Caution: They are Listening

Photo by Fernando Arcos on

There is an age old custom in Judaism in which we study Ethics of our Fathers in the summer months, on a rotation, covering one chapter a week. This tractate of Mishna includes ethical teachings, and overall wisdom for living that our Sages, who trace the teachings back to Mount Sinai, bestow to all of us in the future generations.

This week, the Jewish community is studying the second chapter, and there is one Mishna specifically that caught my eye, due to its timely message. The Mishna says a lot of profound things, as it advises: “Hillel Said: Do not separate from the community (more on this in a future post), do not believe in yourself until the day you die, do not judge your friend until you have reached his place, (more on this in a future post) do not say something that is not meant to be heard, because at the end, it will be heard, and do not say when I get free time I will study, because you will not end up getting free time (more on this in a future post).”

There is so much to say on this, but let me zoom in (pun intended, haha) on one particular line. We are advised by the great sage Hillel to not say something that is not meant to be heard. Meaning, if you don’t want anyone to hear what comes out of your mouth, bite your tongue, and do not say anything.

In my estimation, never has this guidance been more relevant than in today’s day and age, in the world of Zoom calls. How easy would it be to say something by mistake when you thought you were muted? How plausible is it that you thought you ended or left the meeting, didn’t actually end or leave the meeting, and then folks can peer and listen in on your entire day? Or, have you ever turned the video off, went to the bathroom, or tended to other tasks, only to return when the administrators were chatting after the meeting? You could hear everything they say, and they could have heard everything going on in your home while you were away.

Has it ever occurred to you that Alexa and Siri are eavesdropping into everything said in our home? I am by far no conspiracy theorist– but who knows where that information goes?

We ought to simply heed our mother’s sagely advice: If you don’t have anything nice to say at all, say nothing.

It was true 30 years ago when my momma first told it to me.

And it is as true and relevant as ever today.

We need to live our lives as if there is no mute button, and the camera never turns off.


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