"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The frum blogosphere

The Kotzker Rebbe reputedly said, “Not everything one thinks should be said; not everything one says should be written; not everything one writes should be published; and not everything published should be read.”

This can perhaps be tied to a similar statement of the Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek: “A word spoken is public knowledge; in writing, it is for the entire world; and in print, it is for all future generations (Igros Kodesh HaRayatz, Vol. 2, Letter # 558).”

The connection is simple and straightforward: The further we express ourselves, the more of an impact we make upon the world. Thus self-expression requires caution, for we want to make sure our impact on the world is for the good. Thus, we are told to calculate our communication in every context of expression:

Some statements are constructive in the privacy of one’s thoughts, but better left unsaid.
Others statements may be communicated privately, but will be detrimental if communicated publicly.

Still other statements may be communicated publicly, but not in a way that affects future generations as well, for whom this statement may be confusing and misleading.

What irks me about the blogosphere, and I mean the “frum” Jewish blogosphere, is a widespread lack of ... refinement (following the “example” of the secular world, of course). People think that because they’re anonymous, or at least so they think, they can say whatever they like. So many blogs are:
  • heretical, or bordering on it;
  • cynical and totally uninspiring;
  • nasty;
  • silly;
  • crude and foul;
  • lacking a sensitivity for boundaries.
All of the above constitute either prohibited or inappropriate speech.

Sadly, these blogs are usually also the ones most widely read. Human nature is that negativity, crudeness, heresy, and the like, naturally attract much more attention, and unfortunately frum Jewry is no exception.

I’m not suggesting that important topics of public concern should be “shoved under the carpet.” Yes, there are times when someone needs to speak out against injustice, distortion, and so on. One should not be silent in the face of evil, lest one’s silence be taken as consent, G–d forbid.

But please, we’re supposed to be “A light unto the nations.” We don’t live in our own little box. Anything we say in public can and will be read by anyone and everyone. Frum Jews who lack guidance and have nowhere else to turn. Not-yet-frum Jews who have never come into contact with frum Jews. Non-Jews. Non-Jews who have never met frum Jews, and non-Jews who have never met any Jews. Let us ask ourselves: What sort of message are we sending all these people about frum Jews?

What should be our focus? Serving Hashem. Spreading light.

So there is a balance to be drawn, and not everyone succeeds. But are they mindful of the need to do so?

Even if there seems to be what to criticize, and even assuming that one is right, the whole world does not need to know what he is thinking. Think twice about just how constructive that criticism is. What does one hope to accomplish? Is he genuinely trying to help the situation, or just venting without thought?

I wonder how many of these bloggers went to the trouble to study the Chofetz Chaim’s laws of appropriate speech before posting content that is at the very least halachically questionable.

I understand that people are human, and have thoughts and feelings that they yearn to express, and the blogosphere is an outlet for such expression. But just because you are feeling something, that doesn’t mean you should express it. And if you need to discuss it with someone, perhaps speak to a Rav, a lay advisor, or a close friend. I’m not saying that one shouldn’t express one’s thoughts and feelings, but that one should “think twice.”


  1. And if someone really feels an urge to express it, they can either save it as a draft, or write it and then delete it.

  2. thanks a lot very relevant
    and I was also thinking that this concept of writing/saying what comes to mind first is something *new* perhaps bolstered by anonymity, but altogether negative. This concept of not saying what first comes to mind (which seems to fill the comment sections especially) is easier for me to internalize than saying- -you should make the right impression. there is an allure, and perhaps one can call it chukas hagoyim, to express oneself unhindered and to find the truth/beauty in that. But when I see the foolishness that comes from it, I am more impelled to attempt to write positively.


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