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On keeping some things to ourselves

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
Perhaps you are familiar with this question: “If a tree fell in the forest and no one heard it, did it make a sound?”
Or, in today’s terms: “If two girls went to the mall but didn’t take a selfie, did they really go?״ In other words, did something that was never publicized nor seen on social media actually happen?
Nowadays it seems that everything we do — and everything other people do —must be revealed. But it was not always like this.
As recorded in this week’s Torah portion of Balak, Bilam looks out at the tents of the children of Israel and blesses: “How goodly are your tents, Yaakov, your dwelling places, Yisrael.” To which Rashi comments: “For he saw that the entrances were not facing each other.”
In other words, the entrances were situated in such a way that no one could peek into anyone else’s tent.
Bilam was part of a culture without personal boundaries, and suddenly he encounters respect for privacy. His blessing has accompanied the nation of Israel for thousands of years. What we read this week about the blessing of privacy, we might want to take to heart. Instead of clicking “publish” or “share” with every post, we might want to stop and click “don’t share,״ to keep some things to ourselves. Some of our experiences, impressions, and feelings should be ours alone.


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