Shavuot Is Tough Sell in Age of 140 Characters

Social Media-Happy Youth Shun Learning of Torah

getty images

By Mendel Horowitz

Published May 13, 2013, issue of May 10, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Preferences for shortcuts and concision are not traits of a successful divinity student. The law of the Talmud is tricky, and students are expected to join in a boisterous dialectic to unravel its intent. Achieving transcendence through debate — conversing with God through the medium of His word — is as central to Orthodox Judaism as its precepts. Participation demands qualities not readily found online.

Living in a world created by their parents, digital natives are not to blame. If anyone is at fault, it is adults who fail to nurture those virtues necessary for inspired Orthodoxy — for meaningful, ongoing religious commitment born of an active engagement with God’s word. Damning the Internet is pointless, flawed. A generation of superficially religious youth subsists uninspired, and satirizing them does no good.

Which brings us to Shavuot.

Talmudic tradition maintains that the great voice of God on Sinai has never ceased — that it resonates, forever to be noticed. I would like to believe that in every generation, all can hear that sound, can identify its source, can appreciate its relevance. In truth, only some are moved by its echo; others strain for a chord, others may be not listening. For some there is only quiet.

Shavuot is about participation, not commemoration. About joining a community of listeners. About experiencing the resonance of His expression.

There can be no shortcuts to informed religious conduct. To pretend as much would be misleading. There can also be no substitute for earnest dialogue — with teachers, confidants and texts. Still, the challenge of amplifying that awesome sound to those who do not yet hear it depends on the sensitivity, creativity and patience of those who do. The same digitally distracted child can focus when the subject is of interest. The same digitally isolated soul can join a community when it matters to him most.

For my students to embrace Shavuot, they will have to be convinced it is worth their efforts. Demonstrating as much in 140 characters or fewer may be not possible, but making use of current mediums and references is. Because few of my students write in cursive, persuading them to evolve new ways of thinking will involve my adaptation, too.

A 3,325-year-old noise can be challenging to make out. But it can be #worththeeffort.

Mendel Horowitz is a rabbi and family therapist in Jerusalem, where he maintains a private practice working with adults and children.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.