Saturday, April 03, 2010

Is Facebook Chametz?

Today our rabbi Esther asked us to consider whether Facebook is “chametz” and as such should be given a break over Passover, just as observant Jews abstain from all leavened foods.  The question is whether we should apply the feather duster to our minds as well as our kitchen cabinets, where we are supposed to get rid of any last bit of flour.

Apparently two rabbis in NYC started a group called “Facebook is Chametz” and over 200 people subscribed.  Their thought was that for many people there is a lot of ego tied up in Facebook.  The Chassidic tradition extends the definition of chametz to include self, egotism, and narcissism.   So while we are eating matzo for 8 days, they are suggesting sort of a spiritual fast as well by staying away from things that inflate people.  Check this out for more details.

We had a typical Temple Micah discussion of this idea.  To start it off about half the congregation raised their hands as Facebook users.  I could hear some of the older ones making snide comments under their breath.  My husband raised the point that not all Facebook usage has the effect of ego promotion.  Several other people said they didn’t think it was necessary to give up anything beyond leavened food since Passover is not the same as the Christian Lent. 

But part of me thought about perhaps giving up Blogging next year and focusing more on introspective thoughts during the 8-day period.  Sometimes I think we lose sight of how much of our lives is invested in social networking these days.

On another note, the choir Torah reading was today.  Seven of us came up to chant verses from Ki Tisa, this week’s Torah portion.   It’s always a shock to hear your own voice and to look at those Hebrew letters without their vowels or trope marks.  But we all did fine and I’m hopeful this will become an annual event.

As a way of introduction to this week’s service, Esther offered another one of Mary Oliver’s beautiful poems:

Morning in a New Land

In trees still dripping night some nameless birds
Woke, shook out their arrowy wings, and sang,
Slowly, like finches sifting through a dream.
The pink sun fell, like glass, into the fields.
Two chestnuts, and a dapple gray,
Their shoulders wet with light, their dark hair streaming,
Climbed the hill. The last mist fell away.

And under the trees, beyond time's brittle drift,
I stood like Adam in his lonely garden
On that first morning, shaken out of sleep,
Rubbing his eyes, listening, parting the leaves,
Like tissue on some vast, incredible gift.


Blogger Gary said...

These are some interesting points. I am sure that Facebook is about ego for some but mostly I'd ventrue that it is about reconnecting or staying connected with people as everyone is so hectic and pulled this way and that. Still, I love these types of discussions that are more about questioning than answering.

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this rich, thought-provoking post!

I'm not a Facebook user, so don't have any direct personal experience with either its pros or its cons. I know people for whom it's served both as a very useful tool of communication and as a vehicle for empty ego-inflation and even malice. Like any tool, I guess it can be used positively, neutrally, or negatively.

I really resonate with the idea of taking occasional voluntary fasts from things that can get misused, confused with the essentials, or taken for granted. Whether it's being silent or offline for a day, trying to refrain from self-serving remarks for a week, noticing my judgments and assumptions, abstaining from wheat or coffee...I find that these sorts of spiritual and practical fasts help raise my awareness. Always a welcome and beneficial thing! :-)


2:10 AM  
Blogger lettuce said...

i love the poem, especially the last line

a good friend of mine gave up blogging for Lent this year - surprising herself as she doesn't usually follow the practice of Lent abstinence. She was finding it very hard last time I saw her, I'm looking forward to finding out what she feels about it looking back now

6:43 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I agree with F. -- I think taking a break from anything that becomes habitual or compulsive can definitely be healthy. I'm not sure I'd consider Facebook too egocentric, though. In fact it gets me out of myself and helps me communicate with people who I might otherwise lose touch with!

1:03 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

It would seem Facebook plays different roles for each of us. I think it's fair to say that if you find it strokes your ego, a week-long break might be a good idea. At this point I have to remember to get on Facebook even once a week...

Thanks for all of your insights on this topic. I too love the ending of this Mary Oliver poem.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I'm all about giving things up in an effort to reevaluate the role things play in our lives - blogging, Facebook, shopping. Strangely enough, it's one of my favorite points in the religious year.

I'm not sure that I'd give up blogging, though, myself. I think it's one of the more positive things in my life - it helps me keep my head on straight - but I don't think that's the case for everyone.

If you decide to take a break, I'll miss your thoughts and words and admire your fortitude. :)

7:10 PM  

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