love humanity, & bring them close 2 #Torah

studying pirkei avot during the omer

Dur­ing the peri­od of the Omer I have been study­ing Pirkei Avot. This is a tra­di­tion­al activ­i­ty for the peri­od, but I have been doing it in a non-tra­di­tion­al man­ner. I take each Mish­nah and break it down into as few words as I can, yet still express a mean­ing­ful thought. Then, most of the time, I add a back­slash “\\” and some com­ment as well as the words “#Torah Pirkei Avot #Omer”. You see, I’m tweet­ing my study. Inter­est­ing­ly enough, the Wikipedia arti­cle on “epi­gram” does not men­tion any­thing relat­ed to Jew­ish thought (let alone Pirke Avot), yet, it is easy to see these pithy state­ments as epi­grams. I gath­er here some thoughts from Hil­lel and his peer Sham­mai.

  • Hil­lel & Sham­mai received next. \ Final­ly arrived at most famous of all pairs (they were not a cou­ple!)
  • Hil­lel: Be as dis­ci­ples of Aharon; love peace & pur­sue peace; love human­i­ty, & bring them close to #Torah
  • Hil­lel: bring all close to Torah… “Tweet #Torah to the top” in “cloud” as it appears above Sinai @ Shavuot.
  • Hil­lel said: Be dis­ci­ples of Aaron love peace & pur­sue it \ שלום רב, לאהבי תורתך Ψ119:165
  • Hil­lel: Be as Aaron’s dis­ci­ples; love peace & pur­sue it; love human­i­ty, & bring them close 2 #Torah. \ Use cur­rent tools: Tweet #Torah > Top
  • Hil­lel: Name made great = name destroyed \\ becomes beyond our con­trol as to how used. Be care­ful.
  • Hil­lel: A name made great is a name destroyed \\ Hil­lel was mod­est, yet his wis­dom is quot­ed 2000 years
  • Hil­lel: 1 who increas­es not, decreas­es; and he who will not learn/teach? deserves slaugh­ter; \\ UNLINK!
  • Hil­lel: If your learn­ing doesn’t increase, it decreas­es; if you don’t learn/teach(?) you are unsus­tain­able!
    [Thank you Yankel!]

  • Hil­lel: 1 who increas­es not, decreas­es \\ easy seen how this means learn­ing; also peace/health/wealth/joy/friends
  • Hil­lel: one who increas­es not, decreas­es; Hil­lel under­stood [social] entropy
  • Hil­lel: bring all close to Torah… “Tweet #Torah to the top” in “cloud” as it appears above Sinai @ Shavuot.
  • Hil­lel: one who uses “crown of #Torah” the same way as oth­er tools… per­ish­es \ his/her wis­dom does not sur­vive.
  • Hil­lel: one who uses “crown of #Torah” the same way as oth­er tools… per­ish­es \ Torah is a gift. RE-GIFT it.
  • Hil­lel VERY ear­ly “tweet”: If I am not for myself who will be? If I am for myself alone what am I? If not now when?
  • Sham­mai: Make your #Torah study reg­u­lar activ­i­ty. \ com­pare Hil­lel: if your learn­ing doesn’t increase, it decreas­es.
  • Sham­mai said: and receive every­one with a smile. \ com­pare Hil­lel Be as dis­ci­ples of Aaron love peace & pur­sue it.

why hillel, here, now?

Because of one of his say­ings that is par­tic­u­lar­ly appro­pri­ate for this time as we approach the moment of the gift of Torah on Shavuot:

love human­i­ty, & bring them close 2 #Torah

I have been using the cur­rent tools I’ve had avail­able to bring peo­ple close to Torah. I wrote here on June 8, 2010 about cre­at­ing “elec­tron­ic leaflets”. When I was in col­lege I made my own leaflets from “dit­to” or “spir­it dupli­ca­tor” machines. I would col­lect var­i­ous quotes and write them in my own hand­writ­ing onto dit­to mas­ters. Dit­to mas­ters came in two parts: a white top sheet where you wrote, and a bot­tom sheet that trans­ferred what would become the ink onto the back of the white sheet. The back sheet came in a vari­ety of col­ors. I would cut these up and re-assem­ble them so that when I print­ed, the col­ors of the text would vary ran­dom­ly based on how the re-assem­bly matched the text. I believed that these made for more inter­est­ing leaflets. I also pre­pared a lit­tle card that I post­ed around the Jew­ish neigh­bor­hoods of Los Ange­les, hop­ing to attract atten­tion to the excit­ing Jew­ish life that was devel­op­ing there in the late 1960s and ear­ly 1970s. This is a small mod­ern repro­duc­tion of it:

ohr chadash

I was a stu­dent at CSULA on the east side of town. There was no Hil­lel Foun­da­tion on our cam­pus. A num­ber of us would gath­er at the home of David Mon­tag and his wife Bracha to do a Kab­bal­at Shab­bat. David called his group Ohr Chadash, and even attempt­ed to orga­nize a group that would learn some farm­ing tech­niques in prepa­ra­tion for mak­ing aliyah. This group he called “Zip­pies” (for (sur­prise) “Zion­ist Hip­pies”).

I have only now, while prepar­ing this learned that David Mon­tag died in 2008.

dancing jews

The main Hil­lel was actu­al­ly across town at UCLA. That’s where I and most oth­er active Jew­ish youth went every Wednes­day evening for Israeli Folk danc­ing… and to meet one anoth­er.

Most oth­er Hil­lel activ­i­ties were not par­tic­u­lar­ly pop­u­lar. The adult com­mu­ni­ty was, as usu­al, con­cerned about los­ing the youth. This was approx­i­mate­ly the same time as the “Con­fer­ence for Jew­ish Action” was held. Some­one offered to spend $750,000.00 to pur­chase a build­ing on the south edge of the UCLA cam­pus for Hillel’s use. How­ev­er, the direc­tor of Hil­lel at the time (Rab­bi Richard N. Levy) believed that the mon­ey could be put to much bet­ter use if it was giv­en to a num­ber of young activists who would “orga­nize” their peers. Demon­stra­tions were held. Leaflets were dis­trib­uted (among them one that decried the Jew­ish community’s “edi­fice com­plex”). Stu­dents and oth­ers orga­nized a “Free Jew­ish Uni­ver­si­ty”. Many meet­ings were held.

the organizing project

Even­tu­al­ly, the funds des­ig­nat­ed for the build­ing were turned over to activists. Some worked in the dorms, oth­ers had dif­fer­ent tasks, and the stu­dent pro­duced jour­nal: Davka was first pub­lished (the ini­tial edi­to­r­i­al board: Aron [Hirt-] Man­heimer, Sheryl Baron, Sheila Heiman, Ron House, Mark Hurvitz, Jon[athan] Keller­man, Rab­bi Richard Levy, Mer­i­lyn [Ariel] Malek, Alain Rogi­er, Louis Schon­feld). Hil­lel remained as a “silent part­ner”.

I nev­er wore any Hil­lel-ori­ent­ed lapel but­ton. Dur­ing those years I wore one or anoth­er of these four but­tons that I have shared on these pages.

Hil­lel did pro­duce a vari­ety of but­tons in those days and today. Then they were very sim­ple, and one seemed to express the intent of much of the wis­dom of Hil­lel from Pirkei Avot: Be dis­ci­ples of Aaron love peace & pur­sue it, though it actu­al­ly more accu­rate­ly express­es a thought of Sham­mai’s: “receive every­one with a smile”.


smiling hillel

smil­ing hil­lel

Date: 1970s
Size: 2.3
Pin Form: straight
Print Method: cel­lu­loid

A more recent but­ton pro­duced in 2002 sug­gests a more sophis­ti­cat­ed approach.


hillel maximizing jews doing jewish

hil­lel max­i­miz­ing jews doing jew­ish

Date: 2002
Size: 5.39 x 5.39
Pin Form: clasp
Print Method: cel­lu­loid
the num­ber of
Jews doing Jew­ish
with oth­er Jews

what button am i wearing now?

This week I wear the old­er Hil­lel but­ton as I go about my tasks in the city. But I have in mind the idea of the new but­ton as I encour­age my friends and col­leagues… in fact any­one to, as I explained last year: “tweet #torah to the top as we gath­er @ sinai”.

So I have start­ed ready­ing myself as we begin count­ing the Omer with our con­gre­ga­tions and on our Face­book pages. Once again, I have seen some friends, and oth­ers I do not know count­ing the Omer on Twit­ter. I enjoy see­ing this count­ing and all the dif­fer­ent ways we do it. Last year, 2010, I felt momen­tum build as we neared the moment of Rev­e­la­tion.

Some peo­ple won­der why we might do this. Did not Hil­lel say that among our pri­ma­ry tasks is (Avot 1:12) lov­ing all of human­i­ty, and bring­ing them (all) close to Torah. אוהב את הברייות ומקרבן לתורה? Remem­ber, the “goal” is to get #Torah trend­ing into the top 10 of Twit­ter for the day before Shavuot. That’s all. There will like­ly be oth­er inter­est­ing “fall­out” relat­ed to work­ing to achieve that goal. More peo­ple who use Twit­ter will learn of #Torah and all the peo­ple who are involved in it. Some peo­ple will find oth­ers of inter­est in the “#Torah Tweet­ing Com­mu­ni­ty” and find addi­tion­al peo­ple to fol­low, increas­ing those bonds of com­mu­ni­ty. You get the idea.

In 5769 we were able to tweet #Torah to the mid-30s among trend­ing top­ics. I do not know how “high” we reached in 5770. I pro­pose we give it our best again this year.

how to tweet #torah to the top

The “day” of June 7, 2011 is “erev” Erev Shavuot. I sug­gest that we pre­pare as many 133 char­ac­ter Torah lessons as we can to “release” on that day. If you have been shar­ing #Torah Tweets through the year… Torah does not go bad or stale. You should feel free to “recy­cle” those thoughts.

I plan to begin tweet­ing at sun­down Jerusalem time 7:42 PM on the 6th, which cor­re­sponds to June 6, 2011 at 12:42 PM. with some “announce­ment” tweets, as in: “This is what we are doing, please join us.”

I think this is a great way to encour­age aware­ness of Torah. I’m sure we each have many sim­ple “Torah thoughts” that can be expressed in 133 char­ac­ters. (Don’t for­get to leave room for the final space and #Torah, that’s 7 more char­ac­ters.) If you think that 133 char­ac­ters is not enough for a pro­found thought from Torah, con­sid­er that this is only 102 char­ac­ters (also from “Hil­lel the Tweet­er”):

If I am not for myself, who will be for me. if I am for myself alone, what am I. And if not now, when?

I’m sure that some of us still have Joseph L. Baron’s “A Trea­sury of Jew­ish Quo­ta­tions” which can serve as a lit­tle gold­mine of tweet­able thoughts.

I sug­gest we each pre­pare a num­ber of “tweets” in advance. Set up a text file and then sim­ply copy, and paste them into our pre­ferred Twit­ter tool about once or so an hour (depend­ing on your “capa­bil­i­ties” (sched­ule, etc.)). For those who use Twit­ter with your con­gre­ga­tions, your con­gre­gants, too, can join in… either with their own thoughts, or ques­tions about #Torah, or re-tweet­ing yours. Let’s get every­one involved in think­ing Torah as a lead-in to Shavuot.

If you expect to be busy on June 7, you can use any of a vari­ety of free tools that have been devel­oped that enable you to pre­pare your tweets in advance:

You can learn about more, sim­i­lar, tools here (they may, or may not, still be func­tion­ing).

If you are active on any list­servs you think might be inter­est­ed in par­tic­i­pat­ing, please spread the word.

additional thoughts

We have approached JPS with the idea of “shred­ding” the Book of Ruth and tweet­ing that text at reg­u­lar inter­vals. The “geek” in charge there seems inter­est­ed. We’re work­ing on the tech­ni­cal details now.

But, Twit­ter has lim­i­ta­tions on how fre­quent­ly any one indi­vid­ual (account) can tweet. There­fore, and for gen­er­al “encour­ag­ing broad par­tic­i­pa­tion” rea­sons, it would be good to have as many peo­ple tweet­ing as pos­si­ble.

  • I don’t know at what age peo­ple get their accounts, but, Bar and Bat Mitz­vah stu­dents could be encour­aged to tweet a thought or two about their Torah Por­tion.
  • Con­fir­ma­tion stu­dents could be encour­aged to tweet a thought or two about the Ten Com­mand­ments (as well as, the Torah por­tion from their Bar or Bat Mitz­vah).
  • Any adult edu­ca­tion class could tweet their favorite Psalm, Prophet­ic thought, Rab­binic max­im.
  • Any­one can tweet a thought about: what it means to be com­mand­ed; what “rev­e­la­tion” means in a world of infor­ma­tion over­load.
  • In 5770 David Levy of Suc­ca­sun­na pre­pared a tweet for each of the Parsh­iot. I know that some of us write haiku, oth­ers write lim­er­icks. These short forms often fit quite well as tweets.
  • If you have ser­mons that are online, short­en the URL using a ser­vice such as and add that short URL to a phrase that describes the ser­mon’s theme.
  • You get the idea….

Tablet mag­a­zine may do a sto­ry on the project. I have learned from Lisa Colton (@DarimOnline) that on Jon Stew­art’s The Dai­ly Show, Bil­ly Crys­tal said “Jews should tweet.” Does any­one know how to get in touch with either one of them to encour­age them to join the project and/or spread the word?

You can watch it here at minute 13:40 or read the tran­script.

On Wednes­day, April 20, I invit­ed 318 (haMeivin Yavin) of my Jew­ish and non-Jew­ish Face­book “friends” to join us. As of this post­ing (Apr 26, 2011 @ 20:36) there are 25 par­tic­i­pants, 13 sug­gest­ing that they might par­tic­i­pate, 32 indi­cat­ing that they will not par­tic­i­pate, and an addi­tion­al 381 peo­ple who have not yet replied. That means that friends are invit­ing friends. If you are not one of my Face­book friends, please feel free to spread the invi­ta­tion.

your lapel buttons

Many peo­ple have lapel but­tons. They may be attached to a favorite hat or jack­et you no longer wear, or poked into a cork-board on your wall. If you have any lay­ing around that you do not feel emo­tion­al­ly attached to, please let me know. I pre­serve these for the Jew­ish peo­ple. At some point they will all go to an appro­pri­ate muse­um. You can see all the but­tons shared to date.

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1 Response to love humanity, & bring them close 2 #Torah

  1. Pingback: Haveil Havalim 314 — The Post-Pesach Edition « Frume Sarah's World

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