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Thought for the Day: Modest/Unassuming E-Behavior

I have probably written a couple of dozen of fewer letters in my life.  Many were written on the paper with alternating solid and dotted lines as guides for capital and small letter size.  The problem with writing a letter is that is takes time and thought (both of which seem to be at a premium).  On the other hand, I have written thousands of emails.  It is easy to write, easier to forward, and takes almost no effort to send a response.  As a consequence, it doesn't take much thought, either.  Even better/worse, whereas making a CC used to require a pulling out actually carbon paper, it now requires simply adding an address... or just pressing "Reply All" instead of "Reply".

Yes; I have a point.  I recently witnessed a distressing interchange on a moderated email group.   A told B that he should join the group, which is moderated by C.  In case you don't know, a moderated group means that membership needs approval by the moderator.  B was denied membership because the moderator didn't approve it within 14 days.  A forwarded that email to the entire group and added a comment taking the moderator ("you know who you are") to task for not having the common decency to give B an actual response.  C replied simply that it was an oversight and a personal invitation had been sent to B.  A followed up a few days later with an email to the group offering a sort of apology for the first email.

There was an obvious lack of "dan l'chaf z'chus" (judging one's fellow Jew favorably), which is a likely d'oraisa obligation according to sefer Chafeitz Chaim (and others).  Moreover, the follow-up apology email does not completely settle the matter, as someone might see only the first email.  Of course people make mistakes and it is appropriate to apologize; I am just noting that these kind of public sins are pernicious; complete atonement is very difficult.

All of this could have been avoided with a private note to the moderator.  "he'vei tz'nu'a" is not about hemlines, it is about doing things in a way that doesn't draw undue attention.  The bi'ur halacha (siman 3, d"h "y'hei tz'nu'a") extols the virtues of modest/private/unassuming behavior and even notes that the Sefer Mitzvos K'tanos counts this as a Torah obligation.  That obligation extends to email/facebook/etc behavior just as much "real" life behavior.


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