Onion rings

What, me blog? You must be kidding!

11 years ago, I started dabbling on Blogger, hoping that everybody — and nobody — would read my musings. I still believe that it’s high-risk to entrust Jewish philosophy, insight and inspiration — traditionally the preserve of sages and mystics — to bloggers.

Plus, I’m a Chabadnik, and Chabadniks know full well how our Rebbe always cautioned that the printed word is forever, and that we must review and weigh every word before we share it. Raising a pen, or hitting the keyboard comes with responsibility.

There was a time when people pondered word-choice long and hard. They would agonize over the text of a telegram and repeat-proofread a mock-up before sending a document to print. I remember how warily I would type (with one finger, of course) on my grandmother’s typewriter, afraid of that one typo that could ruin the entire page.

Today, in flagrant rejection of Thomas Carlyle’s “Great Man” theory, everyone enjoys a platform for self-expression. Only a quarter-century ago, mostly the thoughtful shared their ruminations in public. Today, the profound vies with the profane for a breath of airtime in the swirl of technology-fueled self-expression. Over the last eight years, I’ve fired off close to 50 000 tweets with substantially less angst than when I would hand-write our seventh-grade weekly two-page weekly newsletter.

When everyone has their say, it’s worth trying to share a meaningful perspective.

I doubt myself: “Am I qualified?”.

I don’t know.

But, I’m reminded of a story about the second Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Dovber. He would urge his followers to travel and share deep Chassidic teachings wherever and whenever they could. One Chosid once reported that his success in teaching Chassidic thought disturbed him. Chabad philosophy centres on undermining egoism, and he felt that his achievements were going to his head.

The Rebbe responded in Yiddish, “A tzibele zol fun dir verren, ober Chassidus zolst du chazeren. Even if you become an onion, you should continue to share Chassidic teachings.”

What did he mean by an onion? Perhaps he was saying, “You may put on a few layers of self en route, but it would remain worthwhile if you share something of meaning. One of my Yeshivah mentors, the famed Chabad personality, Reb Mendel Futerfas would tell us that the most acute form of arrogance is when you abstain from doing something positive for fear that people may consider you arrogant for doing it.

And so, here I am, thanks to Times of Israel, looking forward to engaging with you, aspiring to share something of meaning and hoping not to gain too many onion rings along the way.

About the Author
Rabbi Shishler together with his wife, Naomi and their eight children, runs Chabad of Strathavon in Sandton, South Africa. Rabbi Shishler is a popular teacher who regularly lectures around the globe. he hosts a weekly radio show in South Africa and is the rabbi of Facebook's largest Ask the Rabbi group.
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