How Social Media Helps Me Keep Track of Jewish Time

April 8, 2015Jane E. Herman

When someone asked a friend of mine what his daughter enjoys most about living in Israel, he explained that she loves the way the country’s secular rhythms synch seamlessly with religious time in a way that doesn’t happen in North America. By way of example, he described Shabbat and holidays as characterized by closed shops, quiet streets, and low-key television programming.

Admittedly, it can be more difficult to feel the rhythm of Jewish time in 21st-century North America, but it is possible – and for me, it adds a most welcome sense of grounding to my hectic life. Much of that stability comes from attending my synagogue’s Shabbat minyan and Torah study session each week, as well as the Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuot festival celebrations. These worship services not only connect me to my religious community, but also enrich my understanding and appreciation of Jewish time and the customs, texts, and liturgy that accompany each holiday and season.

For example, this past Shabbat happened to coincide with the first day of Passover, on which we switch from mashiv haruach umorid hagashem­, the winter prayer for wind and rain, to morid hatal, the spring prayer for dew. With that thought fresh in my mind, I was inspired to snap photos of these vibrant, purple flowers on the way home from services and to post the shots to Facebook, noting “A group of people prays for dew and... voila!”

Writing and sharing on social media are other ways I stay connected to Jewish time, especially at this season:

  • For the last few years, I’ve chosen to participate in #BlogExodus, using a specific word associated with Passover to create a daily blog post for each of the 14 days of the Hebrew month of Nisan that precede the first seder. The prompts and ideas about how to participate (there are no rules) are provided by Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, who cooked up the idea of #BlogExodus and #ExodusGram several years ago. (She also organizes a similar exercise, #BlogElul and #ElulGram, as spiritual preparation for the High Holidays each year.)
  • Making its debut this year as part of my Passover social media sharing is what I now think of as the “Starbucks Challenge.” A few days ago, I received an offer of a free breakfast sandwich from Starbucks, redeemable on either April 6 or April 7. Because the dates fall during the leaven-free holiday, I posted a somewhat snarky letter to Facebook in jest:

Dear Starbucks,

As much as I appreciate the offer of a breakfast sandwich on you, I'm not able to take you up on it on either April 6 or April 7. You know, it's that Passover leaven restriction. Might I have a raincheck for next weekend? Please let me know because it would be a wonderful treat then.

Thanks, Starbucks. Hope you're having a zeissin Pesach, but my guess is you have no idea what I just said.

~ Jane.

Upon seeing it, a few friends suggested that I email the request to Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz, which I did. I also tweeted a similar message to @Starbucks. Thus far, I have not received a reply to either missive, but I’m hopeful that I will hear from Mr. Schultz offering a post-Passover raincheck for the breakfast sandwich!

  • Beginning on the second night of Passover, the counting of the Omer denotes the 49 days between the Exodus and Shavuot. Like much of what’s detailed in the Book of Leviticus, this commandment harkens back to the culture of sacrifice during the time of the Temple in Jerusalem, which can make it challenging to observe in our modern lives. Although I don’t literally count the Omer, I have changed the cover photo on my Facebook page to an image depicting Jim Henson’s Count von Count who, of course, is counting the Omer! Corny though it may be, it does remind me (and my Facebook friends) daily of the seven-week lead-up to Shavuot.
  • Once we arrive at Shavuot in 40-some-odd days, I’m planning to participate in the day-long social media challenge to Tweet #Torah to the Top, which encourages Twitter users to use #Torah so extensively in their tweets on that day that it becomes a top trending topic. Although a faithful group of tweeters hasn’t reached that goal in previous years, there’s always hope for this year. Having said that, I must go draft some #Torah tweets.

Mo’adim l’simcha!

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