Elevating our Community Conversation on Facebook

26 Apr

Normally, when the Torah states that God told Moses to convey a message to another party, the text uses the phrase “vaydaber Hashem el Moshe leimor, daber…” However, at the beginning of our parashah the Torah states “vayomer Hashem el Moshe emor…” Why does the Torah use the word the word emor, “say,” instead of daber, “speak”? In Yevamot 114a, the Talmud explains that the word emor was used not only to signify that the priests should maintain their level of ritual purity, but that they must also teach their children this law. How does the use of the word emor indicate this additional commandment? Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that “whereas daber is the concise expression of a thought, emor is addressing the same to the mind and feeling of another person, the complete explanation of development of a thought.”

By utilizing the word emor, instead of daber, the Torah expresses the value of communicating with others in such a way that they do not simply hear us speaking to them, but that they fully understand what we are saying. I’ve commented in the past that email and the electronic social media are no substitutes for real conversations. When we have sensitive matters that need to be discussed that are emotional in nature, it’s best to do so face to face. However, used properly, the social media, such as Facebook, are great tools to serve as catalysts to conversation and community building. Facebook provides an easy and visually pleasing portal to share information and comments in an open and democratic forum and can serve as a framework for establishing more meaningful and substantive personal interaction.

Over the past year, the Temple Torah staff and I have engaged in training in social media and how best to use it with the goal of strengthening community. More than just a portal for sharing information, Facebook can serve as a tool for building relationships. We have been receiving consulting from an organization named Darim (http://www.darimonline.org). Their mission is to helping Jewish organizations align their work for success in the digital age. Our Temple Torah staff team was selected to participate in their social media Boot Camp where we learn best practices in this new and exciting medium.

Lately, we’ve posted some items on our Temple Torah Facebook Page (http://www.facebook.com/TempleTorah) with the goal of sparking community conversations across generations. I was very impressed with the responses last week in which I asked everyone to complete the following sentence: “I love Israel because…” If you haven’t seen the page, let me share some of the responses that are publicly posted. These represent an amazing cross-section of members of different ages all addressing something we all care about, Israel.

Valentin: I love Israel because after Centuries of galut the Jewish people returned to their G-d given promised land; because it personify everything what is good about Jews – hard work, ingenuity, love and respect to the science, bravery in defending our Motherland; and because I cried uncontrollably when I pressed myself against the Western Wall – the first one out of the endless line of my ancestors who could do it in Jerusalem, let’s this name to be a holy one.

Lynda: I love Israel because it is a testament to the will of our people who survive and thrive despite all odds and obstacles, a start up nation that is a haven for the persecuted, a place of return for those who yearn and a beacon of light to the world.

Lee:I love Israel because it is home for every Jew in the world.

Phillip: I love Israel because it provides an environment for the Jewish people that allows the ultimate fulfillment of the Jewish spirit.

Marlene: I love Israel because Israel is the homeland for all Jews throughout the earth.

Debbie: I love Israel because it is truly ours and it is home.

Varda: It brings our past to the present. A “present” to the Jewish People.

Marjorie: I love Israel because it is where I belong.

Lea: I love Israel because it is alive with the fulfillment of God’s promise of a land of milk and honey. Whenever I visit, I am home.

Jeffry: I Love Israel because it demonstrates how much people committed to a common goal can do. When you realize that it started as a desert and now look at how many things grow there!

With Israel setting the tone for community conversation, our next step that we have planned with our coach is to drill down and actually talk about ourselves as a community. Yesterday, I posted: Complete the following sentence: My first experience being welcomed at Temple Torah was…. Our hope is that by sharing these positive experiences publicly, we will together become more mindful of the culture of welcome that we cherish and make it even stronger. Here are some of the responses that were posted since Thursday night:

Susanne: Our first experience was being greeted after services on a Shabbat morning by three or four people, among them Madelyn Saul, who instantly took us under her wing, and the rest is history.

David: When we moved up here from Davie, and looked around for the best pre-K we could find and decided on Temple Torah’s, Alyssa was 2 and she has been in school their ever since 9 years later. It didn’t hurt that [my sister-in-law and brother-in-law] were already members.

Janet: I joined Temple Torah 3 1/2 years ago and was immediately welcomed into an adult b’not mitzvah class with the most incredible women ever. Since then, I have met so many wonderful people and love the sense of family that Temple Torah engenders.
In coming weeks, watch for more questions that will be posted by Temple Torah staff members that we hope will engender reflection and thoughtful conversation on how Temple Torah can be the best, most welcoming community it can be.

In conclusion, our tradition derives great wisdom in our Torah portion’s language of emor—speak with your whole self. Speak with empathy for the one to whom you’re speaking, and speak with the intent to listen. As Temple Torah grows in its adaptation of the most current technologies available, it is my hope that the spirt of emor will carry the day among all of us. Emor, rather than daber. Emor—speaking and empathic listening for the sake of building a community of relationships.

Visit Temple Torah’s Facebook Page at http://www.facebook.com/TempleTorah.

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