Mishpatim: Who Decides What Is “Real” And What Is “Fake”?
What is the definition of “fake news”? Who decides what is “real” and what is “fake”? Does reality even exist beyond our perception of it? Think of social media and the way we project ourselves to our “friends”. Is that the “real” you or the “fake” you? What about our choice of “friends”? Why do we choose them? Why do they choose us? Why do we even feel the need to project ourselves to the outside world. In a stunning insight on this week’s Torah portion the Rebbe explains there are two types of Laws: There are laws that are an expression of reality which in turn shapes human life. Then there are laws that are shaped by a reality which is created by humans. There is a simple question at the core of our dilemma: Is individual man the centre of the universe? Or is there a reality that transcends man? Do we exist in order to extract as much value as we can from the world around us? Or are we here for the purpose of adding value in the lives of as many people as possible? Ultimately the answer to all these questions lies in conducting one simple test: The test of time. Things that are transient are not “real” even whilst they exist. A fair-weather friend was never a friend. Fleeting experiences of pleasure are not real even during the moment it lasts. It is the sustainability test that is the true measure of what is real and what has true value. How long after you have had a splendid culinary experience does the pleasure endure? What about the purchase of a new watch or car or lying in the sun? On the other hand, how do you feel when you show genuine kindness to a friend in need? Especially when you have to go out of your way. Yes it’s a different type of good feeling. Perhaps more subtle. But one that is much more profound and enduring. “Real” is something that transcends time and circumstance. “Real” are the timeless Jewish values of our heritage. Let us invest more of our time and resources in a world that is “real” and less time on things that are “fake”.