Dear Emuna,

I am a big Facebook devotee. I love to post pictures of my family and updates on our lives. I also like to read about other people. I stay in touch with new friends this way and rediscover old ones. In short, I probably fit your typical Facebook user profile. But something happened recently that shook me up and I’m not sure what to do. I made a surprise birthday party for my husband’s 30th birthday. I kept it small – for financial reasons and because I knew he would prefer something more intimate. There were two friends that I really agonized over, not sure whether to invite them or not. In the end I decided that they were no longer really a part of his daily life and I left them off the list.

Needless to say I posted to pictures of the party on Facebook and they both saw them. They are both hurt and are no longer speaking to either of us. What should I do?

Social Media Addict

Dear Social Media Addict,

There is the immediate practical response and then there is the philosophical perspective. In terms of the practical, your options are pretty limited. All you can really do is offer a sincere apology. Don’t start making excuses about the money or the depth of the relationship. That will only make things worse. Say that it was an oversight, that you both feel terrible and that you hope you can move forward from here. That’s assuming that, although not in constant contact, you still want the relationship to continue. If your lack of invitation reflects a lack of interest in the relationship, you should still apologize for causing them pain and leave it there.

But there is a deeper issue at stake. You might want to do a little introspection to determine why you feel it necessary to post everything about your life on Facebook. This situation could have been avoided had you kept the party completely private.

A sense of privacy is one of the biggest losses of the social media generation. And I think we are all hurt by that. In Ethics of Our Fathers, we are told to make a fence around the Torah. The commentaries explain that if something is precious to you, you want to hide it away and guard it. The more exposed something is, the less “safe” it is, so to speak. This doesn’t just apply to our material possessions or to the Torah, it applies to our innermost thoughts, our vulnerabilities, our most precious relationships. We diminish our relationships when we post all about them for everyone to see rather than enhancing them.

This situation, as uncomfortable as it is, is a great opportunity for reflection. Maybe limit your Facebook use a little and keep your private life, well, private. Just a thought…

Cleaning Help Withdrawal

Dear Emuna,

This is so trivial that I’m embarrassed to write you but I think perhaps it is a common problem. I have a husband who works hard and five small children. I am totally dependent on the two hours a week that my cleaning lady comes. It just changes my day and my attitude. Recently she left to visit family and she hasn’t returned three weeks later. I’m ashamed of myself but I’m really going out of my mind. What should I do?

Frazzled Housewife

Dear Frazzled,

Well, to state the obvious, you should hire a new cleaning lady! But I think you were asking something more important. It is uncomfortable to feel that level of dependence on someone else (especially if they’re not reliable!). Is there something wrong with me that I feel that? How should I move beyond that?

Cut yourself some slack. When our children are young, taking care of the home can be overwhelming. Maimonides even advised that cleaning help should be hired where affordable. It is definitely normal and so is your reaction.

But it would be helpful to have a slight attitude adjustment. You are not “dependent” on her; it is just a nice bonus to have the help. When she doesn’t come, you can 1. Think about the money you’re saving – maybe buy you or the kids a treat with it. 2. Accept a lower level of cleanliness for a brief time. 3. Give the kids (even the small ones) some chores. They love working with spray bottles even if you have to reclean after! 4. Enlist your husband’s help and 5. Do a little more cleaning yourself, within your capabilities and energy level.

If you tell yourself that you can’t cope without her, then you won’t be able to, but you certainly know that’s not the reality. I still remember someone telling me that it’s impossible to have three children without full-time help. I was a little stunned as I looked around at my life and that of my friends. But she had convinced herself that it was so.

The mind is a powerful tool. If you convince yourself that you can cope, you will. But keep up the search for new help.

Who to Invite?

Dear Emuna,

I’m making a birthday party for my son, Sam, who just turned one. I am inviting my friends who have children around the same age as Sam as well as close family members. I’m not sure what to do about the rest of my friends – the single ones, the marrieds with no kids and the older ones who are already grandparents. I don’t want to hurt their feelings by leaving them out but I’m not sure they will fit it. What should I do?

Torn Event Planner

Dear Torn Event Planner,

It’s hard to me to advise you because I can so clearly hear both sides. If you don’t invite people, they may feel hurt and under-valued just because they aren’t in the same phase of life as you. On the other hand (In the manner of typical Jewish dilemmas!), if they are invited they may feel obligated to come despite their lack of desire to do so and also obligated to bring a gift despite that same lack of desire. Either way it could be awkward.

I think I would settle on the medium road (the typical Jewish solution!). Of the category of “maybe” invitees, I would invite only close friends. I wouldn’t post it on Facebook or talk about it in conversations so that those who aren’t invited are less likely to even know about it, let alone feel hurt. By inviting close friends, you are virtually assured that everyone who comes is there because they want to be there, because they are participants in your joy and happiness and excited to share it. I think the problems arise when we cast the net too broadly. A good principle that applies to many situations (Shabbos dinners and speeches to name a few) and can be used here is that “less is more”.