Image: The words of Elohai N’tzur on page 180 of Mishkan Tefilah, the Reform Siddur, CCAR Press, 2007. Photo by Ruth Adar.
This past Shabbat, I noticed an ancient prayer that has a very current application: it’s a great prayer for improving my social media use. The original prayer has been used for centuries, and is based on Psalm 34:14:
Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking guile.
The prayer is best known as Elohai n’tzor [“My God, guard”] and here is the text, with my comments for contemporary social media use. The translation is from Mishkan Tefilah, p 180, with line breaks altered to facilitate my comments in italics:
My God, guard my speech from evil and my lips from deception.
I take responsibility for my own words and behavior. I will speak the truth and conduct myself mindfully.
Before those who slander me, I will hold my tongue;
I will avoid taking the bait offered by trolls and bots.
I will practice humility.
I will remember that my word is not the last word on any subject, and my sources of information are frequently imperfect. When I have erred in facts or behavior, I will admit it.
Open my heart to your Torah, that I may pursue Your mitzvot.
I will follow the commandments of Torah in my speech, valuing truth over falsehood, and kindness over cleverness. I will keep in mind “lo bushah” [do not embarrass] and I will avoid rechilut [gossip,] lashon harah [unnecessary derogatory speech about another,] as well as nivul peh [coarse language.]
As for all who think evil of me, cancel their designs and frustrate their schemes.
I will not engage in flame wars with people whose minds I will never change. My rage rewards a troll; blocking trolls prevents them from getting satisfaction from my reaction.
Act for Your own sake, for the sake of Your Power,
I will own my words and take responsibility for them, because words have power.
for the sake of Your Holiness, for the sake of Your Torah;
I will remember that I am b’tzelem Elohim, made in the image of God, and will behave with dignity.
So your loved ones may be rescued, save with Your power.
I will maintain my focus and use the power of social media to do good in the world.
And answer me.
I will acknowledge others as I wish to be acknowledged myself.
May the words of my mouth
May the words that I type or say
and the meditations of my heart
And the intent behind those words
be acceptable to You, Eternal, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Meet the standards of derech eretz, decent behavior, as befits a person of Torah.
May the One who makes peace in the high heavens make peace for us, for all Israel, and all who inhabit the earth. Amen.
May we find true communication, a meeting of minds and hearts, that will serve all the people of the earth. Amen.
7 thoughts on “Ancient Advice for Social Media”
As always, thank you, Rabbi. I will be sharing this prayer with my students throughout the upcoming school year in my Speech and Debate classes.
Cindy, thank you. I hope it helps them.
Thank you for posting this, Rabbi Adar. I need to remind myself of this on a regular basis. I love how you’ve done the translation/exegesis here to make it so explicitly pertinent to social media, where so many of us spend so (too) much time these days.
Dealing with trolls is so unsatisfactory. Yes, one’s anger amuses and feeds them, but so does blocking them. There is no avenue available that actually has the effect of protecting oneself that they will not count as a victory; I need to find a way to let go of caring about that. This discussion puts me in mind of my favorite xkcd cartoon: “Are you coming to bed?” “I can’t, someone is wrong on the Internet.”…
Patti, I have not seen that cartoon but even without the visual I had to laugh. I can totally identify!
The best part of xkcd may be that the visual is often unimportant, but the alt-text is usually at least an extension of the joke, if not a second joke, sometimes even the better one.
(If you go to the mobile version, you don’t even need a mouse to get the mouseover, just hit the ‘alt-text’ link: https://m.xkcd.com/386/)
Thank you so much for this! I was wondering why I was so firmly convinced to keep my tongue from speaking negativity and anger, instead working to build up and encourage. Perhaps my Jewish upbringing had just a bit more impact on me than I thought. I appreciate your kind words and the beautiful application to modern social media!