This past Monday was my wife’s birthday. On Facebook I noted this by posting a “HB” on her wall.
I did not do this because I was in a rush, and needed to fulfill my husbandly obligation of wishing her a virtual happy birthday.
I did not do this because I don’t appreciate her that much, and deemed that she was only worthy of a simple “HB.”
I did this to make a point.
Until a few years ago, I did what most well-intentioned people do– wrote a gushy schmaltzy Facebook post on her wall telling her how much I love and adore her, and how she makes me the happiest man alive.
And then I read a sharp, painfully true article by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg of Boca Raton, Florida, that radically shifted my entire perspective on how to express one’s appreciation for his/her spouse and loved ones.
Before I was more religious, I didn’t really care too much about PDA, public displays of affection. I was in fact, an egregious violator. I loved my girlfriend (who became my wife), and I didn’t think twice about expressing that love to her publicly. When I became more observant I came to appreciate that this sacred love is not necessarily something to be flaunted and to be observed by anyone else. Our holy love should always be felt, but only physically expressed in the privacy of our own home.
However, until I read Rabbi Goldberg’s article in 2014, it never occurred to me that perhaps PDA can be expressed not only through physical manifestations in the public eye, but also through non physical mediums, like Facebook.
As an observant Jew I strive to live a tznius, or, modest lifestyle. We often think of the word “modesty” as a mode of dress. I will dress in a way that doesn’t reveal my skin, or the shape of my body. But in reality it is so much deeper. Tznius means that I do not strive to draw unnecessary attention to myself, and the things that are meant to be kept private remain private, and are not for public consumption. In the same way it is no one’s business to see how my wife and I express our love to each other physically, it is also no one’s business how we express our love spiritually and emotionally. I know how much I love and cherish my wife. One of my primary jobs as her husband is to remind her of that every single day- to express my love and appreciation to her through my actions and words. To remind her of her royalty every day. I can do all of this in the privacy of our home. I don’t need to go on Facebook to do so. As Rabbi Goldberg brilliantly writes:
Genuine expressions of affection and love between spouses are wonderful and should be encouraged, but in a private setting, not displayed in a public space. Would anyone write a card extolling their spouses virtues, describing the love they feel towards them and articulating how lucky they are to have found them and then instead of privately handing that card to their husband or wife, hang it on the wall of the Shul, school or supermarket for all to see? Of course not. So why post such sentiments online for public consumption?
Our love is sacred and beautiful. If I try to live my life in the spirit of modesty that has become an important value for me, I ought not to flaunt it to the public.
But there is another aspect to all of this as well. Not everyone is necessarily blessed the same way that I am, and my posting about our beautiful love and marriage does nothing to help ease the pain of other’s who are not blessed in this same way. Some people have very difficult, rocky marriages. Some people are suffering through divorce, and some people are single, despite actively trying to get married.
Similarly with the recently observed Father’s Day– while it is certainly tempting to go on Facebook, and express our unending appreciation, love and gratitude for our fathers, why don’t we instead tell them how much we love them, or express it in a handwritten card? I fear that by writing beautiful and passionate posts on Facebook about our dads, we run the risk of G-d forbid giving yet another reminder to the many people reading the post whose father’s are no longer alive about the massive permanent void in their lives that will never again be filled.
In summary, I believe in the name of modesty and sensitivity to the pain of our fellow man and woman, we should think twice before going on Facebook and writing well intentioned posts about the special people in our lives whom we love with all of our heart and soul.
Instead, if we are blessed with the ability, we should tell this to their faces, and live our life every day conveying this vital message through our actions.