Monday, December 20, 2010

Why I Read Other People's Blogs

From a young age I've loved history, and loved even more the prospect of becoming part of the historical process, especially in terms of the history of our people, and the rabbinic literary tradition. I've always tried to collect scholarly works of people I either knew or was acquainted with. My English teacher in high school actually wrote a small commentary on the Parsha in Hebrew, so I acquired that. My high school was also next door to the home of the Romanian "Tenker" Rebbe, so I read his works as well. When I went on to yeshiva in Israel, the rabbis I studied by wrote more serious works: one rabbi wrote a popular commentary to "Nach", another on Sugyot. Though the most influential authors Ive met was during my time in the yeshiva of Moshe Pinto in Petach Tikvah (himself a student of Avraham afuta). He wrote a very important commentary on Gemara, and he even introduced me to Yitzchak Yosef during his visit to the yeshiva. He is the author of the extremely popular "Yalkut Yosef" series on halacha, which I've been studying since my childhood (not to mention brief meetings I've had with other Sefaradi Gedolei Hador, Ovadia Yosef, Yitzchak Kaduri, Meir Mazuz and Shalom Messas). Since then, every time I see any of their sefarim on a bookshelf, I feel like I'm an active part of the Torah tradition, and that, in a way, I know the authors of all the other sefarim on the shelves. Which is similar to the feeling you get when you write truly innovative Divrei Torah on a Sugya; you real feel like you're part of a chain that did not begin with you, and will not end with you.

The same is true for more secular literature as well, of course. Sometimes you read a book, a novel, and it seems so magical. It's almost hard to believe it's some "made up story" that some guy dreamed up on a Tuesday afternoon. But the more you meet actual authors, of novels, non-fiction and even popular text books on things like science and economics, you begin to feel that this is a continuing, living tradition. None of this is over your or anyone else's heads. The people who wrote these works are actually very human and very fallible. They've just studied a lot more than you. Or are more innovative than you. So, on a smaller level, reading the writings of your peers, whether on blogs or on Facebook or what have you, is a continuation of that phenomenon. People your age and who you know can be authors as well. Perhaps one day it won't be their blog you're reading, but their book, or their best-selling novel, or their science text book or their sefer. And perhaps under their influence, you will do the same.

Though reading blogs also lets you in to some peoples deepest thoughts and lives. Some things they wouldn't even say in person. Sometimes we just don't understand people; "what's going on in their heads?". Well, this is a way to find out. And determine that your innermost thoughts are not all that different from your comrade or your neighbor. We all struggle with the very same things, so why not come to conclusions together...