We’re Going Surfin’ (with thanks to the Beach Boys)

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, June 16, 2023 / 27 Sivan 5783

Notice: Starting Sunday at 7 am, I will be on a weeklong Jewish meditation retreat. There will therefore not be an Oasis Songs this coming week. I look forward to reconnecting on my return.

Summary: This week, I am reminding us all to be careful while on the internet.

Reading Time: Three minutes

This past week, a number of “spoof” emails went out, impersonating me and asking for help from you. In one of these, the purported email noted that I was busy in meetings and requested that you text me rather than call. Meanwhile, a number of internal phishing attempts were sent to our professional staff pretending to come from our IT department.

Let me first state, as I have periodically over the years, that I will never send such an email to you. If I have a genuine request, I will either enumerate what the request is, or ask for a time when we might speak or meet, nor will anyone else from staff. Additionally, there are countless legitimate sites that can help you understand how to observe proper email and web hygiene so that you are less likely to be taken in by these bad actors. While this link is to a paid service, their definitions of what to look out for are useful: What Is Email Spoofing?

While many of us are savvy enough to recognize many of these fraudulent attempts, it is also true that even sophisticated users are sometimes moving so quickly because of workload that they will occasionally click on a link or respond. This is one of the unavoidable features of modern life. Our traditional texts clearly don’t have direct instructions on protecting ourselves from harm while surfing the web, but we are instructed to avoid putting ourselves in harm’s way unnecessarily. For example, in the Mishnah Berurah, the Chafetz Chaim instructs us that we should not engage in dangerous activities unless it is for a mitzvah or a similar need. The Chazon Ish holds a similar opinion.

Clearly, supporting ourselves is a mitzvah, but there is no clear way to avoid the dangers of the internet. Simultaneously, we can mitigate our use by ensuring that we are not rushing so quickly that we will make careless mistakes, thereby clicking on a dangerous link. Four years ago, I composed a tefilat haderekh, or traveler’s prayer, to be recited before surfing on the internet. At the time, I wrote that with a focus on internet addiction—the sort of compulsive way in which we can mindlessly waste our time or worse. Yet the prayer may be a good reminder that we might reconsider before we click without thinking. I am attaching the English translation of the prayer because the Constant Contact platform often will garble the Hebrew vowels. If you would like a Hebrew copy, one is available in the materials bins near the newly renamed Fred Rothstein Administration Wing.

Tefillat HaGlishah
A Prayer Before Surfing the Web

Praised are You
who oversees all worlds
virtual and real.

May it be Your Desire
to lead me peacefully
through all my online journeys.

Protect me and support me
so all my desires guide me
on a path of joy and curiosity.

Let my way not be sidetracked
by hateful speech, ego, or disdain,
neither from others nor from myself.

Spare me from the bandits of distraction
and small-minded pleasures. Save me from the ambush of mental addiction.

Guard me in all my surfings,
in my going out and my coming back,
now and forever.

Blessed are You, God, who hears prayer.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rav D

If you’d like to continue this discussion, follow this link to CNS’s Facebook page to share your own perspectives on the topics raised in this week’s Oasis Songs. Comments will be moderated as necessary.