Yom Kippur: You Can’t Atone On Facebook, Ann Brenoff

Social media plays a huge role in my life, but not on Yom Kippur — the day of atonement. As Jews worldwide mark the holiday that begins at sundown, my Facebook feed has been filling up with “friends” issuing blanket apologies to me and the rest of the Facebook for however they may have offended us.

Sorry, but it just feels wrong; you can’t just e-mail in your sins and call it a day.

Yom Kippur, for strangers to Judaism, is the last chance Jews have to wipe our slates clean of the debris of the previous year and be inscribed in the book of life. We begin by apologizing to those who we have offended, slighted, hurt by exclusion, wounded by intention. It’s part of a process of examining how we behave and how we can improve ourselves in the coming year.

Yet here is an example of what I read on Facebook:
“To all my family, friends and anyone out there that i may have hurt, offended or pissed off in anyway shape of form. I wanted to apologize from the bottom of my heart. I am very sorry and i truly hope you can forgive me. I wish this year only bring us smiles, laughter, good health, wealth and Happiness. I love u all. Gmar hatima tova and an easy fast.”

I’d like to say it’s better than nothing, but truth is, I don’t think it is. At least this friend acknowledges she procrastinated — and stole the post from another:

“To all of my friends and family members who I have wronged or hurt during the last year: I am sorry and I ask your forgiveness. I am also sorry that I waited until the day of Yom Kippur and sent a Facebook post, instead of contacting everyone personally. I hope that next year that I can turn and be a better friend and person and be there where I was not and in a better way than I was. G’mar Hatimah Tovah!! May You Be Sealed for a Good Year!! P.S. Forgive me for stealing this from XXX”

A wise rabbi once told me that the reason we visit sick friends in the hospital — when clearly it is easier to just call them or send flowers — is because the effort we make becomes part of the measurement of our sincerity. Think about it. What will make our hospitalized friend feel better: an e-mail saying, “hope you feel better, call when yr out” or a visit that required you carved the time out of your day, drove all the way over, paid to park the car and sat with him for an hour? Clearly, the latter. Why? Because it shows our friend how much he matters to us, which in itself, is a healing gift. You are valued; you are important to me.

It’s been said that social media has managed to connect us all, yet leaves us communicating less. Facebook allows us to communicate with the people we know en masse, but just because we can doesn’t mean we always should.

Yom Kippur is not about convenience. It’s about reflecting on how we treat others. This isn’t a holiday where a simple “Happy new year” is our greeting. And “I’m sorry” means looking someone in the eye and talking things over. Except in this case, where I’d like to say upfront: To any Facebook friends who I’ve offended with this post — I’m sorry. Let’s all do better next year, eh?

Please join us throughout the Jewish High Holidays, on the HuffPost Religion live-blog, updated daily with spiritual reflections, blogs, photos, videos and verses. Tell us your story.


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