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July 2, 2015 / 15 Tammuz, 5775
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Selfies, Self-Image, Same-Gender Attraction

What do selfies reflect?

What do selfies reflect?

In recent years there have been calls to foster a more open orthodoxy that accepts same-gender attraction. But whereas there are several explicit verses in the Torah prohibiting this conduct, there is an answer past abstinence or avoidance.

Conceptually there is very little difference between same-gender attraction and selfies (e.g., recently the most popular selfie came from someone who ascribes to the former). The response we can give begins once we place same-gender attraction in its proper context.

For those who are unfamiliar, the definition of the word selfie is:

A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.

Selfie Disorder

A recent article suggested that taking selfies may lead to mental disorder. While people who take selfies may appear to be proud and boastful, the news suggests that these moments of extroversion are potentially cover-ups for latent insecurities.

But while the article stops there, we can take this story much further. From this seemingly innocuous tale about selfies, we can learn an important lesson about the secular culture hovering around us today.

Profile Persistence

Whether we take selfies of ourselves or not, there are many opportunities to remind us of our self-image. If we’ve uploaded profile pictures, every time we open our email, Facebook, or LinkedIn account, we are reminded of the image that the world sees of us. Even more pronounced perhaps is Twitter, where every single wit and witticism we share to the world is a restatement of that same profile picture.

Some of us modest souls get around this by posting something aside from our visage. But while modesty is a praiseworthy trait, those who have entered into the public arena don’t have the luxury of anonymity.

Those people who fashion themselves public personalities then have an obstacle to overcome. Instead of becoming enamored by the light of one’s own countenance, the challenge is to realize that any sign of pleasantness or charm is for the sake of others; so that another should be inspired to connect with the worthwhile cause or message that you promote.

From “I” to “Nothing”

What we have now said relates to the two kinds of “I.” There is the “I” of Joseph, which indicates a strength to go from a private to public personality, from hidden to revealed (the numerical value of זהוי, identification, equals strength, כח). Then there is the “I” of Pharaoh which seeks to spread his rule over as great a territory as possible.

While it is good to increase one’s circle of influence when promoting something worthwhile, the challenge is whether one has first undergone the transformation from “I” to Divine “nothingness” (by transposing letters from the I of אֲנִי to the nothing of אַיִן).

Seeing the Reflection of Others

For instance, the greatest fear is public speaking. But once a person shifts their focus from personal perfection to the betterment of others, than these anxieties fade away. So too, while the Egyptian girls would clamor on the wall to get a glimpse of Joseph, he remained pure and holy because he remained faithful to his mission and purpose in life. Even though he had an adoring public fixated on the beauty of his countenance, he was no longer fixated on his own reflection. When Joseph was thrown into a pit without water (without the possibility of seeing his reflection), instead of focusing on snakes and scorpions (i.e. bad thoughts), he focused on Divine Providence. This focus on God continued throughout his stay in Egypt.

Directing Attraction Outward

In addition to Potiphar’s wife attempting to seduce Joseph, there is an opinion that states that Potiphar himself was castrated because he also desired Joseph (Rashi, Genesis 41:45). This comes as no surprise of course as this behavior was rampant in Egyptian culture. But we would now like to add an important clarification.

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What do selfies reflect?

There is an answer past abstinence or avoidance for Torah-prohibited relations.

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