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November 24, 2014 / 2 Kislev, 5775
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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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Readers Opine on the Hazards of Texting
(See Chronicles 12-14 – “Hurting for my friend…”)

When texting may be misread as a pretext…

Dear Rachel,

I am writing to comment about the letter from the woman who wrote about an improper texting relationship and the subsequent fallout that led to the breakup of a longtime friendship and nearly destroyed a marriage. This column fueled a lively discussion at our Shabbos table, as it was Shabbos Chanukah and we had a full house.

My wife and her sisters were of the same frame of mind: “Texting, shmexting, improper liaisons were going on long before texting was all the rage.” They both insisted that texting is the ideal mode of communication as it saves women hours of excess phone chatter when only a brief message needs to be conveyed.

Another guest chimed in with an opinion: “Texting is about as unromantic a means of dialogue as it gets and can in no way compete with the handwritten love letters of once upon a time.” At this point I was beginning to feel self-conscious about my age; my wife and I had exchanged more than a handful of long letters before we were married, and she treasures them to this day.

The younger generation at the table had just sat there listening quietly until my grandson-in-law suddenly decided to pipe up. David, as I shall call him here, is professionally employed and sees clients/patients privately. He told us that he had recently treated a young lady of about eighteen and had some time later run into her father whom he was acquainted with. Out of concern and curiosity, he asked the father how his daughter was faring — to which the man replied, “You have her cell number; text her and ask her yourself.”

Now it was our turn to be quiet as we waited to hear what happened next. The young man didn’t keep us in suspense for long and told us that he considered it totally out of line and inappropriate for him (or any practitioner) to text an eighteen-year old girl to ask how she was feeling. Somehow we all knew where he was coming from and none of us could argue with his sobering perspective.

Need more be said?

Text messages designed to be taken out of context…

Dear Rachel,

The letter written by a woman whose friend’s husband was caught carrying on a texting relationship with another female demonstrates the naiveté that is so common among our people. The author expresses her dismay at her friend’s episode. Who would think that harmless texting could create such damage, she asks in disbelief.

I don’t know which bubble she is living in, but today, texting is the most intimate form of person-to-person communication — physical aside, that is. For one, the small electronic gadget that transmits and intercepts instant messages near and far is easily concealable and is accessible at any time of day and night. And unlike talking into a phone, the method is stealthy by virtue of its soundlessness.

Moreover, the condensed style of texting leaves interpretation wide open for the overactive imagination which is likely to misread or misconstrue even the most innocuous of text messages. Take the couples in the story; they vacationed together and exchanged cell numbers for, let’s surmise, practical reasons. On the way home, Mrs. A. on a whim decides to send Mr. B. a text that expresses her appreciation for his ingenuity in having come up with their vacation theme.

Mr. B., amused and flattered by the attractive Mrs. A.’s personal attention, acknowledges her nice gesture. Without a moment’s hesitation as to whether his response is proper or can possibly be taken out of context, the send button has been pushed and an open channel established. The game is on… much like a flirtatious encounter at the office water cooler. The latter, however, is fleeting and the memory of the chance meeting is likely to fade — while texting has the potential of sparking a riveting, exciting and challenging match as each progressive text message becomes more detail-oriented, self-revealing and addictive. For the texts can be saved and read, reread and read into.

I leave the rest to the reader’s imagination.

A seasoned texter

Bluntly stated, it didn’t begin with texting…

Dear Rachel,

While I can appreciate where “Hurting for my friend” is coming from when she warns us of the hazards of texting, I believe she’s lost sight of the crux of the problem. Couples (emphasis on the plural) vacationing together and mingling, especially in a getaway setting, is asking for trouble in the first place.

Needless to say, I don’t refer to the secular society that doesn’t play by the same rules and principles that apply to the Torah-observant Jew. Readers can roll their eyes all they want but halacha cannot be argued with. And halacha says that a married woman is not to initiate contact with a male or vice-versa (other than next of kin) in the type of friendly or casual manner that may lead to over-familiarity and can conceivably generate an unhealthy chemistry between them.

We are all human

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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