. She was busy with this for a while and, during the time she worked on it, didn’t argue with the king. Finally, she presented him with the beautiful garment and he was very satisfied with it. But he let out a groan.

The queen asked him, “What’s wrong, my master? I put so much work into this cloak and you’re not happy with it?”

The king answered, “I am very satisfied with your beautiful work, but something else troubles me. For as long as you were busy with this work, you didn’t get angry at me and you didn’t offend me. But now that your work is done, I’m afraid that you’ll be free to return to your original ways.”

Similarly, Hakadosh Boruch Hu said, “As long as My children were busy working in the Mishkan, they didn’t have time to complain against Me, but now that they have finished, they have time on their hands to complain as they did before” (Tanchuma, Parshas Naso 12).

Rav Bentzion Bruk, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Bais Yosef Novardok of Yerushalayim, says that we see from here a hidden intention amongst the many benefits of the Mishkan. Hashem wanted the Yidden to be busy with holy work. For as long as they were occupied with this, they had no time to think about whether they have enough food and water or other needs. Thus, they didn’t complain against Hashem. But now that their intricate work was over, who knew what new complaints they would come up with?

From here we see how important it is for us to always occupy ourselves with holy work and spiritual responsibilities. When a person is about to finish learning a masechta in Shas, he should immediately be thinking about what he will be learning right afterwards. If someone is occupied with a chesed project, he should be planning his next project before he finishes the first one. “For idleness leads to sin and to dull-mindedness” (Kesubos 59b). The yeitzer hara waits for someone to have time on his hands, for it gives him a chance to stunt a person’s spiritual growth during that time.

This is the association between the two parshiyos. The plagues of Parshas Tazria are an outgrowth of what Hashem was worried about in Parshas Shemini. When do people berate others and speak lashon hara? When they aren’t happy with their own lives. It is when their time is not occupied with other things that they think about all their gripes against Hashem and against their fellow man, which leads to nega’im. When someone is ambitious and sets goals for himself, and then he busies himself with trying to live up to those goals, he has no time to think about complaints or to speak disparagingly about others. To the contrary, he feels a sense of fulfillment, he is content, and he realizes that in the broader picture, the things that irk him are trivial and not really worthy of moping about.

The industrial revolution and the advances in technology have made life much easier for all of us, but are we happier than people were in earlier generations? It is highly doubtful. “Adam le’amal yulad” (Iyov 5:7). Man is born to toil. Ideally, Chazal say, this means to toil in Torah (Sanhedrin 99b). But even for those who don’t have the mitzvah of talmud Torah, it is important to be occupied in order to lead a fruitful life and to avoid aveirah. In the olden days, when today’s amenities didn’t exist, people were occupied with the basic labor necessary for survival. We have so much extra time on our hands because we have sinks in our kitchens and bathrooms. And how about central heating, which saves us the time and effort of chopping wood, bringing it home, and keeping the furnaces burning? Now think about all of your appliances, the readymade products you can buy in the store, and how much extra time we have because of it all.

That extra time brings boredom and lack of fulfillment, which leads to discontent. Because of this, people turn to all sorts of medicines to prevent the boredom. Unfortunately, the internet has captured the minds of most Americans and they are trapped. Trapped into absorbing all the indecency and nonsense available in cyberspace. As Toradike Yidden, we must realize the dangers that spare time poses for us, and that we must set goals for ourselves both in limud haTorah and chassodim to fill that time and to prevent the yeitzer hara from seeing it and leading us astray.

Our family recently observed the shloshim of my mother-in-law, Rebbetzin Paula Eisemann a”h, wife of my venerable shver, Rav Moshe Eisemann. She lived a most productive life as an aishes chayil, allowing my shver to ascend to great heights in limud and harbotzas Torah, as a loving and dedicated mother to her children, and as a devoted and beloved kindergarten teacher for over fifty years.

After her petirah, I heard something remarkable about her that I never knew before.During her weeks of summer vacation and after she retired from her job, she kept a daily diary. For what purpose? Not for her to be memorialized by her progeny, but for her own personal growth. Now that she had some spare time on her hands, she didn’t want to fritter it away, so she kept a detailed account of what she was doing with that time. My wife, who read some of it, said that one could become dizzy just thinking of all that she accomplished in one day, with many chassodim and saying Tehillim for various people. May she be a melitzas yosher for all of us.

We are presently in the period of the Omer, when we count the days towards Kabbolas HaTorah. One of the primary lessons of this counting is to remind us how precious time is, how every single day counts, and that we must keep a cheshbon of it. And what are these days leading to? To the time when Hashem told us, “You shall be to Me a kingdom of ministers and a holy nation” (Shemos 19:6). As the Am Hanivchar, it behooves us to have lofty aspirations and to set for ourselves plans of action. Then we won’t be bored, as we’ll be busy trying to reach our goals and leading a meaningful and fulfilling life.



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