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Whatsapp groups are not known for being places where the concept of patience perseveres. Like many other social media platforms, people write messages and other people react, often quickly, and often only after thinking through the issue or question for a few seconds at most. This is fairly common for many social media platforms, we see something, we react to it, either like it or dislike it, share it or comment on it, and keep scrolling on. But this week, I learned a lesson in patience from someone on the same WhatsApp group as me, and I’d like to share this lesson.

But first, let me give some context.


For the past month, there has been a very active Whatsapp chat group run by the company that was founded by Nuseir Yassin, more widely known by his social media handle as Nas Daily, that has been discussing Judaism. Nuseir himself, whom I have worked with in the past, and I who I am thankful I can call an acquaintance, perhaps even a friend, is on a personal journey to study five religions and Atheism in as many months.

When I heard about his journey I pitched him the idea of filming the summary video of the month of studying Judaism at Aish in the old city, and with one of the Aish rabbis, Rabbi Dov Ber Cohen. Nuseir took me up on the idea, and that is what we did. (The video is set to air later this month on his social media channels, and I highly recommend watching it.) I also learned of the WhatsApp group’s existence and decided to join.

I felt it was important to join this group, not because I am bored or have lots of time on my hands, neither is true, but I saw that there were very few Jewish people on the group, (I made that assumption based on the names of the participants primarily) and I felt a sense of responsibility to join the group and be able to provide some context from a Jewish and religious perspective. I heard my ears ringing with the lesson from Hillel in Pirkei Avot, B’makom shein ish…

Most of the people in the group proved to be non-Jewish and had many questions about Judaism. Some people had very similar questions, while others had some questions that many people may have found tedious. After all, most of the questions could have been quickly answered by a simple search on Google. But again, Hillel’s custom of answering everyone with respect no matter the question rang in my ears.

After my first day as part of the group, I realized that the point of the group wasn’t just to get questions answered, or to gather information, but that there was a second and equally important rationale for the group. For most of the people in the group, this would be their first interaction with a Jewish person, someone real, with whom they could interact and discuss things, rather than the impersonal internet.

Being a staff member at Aish, I thought back to some of the teachings of the founder Rabbi Noach Weinberg who taught, that if you know something teach that thing. I also thought about the goal of the organization, to spread Jewish wisdom. With those two lessons in mind, I dove into the group and tried to answer as many questions as I had time for. These answers were well received, and often led to secondary questions which raised the level of learning for the entire group. I wasn’t the only person to answer. The other Jews in the group gave answers, and even some of the non-Jews who knew an answer to a question offered it as well. Again, following the adage, if you know something teach it.

I’m not a Rabbi, but I am fairly learned, and I have a masters in Jewish History, so I focused my efforts on responding to questions on those topics. One enterprising Christian fellow, I think he is from Nigeria, (the Whatsapp group was worldwide) had an incredible breadth of knowledge of both Bibles and often asked questions citing sources, that, had I not spent several years in a Hesder Yeshiva and later a Kollel and Bar Ilan University studying Tanach, of all things, I would have been easily stumped. His questions and citations came from many places in the Torah, as well as Melachim, Mishle, Kohelet, Trei Asar, Ezra, Daniel, Iyov, Tehillim, and others. He knew enough about Jews and Judaism to stay away from asking questions relating to Yeshayahu 53, Hamevin Yavin, and didn’t even ask about that. It was an earnest and real conversation full of mutual respect and a desire to understand more about Judaism.

There were of course several trolls, mostly from Muslim countries antagonistic to Israel, that joined just to say things like “Free Palestine,” but their comments were quickly deleted and they were removed from the chat by moderators. Other Muslims, even from similar countries, were very open and interested in learning about Judaism, as were people who were Buddhists, Hindus, and many others.

For each question, we answered in a serious and meaningful way. When I didn’t have time to answer fully, I shared a link to either Chabad, My Jewish Learning, or websites, to articles that gave an in-depth answer to the question.

After three weeks of doing so, which ran right through Pesach, one of the other Jews in the group, a person who is less religious than I, but still affiliated and connected to their roots, said that because of my answers, he thought that I was a tzaddik. Without knowing me as a person, and without ever meeting me in real life. I was a bit shocked at this. While I graciously thanked him for the compliment, I asked why he felt that way. He responded with an answer that taught me an important lesson.

He said that because of the answers I wrote he could tell that I was truly a good and patient person.

This made me stop for a few moments to ponder the situation I was currently in. Here we were sharing Jewish Wisdom with people who wanted to learn, giving meaningful answers to questions posed by people who were foreign to our religion and some Jews who were unaffiliated and wanted to learn about their own religion, and this man was so inspired by patience, that he wrote a complimentary message saying so to a complete stranger half a world away.

I was shocked. In my mind I hadn’t done anything special, or inspiring. I was simply answering questions in a way that I would want answered for me if I was first starting out to understand Judaism. But the concept of patience here was the key. Those of us who were responding often did so with somewhat lengthy explanations taking the time to really dig deep into the question and in that way connect conceptually with the person asking the question to give them the meaningful interaction they were seeking with someone foreign. It was the patience that really inspired this person to write his message to me. In doing so, he encouraged me to be even more patient in all of my interactions, whether they take place on social media, or in person.

So here is what I’m taking away from this, and what I am taking upon myself. People are worth our time. This is especially true for those who are searching for an answer to a question. Whether the question is mundane, or simplistic, or something that is a bit frustrating because it could be quickly looked up on Google, the person is asking the question of you, or of the forum or chat that you are in, for a reason. You don’t know, what the underlying reason for their asking in this forum truly is. Therefore, if you choose to answer, answer with patience and kindness. If you do so, you just might be lucky enough to not only inspire someone listening and reading but to make a meaningful connection with them as well. After all, isn’t that what social media is all about?

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Raphael Poch works as the Senior PR and Marketing Manager at Aish, is a freelance journalist, volunteers as an EMT and lives with his family in Efrat.