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Invasion of Privacy
Mom with a View

Invasion of Privacy

If everything is public, where is our inner core?


There is a Walgreen's around the corner from me. I wasn't thrilled when it was built (I was hoping for a Barnes and Noble) but it has proven very useful. It is open 24/7 and is convenient for last minute school supplies, toiletries, prescriptions and most of all, developing photos.

My kids joke (complain?) that all my pictures of them have been replaced with pictures of the grandchildren. It's not quite true but there definitely are a lot of them around. And it's so easy to download pictures from the digital camera and send them to Walgreen's (especially when my daughter does it for me).

There was one picture recently that we really liked so we decided to blow it up to an 8 x 10. When we picked it up, for some reason, the envelope was slit open.

That was no big deal -- it just made it easier for me to look inside at the picture. The strange thing was that the cashier felt the same way. While we were paying, she was opening the envelope and looking inside. And while all grandparents like to hear that their grandchildren are cute, I was so taken aback by her behavior that I could barely respond.

I just couldn't imagine what made her think it was appropriate to open an envelope that belonged to someone else -- a complete stranger and a customer no less -- and look at them.

I was stunned the whole walk home. What has happened to our sense of privacy?

I can only speculate that with the open display of personal information online, with the washing of dirty laundry in public on talk shows, with the gossip in magazines, that the world has forgotten what privacy means. And that's unfortunate.

In Ethics of Our Fathers we are advised to build a fence around the Torah. Why a fence? What does a fence do? It guards what's inside. It conveys the idea that there is something special and precious in here and I want to protect it. That's how we're meant to treat things that are valuable to us -- our Torah, our relationships, our very souls.

Without the recognition that privacy is of importance, the dignity of the human being is diminished. It robs us of our uniqueness and confuses our sense of who we are. If everything is public, where is our inner core?

Sometime politicians feel like they are public beings with nothing left inside, a hollowed out shell. They have become so adept at giving the desire or required answers that they no longer check their internal compass. They may no longer have one.

We are all at risk. The more public we make ourselves and the details of our lives, the less of a solid center remains within.

The more we allow strangers access to our innermost thoughts and dreams, the less that is left for us.

Our privacy is invaded constantly -- by telemarketers on the phone, by salespeople at the door, by casual acquaintances who ask inappropriate questions (like "Are you planning to have more children?" to which my friend would always respond, "You'll be the first to know!"), by busybody friends. Our task is to try to preserve our dignity in the face of this bombardment.

At our core lies our soul, our Divine essence, the center of our being. It's too precious to expose to the cashier at Walgreen's. I'm bringing tape with me in the future.

June 13, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 12

(12) Linda, March 16, 2011 2:37 AM

It seems ever since the internet started on computers, that privacy is no longer an issue for any of us. Let's face it we no longer have it in this world! Everything has gone right out in the open for all to see...Put a name of anybody on there & look in to search and you just about find anything on that person. (Probably even when they last brushed their teeth?) I'm against what has happened & remember a generation ago when your life was your own & it was nobody's business (But your own) what was going on with you. But now a human is an open book for all to see. That is why when my daughter was born in 94 I had to run & get her a social security number. (When I did not get one until I turned 16?) We are now a number to be judged by & it is pretty pathetic!

(11) Bobby 5000, June 18, 2009 8:00 AM

"the complaining culture"

I like most of your comments, and you frequently talk of family and moral values. Here I think you missed the boat, complaining about a relatively small thing and I would make the opposite points. In America, values like courtesy and tolerance seems to be losing to the idea you need to complain and assert yourself. Difficult, uncompromising self-centered people, are constantly being told to be tougher and more assertive in an overly litigious culture. While many people share these difficult traits, for Jews, they can perpetrate unfortunate stereotypes.

(10) Annette, June 17, 2009 7:52 PM

we've become desensitized - totally!

Fine article! Pirkei Avos does teach us about fences as it teached us to judge favourably. And unfortunately - myself included, the rules of speech do not exist outside of the Orthodox world, which may be one reason why the rest of the world puts the Orthodox on a high pedestal whenever the frum err. Thank G-d I am a baal Tshuva, Thank G-d I have a Torah Partner who also taugth me and led me to the Chofetz Chaim's teachings, Lori Palatnik has an amazing book, easy to read which should be mandantory in all schools and school boards: Gossip and 10 ways to erase it from your life (something like that). I 'ate' the book. I ached for some time afterwards at digesting how much better life could have been in my parents house. We can belly-ache all we want about others' invasiveness towards others, but they 'just don't know'.

(9) Deena, June 17, 2009 3:21 PM

I wanna see the picture!

Just joking. :) But I am a writer and write a lot about personal things. I just always try to know where I need to draw the line. ESPECIALLY when it comes to writing about others. I do hope, though, that I'm not hurting my soul or anyone else's! You can look at my blog and decide for yourself. Google "blog midrash."

(8) Jacqueline, June 17, 2009 11:38 AM


to make humor.. Lighten up , brush it off..Things are a lot worse than they appear..

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