The Chofetz Chaim, an esteemed rabbinic sage of the early 20th Century, was once asked what could be learned from the technological innovations of his age. The telephone, according to Chaim, taught us that words could be said in one place but heard in another. The telegraph teaches that every word has a price, and the train teaches that you can show up one minute late and miss everything.
These comments strike me as a remarkable insight, extracting profound timeless meaning from the latest newfangled gadgets of the day.
I wonder what the Chofetz Chaim might answer similar questions today.
What lessons can we learn from Facebook, the Internet, or Google?
Here’s what I came up with:
From Google, we learn that the answers to many of our questions are out there, we just need to know what we are really searching for.
From Facebook, where we re-connect with high school classmates and discover our friends’ friends – we learn that all humans are connected and created b’tzelem elohim (in the image of God).
Anyone who has posted, tweeted, blogged or accidentally hit ‘reply all’ on a private message that regretfully ends up being read by the wrong person learns that words once spoken can never be taken back – an important reminder about avoiding lashon harah (evil words, or gossip).
As Netflix and Amazon develop more sophisticated personalization of recommendations and targeted ads, we learn “For me the world was created.”
As of this writing, PSY’s viral hit music video Gangam Style has 1,255,468,235 hits. We are indeed “dust and ashes.”
What else can we come up with?