July 20, 2024
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July 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Parshat Lech Lecha begins with Hashem trying to motivate Avram to leave his homeland and travel to an undisclosed location. One of the ways he convinces Avram to do this is by promising “‘v’agadla sh’mecha—I will make your name great.” In other words, Hashem promises Avram that he will be famous. What kind of lesson is this teaching us? Since when is being famous a Jewish value? Let’s read the following story to find a solution:

Morah Sushi Kazuki (as named by Yeshivat He’Atid students) taught a popular shiur in Monsey every other Tuesday night. Around 35 attendees would come hear her inspiration, drawn from the weekly parsha. She always connected her lesson to real life, and often some audience members would stay afterward for hours to discuss the topic and others. Morah Kazuki, who also taught at the local elementary school, viewed many of these adults as her students, and they viewed her as their Morah.

The Kazuki-heads (as they liked to call themselves) were happy to have Morah Kazuki’s attention twice a month. A crowd of around 35 people was not too big to get personal attention. However, they still felt that Morah Kazuki’s classes should be shared with more people, so they decided to advertise the shiur around the community. After posting fliers at local shuls, schools, pizza stores, supermarkets, barber shops, dog grooming services, crayon factories and motorcycle gang clubhouses, the number of attendees began to increase, but they still wanted more.

Finally, one of Morah Kazuki’s students got the courage to ask her if they could post her shiurim online. Knowing how much Morah Kazuki disliked social media, this was a risky thing to ask. Predictably, her response was a clear “no.” Morah Kazuki was very against people posting themselves online just to get attention and “followers,”and did not want to be part of such a system. However, she soon did not have a choice.

One Tuesday night, the student who originally asked about posting online took her chutzpah to the next level. Without Morah Kazuki’s permission, she recorded a shiur and posted it on Facebook and Instagram. Of course, this class was a huge hit with thousands of shares and likes, and more than ten thousand views! Morah Kazuki had no idea how much of impact her shiur had of course, being that she spent zero time on social media.

However, this all changed on Friday afternoon. During dismissal at school, a number of parents, about whom Morah Kazuki was sure did not attend the shiur, commented about how much they enjoyed her last class. Then, while shopping for Shabbat, a random woman approached Morah Kazuki at the supermarket. “Oh. Em. Gee. Are you Morah Kazuki? I am listening to your class right now! It’s soooo inspirational!” When Morah Kazuki asked her how, this woman showed her the Instagram post. Needless to say, Morah Kazuki was NOT happy, and she immediately contacted her students to tell them she was canceling the shiur indefinitely.

Morah Kazuki’s students were stunned. What were they going to do? How will they get their biweekly inspiration without Morah Kazuki’s class? To solve this problem, they gathered two Tuesday nights later, at their regular time and location to discuss. After much conversation, they decided there was only one solution, and they immediately hit social media to get to work.

The next day, two of Morah Kazuki’s students waited for her outside of school, each holding a single piece of paper. When Morah Kazuki saw them, she gave an awkward smile (she was still upset) and walked over to talk.

“Before you say anything,” said one of the students, “please read this.” This student handed Morah Kazuki the paper and she began to read. After two minutes of reading, tears began to well in Morah Kazuki’s eyes, and after five minutes, she was simply bawling. She couldn’t believe how many people across the world had been inspired by this one class, all thanks to it being posted on social media. Morah Kazuki told these students to text the WhatsApp group that the next shiur was on, and that she would allow it to recorded and posted online.

The message of this story is clear. Being famous, just to be famous is not a Jewish value. Clicks, likes, comments, shares, retweets, followers, and other forms of social media popularity do not fit with Jewish ideas of modesty or humility. However, fame and popularity can be meaningful if used to share Torah thoughts, chesed opportunities, inspirational words and other forms of spiritual motivation. This is the “v’agadla sh’mecham that encouraged Avram to follow Hashem’s direction. Not fame for fame’s sake, but fame for the purpose of spreading Hashem’s word. We should all learn from this and use our popularity for good, and not just to get people’s attention.

By Yair Daar

 

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