The Cyber Sneeze
No one likes the inconsiderate person who sneezes in public without making any effort to cover his mouth and nose; what about the text-sneeze, or social media-sneeze?
by Rabbi Lazer Brody
No one likes the inconsiderate person who sneezes in public without making any effort to cover his/her mouth and nose. This individual exposes everyone to a bacterial cloud of over 100,000 potentially contagious microorganisms, including many bacteria and viruses of the not-so-friendly type.
Despite the danger, Jewish Law requires us to judge everyone fairly and look for the mitigating factors. In the above case, we could say that perhaps the sneezer was unaware of the perils that he or she shares with those in proximity of that sneeze. And even if they were aware, we can still say that a sneeze is only semi-autonomous; in other words, it's not completely under the sneezer's control. So, if he or she sneezed accidentally before they could control it, we certainly must forgive them. What's more, since a sneeze is sudden and convulsive, it could have been quicker on the draw than the sneezer's tissue or handkerchief that was intended to contain it.
We can certainly conclude that the sneezer had no intention of contaminating the atmosphere. And, to those who still say that the sneezer breached a mitzvah between man and fellow man by his or her lack of consideration, the Heavenly verdict in any sneeze other than one with a malicious intent to make others sick would be, "Zakai – not guilty!"
The verdict is quite different in the event of a cyber-sneeze.
It's very similar to an actual sneeze except for several cardinal differences:
1. Cyber-sneezes are expelled verbal venom from the fingertips as opposed to the regular sneeze, which is expelled physical germs from the mouth and nose;
2. Cyber-sneezes are totally voluntary whereas regular sneezes are not;
3. The cyber-sneezer will always be found guilty in the Heavenly Court.
Like the physical sneezer who has no idea how many bacteria and viruses he or she is contaminating the air with, the cyber sneezer who loses all control is transmitting verbal germs as soon as they hit the "send" or “share” button.
That's the cyber-sneeze: as soon as you hit the "send" button, that sneeze is out of your control. That's bad news. Why?
The laws of lashon hara, or evil speech, teach that the only way to atone for this sin is by asking forgiveness from the victim and by going to each person to whom you told the gossip, lie or slander and tell them that you were mistaken, misjudged or lacked all the facts. No one ever has all the facts of why people do what they do - facts that are critically imperative in making a fair judgment.
Meanwhile, that message on email or social media is being shared with thousands of people, many of whom hide behind fake identities.
The Laws of Yom Kippur teach us that Hashem does not forgive anyone for offenses committed against their fellow man. For that, the aggressor must apologize and placate the victim. Yom Kippur also does not atone for such offenses.
Sins that go unaccounted and unatoned for become stern judgments that filter back down to earth and materialize as all types of life's worst troubles, particularly sickness and financial loss. They also cause a blockage in Divine abundance such as a delay in finding a soul-mate or having children.
We don't want to go there...
Anyone who wants to maintain physical, emotional and spiritual health and happiness should refrain from cyber-sneezing. If you need to text-message, use it only to send the most necessary of messages, like telling your wife or parents that you're stuck in a traffic jam and you'll be late getting home.
If talking about others is dangerous and forbidden, then texting about others is a thousand times worse. The spiritual contamination is vast and uncontrollable.
Correct any misuse of texting and social media in your life, and wait and see how previously-blocked blessings begin flowing in your life like a wellspring.
Rabbi Lazer Brody was born in Washington, D.C. in 1949. After receiving his bachelor's degree in agriculture from the University of Maryland in 1970, he moved to Israel and joined the Israel Defense Forces regular army, and served in one of the elite special-forces units. He is a decorated combat veteran of two wars and numerous of counter-insurgence and anti-terrorist missions on both sides of Israel's borders.
Rabbi Brody is the English-language editor of Breslev Israel's highly popular English-language website at www.breslev.co.il, and the founder and director of Emuna Outreach. Between Breslov Israel and Emuna Outreach, he devotes his time to spreading emuna and particularly the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev around the globe.
"Lazer Beams," Rabbi Brody's award-winning daily web journal, has been instrumental in helping tens of thousands of people around the globe find joy and fulfillment in their lives.