Right before Pesah, I created an Instagram account. I made the conscious decision to develop a Social Media presence to share who I am and what I do as a parent and rabbi who is raising the next generation in our changing Jewish community. This has been quite the step up from my casual sharing on my personal Facebook page.
I am setting aside time to build substantive and relevant posts with the ultimate goal of interacting with young people about Judaism and what it has to contribute to one’s life. With the conclusion the holiday of Shavuot which celebrates the giving of Torah that defines the relationship between God and the Jewish people, I reflect upon the Torah I have received from my recent immersion into Social Media.
Just like the invention of the printing press some 500 years ago revolutionized the way we studied and taught Torah, Social Media provides a radically different way to engage in the sacred activities of seeking meaning, sharing insights into life’s big questions, and contributing to a dynamic community. Social Media provides a lasting platform to define one’s digital Jewish or spiritual journey and interact within the public square. I would like to highlight a few Social Media Torah journeys that have inspired me during my short time on Instagram.
Two young women, Sam and Rena, in rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College (one was just ordained) using the Instagram account @ModernRitual, to share aspects of Jewish tradition to encourage personal engagement and spiritual development of their followers in an accessible, interactive, and supportive manner.
Aviva Brown, an author who shares her family’s experience of being biracial and Jewish on her account @Aviva.author.slpub reflects the diverse experience of being Jewish in America.
Rabbi Yael Levy using her account @Awayinorg to count the Omer in a kabbalistic/Mussar manner that increases Jewish mindfulness. This is consistent with her teachings which offer deep reflections on Judaism and life coupled with beautiful pictures which point to the possibility of personal transformation.
This medium allows everyone the absolute and equal ability to share and respond. The form itself creates the potential to animate and shape one’s vision, not realizing what image may go viral or what idea may rally a robust conversation. Even the daily ritual of checking who responded to a post or a comment is a type of “personalized revelation” from the collective community of those in engaged in Torah on Social Media.
The eternal digital footprint stands against the transitory nature of our society, communities, and lives. The four walls of the classroom have been taken down. The teacher, who can be any one of us, defines, creates and documents the learning process and content for their students who can also be redefined as any interested person who chooses to engage. One of my Bar Mitzvah students has some 10,000 followers on his YouTube channel which he uses to teach how to master certain video games.
Over the past two months of engaging on Social Media, I am more conscious about the ways I use this platform to leverage my educational and rabbinic work. This is becoming a type of personal practice that increases my voice, encourages creative reflection, and increases the reach of people with whom I interact.
I am left wondering about how future generations will view what we are producing today. Will people read blogs like books and journals and research Social Media channels like rabbinic commentaries? In the meantime, I am delving into the mysterious ways Social Media is shaping the present.