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Caught on Camera
Mom with a View

Caught on Camera

Everything you say is being recorded.


Mrs. Levine and Mrs. Goldstein were at a friend’s wedding. Chatting at their table, they commented on the bride’s dress (too much beading and too tight), the food (not worth the price, the chicken very dry) and the band (way too loud!). Unfortunately for them (and their hosts), the videographer was filming nearby. When the happy bride and groom sat down to watch their wedding video, every word of that conversation was replayed in front of them.

Mrs. Stein was sitting shiva. The house was constantly filled with family, friends and acquaintances dropping by to offer comfort. When the week ended, Mrs. Stein went to her jewelry case to retrieve her favorite diamond ring, a precious gift from her late husband. It was gone! But Mrs. Stein had a camera security system in her home. She was able to hear two visitors colluding on the theft and even witness one of them stealing it!

Although not verifiable by Snopes, these are true stories and not urban legends. With cell phones that can take pictures and video, with security cameras and aspiring paparazzi everywhere, nothing we do or say is private. This is a sobering thought.

And it certainly has its negative side. I’m not sure that future careers need be damaged by youthful foibles and indiscretions but that is the price of youtube.

For me, it’s like having our modern-day version of tzaraas, the leprosy-like disease that afflicted the Jews in the desert if they spoke lashon hara, gossip, about their fellow Jew. Their punishment was instantaneous and I imagine very few of them made the same mistake twice. Their lips were sealed.

But we don’t usually see any consequences in this world for our cruel speech. Except – depending on your crowd – social approval or disapproval.

Until the advent of the ubiquitous video/camcorder/cell phone. Now every word we say in public (and sometimes in private too if we aren’t careful to turn off those security cameras) invites the possibility of being recorded for posterity.

It may not be a noble motive to refrain from slandering others but hey, it works.

That should give us pause. It may not be a noble motive to refrain from slandering others but hey, it works. And the Talmud teaches us that if we start out doing something good for the wrong reasons, we will eventually end up doing it for the right ones.

We’ve come a long way since the intimacy with the Almighty experienced by our ancestors in the desert. We’ve lost that gift of immediate consequences and with it the perspective on how damaging our negative speech can be.

While all this new technology certainly has its enormous down side, the constant awareness that your words or actions could be recorded right at this moment is certainly a powerful tool for keeping us in line.

The bride? Beautiful. The food? Delicious. The band? Well, I brought ear plugs…

July 17, 2010

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Visitor Comments: 7

(7) Anonymous, July 26, 2010 12:49 AM

Some people know they're being recorded...and they don't care

When I was in law school, the 1Ls at the time (first year students) did some "spy" type activities on their professors. They figured out some places they went and how to bug an office phone and cell phone and even did some in-house surveillance (don't ask). These students discussed their activities on the taped lectures they were in, and everyone who listened to these classes heard what they did! Even after they discussed how worried they were that they could be disbarred if people found out, they continued to talk about the same things on these tapes all the time! (And this was after realizing that other students found out about it from these exact tapes.) I didn't understand it then, and I don't understand it now. They graduated in '05, and if the school knew what they did, they decided to ignore it, maybe so the school doesn't look bad. Who knows. But as much as they watched people who didn't want this and probably never knew about this, G-d was, and is, watching them even more. Maybe they'll realize that before it's too late.

(6) yehudit levy, July 23, 2010 1:58 PM

forget machines....

I thought this article was going somewhere spiritual! How about mentionaing the fact that Torah tells us that (technology notwithstanding,) our EVERY SINGLE WORD AND THOUGHT AND DEED is recorded in the Heavenly courts and replayed to us when we leave this is a joke compared to Olam Haba!!!! I would have liked to see a deeper message here instead of basically reading about how to be careful not to be caught. How about improving ourselves in the name of yirat shamayim?!

(5) Madelin Aquino, July 21, 2010 7:45 PM

Eye opener

I really like this article becaues sometimes we need to be reminded tjat everything we say and and all our actions are being recorded by god ... so we really need to be careful about the way we act.

(4) Yehuda, July 21, 2010 5:40 PM

Not so new

Around 30 years ago there was no video or YouTube. But I worked for a guy who took Super 8mm films of weddings etc. At one wedding, the camera caught the bride's father stealing the checks from the jacket of the groom's father. The day after the film was delivered to the bride & groom they were at the beis din getting divorced! "There's nothing new under the sun."

(3) Lauren Fischbein, July 21, 2010 2:27 PM

Patriot Act

The Patriot Act made it legal to spy on private citizens. I have been under surveillance for 12-13 years and now am being targeted with electronic harrassment. The lack of privacy in the US is only growing, and it does not serve us well. It serves only to harrass us and harm us and take away our constitutional liberties

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