The mass media has an overwhelming influence on our lives. However,
media spokesmen say that it is the reverse: the media merely reflects society.
I once read how a pop-musician compared the situation to someone who sees
a blemish in the mirror. Can you blame the mirror for the blemish? Obviously,
the mirror is only informing the person about the existence of the blemish,
but is not responsible for its existence. Famous child-star-turned-politician
Shirley Temple Black used the same argument a generation ago, testifying
as a young woman before the U. S. Senate.
Perhaps we are so used to looking in the mirror that we don't see the
foolishness of such statements. The mirror is not responsible for the existence
of the blemish, but one who stares at the blemish in the mirror is likely
becoming concerned, or perhaps obsessed, with the existence of the blemish.
When he unduly focuses on the blemish, it will permeate his thoughts, affect
his self-perception, influence his behavior.
When the media focuses on violence, sensationalism and one-sided arguments,
millions of consumers focus their attention on these "blemishes."
What was supposed to be a "mirror," becomes a device of manipulation.
Mirror Image II
Sota -- the section of the Torah dealing with the suspected adulteress
-- is followed by the laws of the Nazir, who vows not to drink wine. Rashi
explained the relationship of these two sections: "One who sees the
suspected adulteress in her ruination, should vow not to drink wine --
which brings about adultery." Apparently, the sight of the ruination
of the Sota, in itself, has a devastating effect.
The Baal Shem Tov explained another point from this Rashi. The Baal
Shem Tov did not author any books, but was quoted extensively by his students.
One of the major themes in his quoted words, is that incidents which occur
to us come to reveal areas that require personal reflection. Being a witness
to an unfortunate occurrence necessarily meant that the witness must correct
the same weakness in himself, to some degree.
Rav Yerucham Lebovitz also mentioned this theme. A Jew should never
say, "What a foolish person -- such a thing could never happen to
me!" Rather, recognize human nature, and realize that all people have
the same basic nature. If wine could affect a person in such a foolish
manner, then surely the same could happen to me, G-d forbid. Alcohol often
serves to release a base side of human nature, which should be held in
Speaking a generation ago, Rav Lebovitz's words couldn't be more timely:
There are many types of intoxication, many addictions -- there are many
alcohols! Rashi's comments regarding the relationship of the suspected
adulteress and the vow not to drink wine are not isolated to wine and adultery.
There is an intrinsic link between the various intoxications and addictions,
and all sorts of illicit behavior.
On the contrary, the intention of the Torah's commands is to elevate
us to a state of sanctity. Such sanctity, however, requires many unstated
preconditions. We will discuss this further next week, G-d willing.
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Kollel of Kiryas Radin
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156