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Timeless Jewish Wisdom for the Facebook Generation

Timeless Jewish Wisdom for the Facebook Generation

Six practical ways to build inner peace.


The quality of our relationships has been in steady decline. 632 Facebook friends but not one true friend to call in middle of the night does not a friendship make. Anxiety has become the new depression. College kids fill the mental health clinics on campus. The former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy wrote in Harvard Business Review that patients came to see him partly because they were lonely and partly because loneliness made them sick. “The most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness.”

Teens spend more time alone with their phones and are less likely to go out and socialize. The more hours spent on one’s screen the more reported unhappiness. It feels as if everyone is out having a party but me.

I’ve watched parents and children side by side not exchanging one word. Both compensate for their poor connection by mindlessly looking through their phones.

This is the time of the year that we begin to read Ethics of the Fathers. All around us the earth is stirring as nature surprisingly comes to life again. The force of renewal is alive and this same energy exists within us.

Here are six thoughts from the teachings of Ethics of the Fathers that will help us build inner peace.

1. Receive Everyone With A Cheerful Face (Ethics, 1:15)

We forget how much it means to give a smile, a happy greeting. We’ve become so used to texting or navigating life face down, the art of face-to-face connection has been lost. How many people really look at each other while speaking? A huge part of connecting is making eye contact, noticing the impact your words make, lifting someone’s spirit with your voice or even the way you say hello.

It takes just a moment to have the people around you feel cherished. It’s not really difficult.

“Receive everyone” – look up and notice people. “With a cheerful face” – and make it a habit to smile at others. Be a source of joy to the world.

2. Acquire a Friend for Yourself (Ethics, 1:6)

We are not advised to collect friends like souvenirs but rather to wisely acquire one precious friend. Whether it be socially or the connection between husband and wife, a good friend enhances our lives.

Friends are loyal. Friends share joy and sorrow so that life is sweeter. Friends don’t gossip about one another. Friends give good words and encouragement. Friends listen. Friends don’t look down at each other. Friendship requires time and presence. It is one of the best investments you will ever make.

3. Do Not Anger Easily (Ethics, 2:15)

We lose ourselves when we are angry. We say things we don’t mean and cause pain. We do things out of anger that afterwards we cannot believe.

Someone who is easily enraged loses his peace. He ends up spending time alone because others do not want to be with him. It is not easy to control one’s temper. How can we combat being quick to anger?

Pay attention to the trigger moments that set you off. Recognize the feeling that comes just before you are about to erupt. If you need to take a breath to collect yourself or excuse yourself, do it. Harness your rage. Think well before you speak from emotion. Be mindful of your tone. You will feel your inner strength grow.

4. Distant Yourself from a Bad Neighbor (Ethics, 1:7)

Our friends and companions influence us, positively and negatively. No matter how strong we believe ourselves to be, we are impacted by the people we spend time with. Their choices of language, vices, conversation and how they treat others makes a difference in our lives. Coming close to a person who makes poor moral choices is like breathing in spiritual pollution. It is toxic.

Think about who you associate with.

5. Do Not Judge Your fellow Until You Have Reached His Place (Ethics, 2:5)

How easy is it to cast judgment on another. Look at all the spiteful comments that fill social media and the snarky remarks making fun of people. We don’t realize how quick we are to speak arrogantly against another.

Our sages teach us that until we stand in someone’s place we are clueless. “Reaching his place” means that we have complete understanding of his childhood, his nature, his family, and his struggles. Can anyone ever possess such a window into the life of another?

Of course not. Then how can we possibly cast judgment?

6. Who is Rich? One Who Is Happy with His Lot (Ethics, 4:1)

Watching other people’s lives strips us of our joy. Comparing people’s vacations, homes, families and sushi platters is a meaningless way of losing sight of one’s blessings. FOMO and anxiety has become the plague of our generation. Emotions of jealousy eat at serenity.

There are superstars who live mega big lives but lose themselves to addictions, loneliness and lack of self-worth. Somehow they are never happy.

Be content with what you have. Be grateful. Cherish the people in your life. Make the most of each day. Live with purpose. Wealth is really the appreciation of one’s blessings.

We are fortunate to have this sage advice to help us live better, to be stronger. Take a few moments and look through Ethics of the Fathers. You will discover the spiritual compass that will brings you closer to a life of connection and joy.

April 28, 2018

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Visitor Comments: 6

(5) Anonymous, May 9, 2018 2:57 PM

You opened up a can of worms

I have been fighting my emotions for years because I do not understand what Hashem wants from me. I am not referring to Facebook, but about a problem I have with a friend.
We were very close and I was very devoted to her. Of all examples, you said “‘ 623 Facebook friends, but not one true friend to call in the middle of the night’. We it just so happens that she was very sick in the middle of the night, and she didn’t call me. I was so hurt, I burst into tears.
When I think back to all of the disappointments I have faced with her, I often find myself asking what does Hashem want from me? Anyone reading this can’t give any advice because I only touched the surface of all the pain and confusion I have experienced with her. I have even tried, on more than one occasion, to stop this relationship, but for reasons I don’t understand, Hashem has this relationship continue. Slovie describes a true friend as someone who listens. Well, there were too many times I felt that she didn’t listen to me. I could go on and on, but in short, I can honestly say that this relationship has brought out the worst in me.

(4) Anonymous, May 9, 2018 1:36 PM

A part of me is in comment #1 and comment #2

First of all, I am anti Facebook. I singed up, but don’t use it.
I prefer individual emails because I feel like I am talking to someone. And the depths of my relationships with my friends that I email are not all the same.
That said, I sort of feel like comment #1 is describing me. I consider myself a negative person, and I chose not to contact a few people because of all the stress in my life. That’s because I needed friends who would comfort me. I know I have a problem with expectations, but when a friend whom I was close with didn’t contact me when she heard I was going through a difficult time, I was very upset. What did Slovie say? Friends are loyal. Friends share life’s ups and downs. I was loyal to her for over 10 years, but part of me realized our relationship was unhealthy too. I was too easily influenced by what she sad, and I saw my emotions were like a yo-yo.
Solvie is also said you can’t judge someone until you reach their place. Though I knew about this friends childhood, her family, and her struggles I judged her negatively. I never reached her place because I didn’t have her nisyonos. No matter how well you know a person, you don’t know them.
Comment #2
I am a shy person and have a difficult time making friends. I avoid going to a certain shiur because all the women talk to each other afterwards and no one says anything to me. I am not much of a phone person especially lately because of what is going on in my life now. I don’t have much to say. I truly hope you find a good friend.

(3) Anonymous, May 2, 2018 3:11 PM

Invaluable and timeless wisdom for any generation. Written so beautifully, thank you Slovie :)

(2) Dina, May 2, 2018 1:38 PM

It’s every generation, not just teens

I do NOT do Facebook. As a result, I have lost a good friend. We were close for 20 years while living in the same city and meeting every other week over brunch or supper. We exchanged birthday gifts in person. I moved away first, and then she moved to the same coast. I tried to call her, but she didn’t have time. We visited near her area, but she couldn’t meet me. Her emails became more scarce as she got on Facebook. Her attitude was “why send out individual, personal emails, when she could just post it all on Facebook”. So, two years ago, we stopped exchanging birthday gifts which went by snail mail. She isn’t Jewish and sent me a holiday card this past December. It went to my other address and was forwarded. I haven’t bothered to email her. My last email, a year ago, she sent a quick reply that they were selling their house and moving back to the west coast.
I’m 66, she is turning 60 this year. And, she is connecting via Facebook. So, is my 65 yo cousin. I planned a visit several years ago, and although I was going to stay in a hotel, she told me not to come. She had other things going on. I said we could just meet for dinner. No,that wouldn’t work for her. It’s hard for me to make friends as I’m introverted. So, when I make a friend and lose her, it’s hard on me. I’m a shut in due to chronic disavikites and can’t drive. So, I’m limited to connecting to my friends via email and phone. My best friend is in Israel, and we speak on the phone more often than I can with anyone else. So, it’s all generations, especially those of us older who cannot get out of the house like we used to. Public transportation is not good where I am. So, I depend on my husband to drive me. I go to our Chabad women’s programs when during the day. But, I have yet to find a close friend. I wish I could.

Anonymous, May 9, 2018 1:04 PM

I too am introverted and can’t make friends easily

Dear Dina,
I hope you find a true friend. I am sorry if I sound too preachy, but daven to Hashem to help you find a good friend.
I remember when I was going through a difficult time, and cried to Hashem that I wanted to make a new friend. A short time later I met a woman in a health food store. Though we only spoke briefly, I had a feeling we might become friends. She told me her phone number ( I didn’t have a pen and paper with me), but I never called. It’s hard being shy.

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