Thursday morning I woke up to find my inbox flooded with emails. That’s funny, I thought to myself, what’s going on?

“Hot news – is this from you???”

“Did you send me this?”

“Slovie, I think you were hacked. Change passwords immediately!”

Someone had tapped into my Yahoo account. They had sent an email titled ‘hot news’ to every single person I have ever corresponded with. All my personal and professional contacts had been reached.

I had thought it would be apparent that this email was not from me, but from the responses I received, I was wrong.

One in particular stood out.

“Slovie, I am so happy to hear from you!! You spoke at our international woman’s conference last year and I cannot wait to see what you think is hot news! I ordered the raspberry drink immediately please do keep in touch!”

After consulting with my computer whiz, we determined that it was only my email account and not my computer that got affected. By the end of the morning, I was happy to be virus free.

Friday morning, I realized that I had stopped receiving emails. The hacker had tried to break into my email again and Yahoo froze my account. I had to change all vital passwords once again.

Just getting exasperated accomplishes nothing. There’s a purpose in everything that happens, even the troublesome ones. So what wisdom can we gain from the experience?

Source of Aggravation

I lost a lot of precious hours, time with my family, and experienced loads of aggravation. I also felt embarrassed that people who trust me would think that I would send out an email, subject matter ‘hot stuff,’ pushing some commercial item. Even my bank rep said he got my email. One couple whom I teach said, “We were kind of puzzled. This is so not your style.”

Do we realize how much aggravation we cause others?

The hacker seems to thrive on causing aggravation, something we know is wrong. But I wonder if we realize how much aggravation we do cause others, often unknowingly, or the effect of our words and actions. If we did, would we still act and speak the same way?

I think of the person who, without thinking, blasts his employee with personal insults and stinging criticism. The sharp words play over and over in the head of this man or woman who then returns home moody and feeling combative. Instead of a warm hello, the family is given an angry lecture. The kids end up fighting with each other; no one feels happy. Dinnertime is ruined-again. Unfortunately this has been happening in this family too often.

Do we begin to imagine the effect we have on the lives of others?

Do we realize that our actions cause tensions and ripple effects beyond the moment?

Let’s think about the popular child who had loads of friends and a great personality. She sends out a clever text, making fun of a classmate who is not part of the ‘in’ group. She never really sees the effects of her actions. Especially in cyberspace, we are clueless and never confront the vast pain we have caused.

She never gets to see that it is not just this classmate whom she hurt. Parents also suffer when their child experiences pain. They watch as self-confidence is stripped away. They don’t know what to do when they hear their child crying into her pillow at night; refusing to come out of her room.

We underestimate the power we have to cause others pain. The converse it also true; we have within us an incredible ability ability to bring joy to so many in this world.

Most people need to contemplate one great lesson: How can I view the world through a more compassionate lens? How can I learn to treat others with greater sensitivity?

There is a mitzvah in the Torah that spells it out for us simply. “Veahavta lerayacha kamocha” – love others as you love yourself. Rabbi Akiva tells us that this is an awesome principle for life. If we would just take a moment and think: how would I feel if someone did this to me? What will be the effects of my actions and words?

Mindfulness isn’t just about you; it’s about becoming aware of other people’s needs.

Today many people pursue the study of ‘mindfulness’ – how to live life with greater self-awareness. But this awareness cannot end by simply learning to be in touch with one’s own feelings. The Torah is teaching us to also become aware of the feelings that we create in others. Just as we seek inner peace, we must recognize that we can be a messenger of this same peace to those with whom we live.

The hacker also got me thinking about the God-given talents we have been given to use in this world. The person who is great at technology can use his gift to hurt others or to build. The same week that I was hacked, I met someone who was struggling in a new business. She told me that a friend set up a web page for her, and finally, she had hope as orders began to pour in.

This is a challenge we all face. Whether it is being great at technology, a savvy business sense, creative mind, or having a vivacious personality, are we utilizing our gifts to build or destroy?

I can thank the hacker for these lessons learned. I hope that he will somehow wake up and use his time and ability to accomplish good.