June 17, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Shemot: 20:2

(A glossary of the Internet abbreviations used in this story is available at the bottom of this post.)

Yonie Potashnick was not a blogger, not by any stretch of the imagination. By profession he was an accountant, and he used his computer as much as he needed to for business purposes, and no more. He read the New York Times online occasionally, if he hadn’t had time to review it over his morning coffee. He went on JPost.com or Haaretz.com to read about Israel, especially if something momentous was going on over there. And of course he went on JDate. But he was not a member of the YouTube generation, and for him the term MySpace referred to the four walls of his apartment.

When Yoni’s friend Gary Gross made aliyah with his family to Beit Shemesh, Gary started a blog to keep his friends up to date with his life. It was filled with musings on Israel, on being a new oleh, and on everything from sitting behind the wheel of a car in a country filled with insane drivers to toilet training his two-year-old. Yoni started reading the blog, Fear and Loathing in Beit Shemesh.blogspot.com, every day. He would often leave a comment after Gary’s postings, just as a way to stay current with his buddy.

Gary often made references to other blogs in his writings, and gave many links for his readers to click on, and the next thing Yoni knew, he was clicking onto lots of other sites. Each blogger provided a blogroll of other Internet writers to explore, and soon Yoni found himself wandering the World Wide Web in that strange community known as the Jewish blogosphere.

The amazing thing was that there was a Jewish blog on everything. There was a daf yomi blog. A blog for Kabbalists. A blog for left-wing Orthodox Jews who wanted to break free. A blog for ex-Chassidim. A blog of wacky parsha stories. A pro-aliyah blog for dwellers of Judea and Samaria. A blog for singles in Jerusalem. A blog for followers of the Chafetz Chaim. A blog of literary musings from Lakewood. A blog for Lubavitch Jews in Montana. Blogs on Jews in Boulder, Chicago, Los Angeles, Sydney, Raanana, Efrat, French Hill, Petach Tikvah and Minneapolis. He saw a blog for Jewish social action. A left-wing political blog. A right-wing political blog. An anti-left wing right-wing political blog and, of course, vice versa. Blogs on Jewish literature and music. A blog on Jewish witchcraft (some things you just can’t make up). A blog on being a Jewish atheist. A blog from the perspective of Lot’s daughter. A blog about planning bar mitzvahs. A Jewish feminist blog. A Jewish conversion blog. You get the idea.*

After one of Gary’s postings about commuting to work along the routes of the forefathers, Yoni wrote back to him in exasperation:

Gary, I’m drowning in Jblogs! How can so many people have so much time to write down their thoughts? The Jewish blogosphere is a jungle. And there are so many different points of view. It’s dizzying. How do you sort it all out?

Gary wrote back:

You don’t have to sort it out. The Jblogosphere is a community, where everyone exchanges ideas. People with opposing views will debate from different lifestyles, different outlooks and different parts of the world. Most of the time it’s collegial, but it can get heated at times. IMHO it’s liberating and educational at the same time. And it gives everyone and anyone an opportunity to express themselves on anything Jewish. G2G

Yonie wrote back:

But so many points of view, and all of them are different. Isn’t each voice drowned out by the cacophony of noise? And in the end, despite all the marvelous diversity, isn’t only one point of view correct? This is Judaism, after all. Right or wrong, we each tend to believe that each of us is the sole keeper of the faith.

Gary didn’t write back until the next day, since it was the middle of the night in Israel when Yoni responded, and even bloggers have to sleep. But his response was thoughtful:

Actually, just the opposite. BION, I would have to say that no one point of view is correct. The diversity is the point of the whole endeavor. When God appeared to the Israelites on Mount Sinai, the Midrash Rabbah on Shemot states that each individual perceived the Divine voice according to his or her unique capacity to experience Hashem’s presence.** I’ve always felt that meant that God knew that each person would understand Him differently. Therefore, each person would interpret His words, namely the Torah, in different ways. So the diversity of opinion is to be expected, even encouraged.

Yoni wrote back:

Gary, you heretic!

Gary responded:

LOL. AAMOF, it’s not such a radical point of view. Gershom Scholem, the historian of Kabbalah, though not necessarily a mainstream halachic authority by any measure, always felt that Judaism is actually a pluralistic tradition, where frequent contradictory opinions on Judaism are all equally legitimate.*** So I am not alone in my viewpoint.

Yoni responded:

Heavy, dude. I had no idea you were such a philosopher. And btw, I have no idea what any of your Internet abbreviations stand for.

Gary wrote back:

RTM. TTFN

*The names of these blogs are all so creative that I didn’t have the heart to fictionalize them, nor did I choose to list them, running the risk of leaving out so many imaginative and thought-provoking contributors to Jblogging.

** The Midrash Says, The Book of Sh’mos, Volume 2, Benei Yakov Publications, page 182

***Interpreters of Judaism in the Late Twentieth Century, Essay by David Biale on Gershom Scholem, B’nai Brith Books, page 265

Glossary of Internet terms: IMHO: in my humble opinion; G2G: got to go; BION: believe it or not; LOL: laughing out loud; AAMOF: as a matter of fact; BTW: by the way; RTM: read the manual; TTFN: ta ta for now.

By Larry Stiefel

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