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Introduction: As our war of survival in Gaza and Lebanon relentlessly goes on, and with little chance of a peaceful resolution in the near future, Israelis across the spectrum are suffering from increasing stress and worry. This article examines how both the social media, and our Torah, affect our ability to cope with this increasing stress.

The social media unfortunately tragically acerbates our stress.

Fortunately, the Torah can and should be a spiritual sanctuary relieving our stress.

We are all coping, each in his own way, with an unprecedented amount of stress

Since Simchat Torah we are all emotionally coping with an unprecedented amount of social and emotional stress. Our goal is to maintain our resilience, our morale, our steadfastness, our sense of national purpose, and our Torah faith. To do so everyone must evolve a 'coping formula' that works for him. "One size does not fit all".

Coping with stress is a very personal, individualistic task. To cope, we have to demand not too much, and not too little, of ourselves. We have to honestly face our personality strengths and weaknesses, and not feel guilty about either. We have to create a 'new reality', but one that is not too new. Husband and wife will cope differently with stress. Neighbors and friends will cope differently.

The bottom line is not to fall into despair or indifference. If we still have the same sense of national purpose, steadfastness, and faith after seven months of war, as we did at the beginning of the war, then we 'deserve much more than a passing grade' on our emotional coping.

Our sources of emotional stress

Very succinctly, obviously the first major source of our 'war for survival' stress is experiencing the death or wounding of dear ones. I am sure that almost all members of the dati community know close to five families, neighbors or friends (including work place) who have been in mourning over the last seven months.

A second major source of stress has been the acute disruption of the daily routines of our lives. The two most glaring examples are wives, with many children, whose husbands have been away from home doing reserve duty for several months. They have to fulfill the role of mother and father, and undergo the stress of a husband in combat. The other examples are the owners of small businesses, and the self-employed, whose reserve duty has wreaked havoc with their financial stability.

A third, and most universal, source of stress has been our geo-political situation as a Jewish State. We are truly in a war of existential survival, and are experiencing the threat and trauma of deadly, world-wide antisemitism. Following these developments in the news media easily causes worry and anxiety every day. And a victorious 'happy ending' does not seem to be around the corner.

In brief, our daily and personal lives have radically changed, (possibly for the foreseeable future) and these changes have caused all of us to suddenly cope with multiple challenges to our daily, routine emotional equilibrium.

Three different examples of coping with our 'war for survival' stress

I am close to the families of two prominent rabbis who both lost sons on Oct. seventh heroically defending fellow residents of their small Negev settlement. One rabbi has coped with his loss and mourning by becoming vigorously creative in evolving and teaching lessons in religious faith in line with the teachings of Rav Kook. Also, he and his wife have been publicly active in visiting and comforting other mourners, and in political activity calling for a decisive military victory over the evil of the Hamas.

His fellow rabbi and wife, whose son died fighting alongside our first rabbi's son, has adopted a different strategy of coping. They have coped in a much more private, 'quiet' manner concentrating on increased Torah learning and prayer, and spending more time sharing with their family. These differing ways of coping with mourning are probably extensions of different personalities.

I myself am definitely coping with increased worry, anxiety and sadness., basically in a more private manner. Earlier in my professional social work career, between the ages of 47 till 57 I counseled bereaved families of fallen soldiers in coordination with the Defense Department. It was emotionally intensive work.However I feel guilty now that I have not volunteered since Oct. 7th to give professional support to the bereaved and traumatized.

I inwardly feel that now at the age of 76 I simply no longer have the emotional stamina to professionally deal with the high degree of pain, confusion and despair experienced by traumatized combat soldiers or the recently bereaved. Instead, I volunteer at a local senior citizen center teaching Israeli -Zionist history. The point is that to maintain my post Oct. 7th sense of morale and steadfastness and I had to adjust my coping (in this case volunteer work) to the reality of my emotional abilities in my current, more advanced state of life.

As stated above, every one copes differently according to their personality and stage of life. But we all have the same goal- to maintain our emotional morale and national purpose.

The tragic effect of the social media discourse

Now I want to emphasize that the social media has tragically made our emotionally coping much, much more difficult.

I refer to the social media as a tragic social instrument because it has brought both tremendous 'blessings', and even greater 'curses', on twenty first century humanity.

The social media has brought many blessings to our daily life, from on line shopping, social support groups, educational courses, rapid access to vast stores of relevant information, and on-line social contact with distant friends. For example, I have a bi weekly zoom meeting with my close college friends in America. It is wonderful being in touch after 58 years.

But the social media has also become a cancerous curse in our social life. Yes, I am angry and scared. The social media has been highly instrumental in creating two developing social disasters:

One it has been highly instrumental in creating the increasing sense of loneliness, alienation, and social-emotional vulnerability afflicting postmodern society. Simply, people no longer meet in in face to face in social groups. They meet in Face book, Twitter Tik Talk over the internet.

And two the tone and content of most internet social discourse tends to be tense, combative, often shallow, maybe informative -but not deep-real-actual companionship.

For example, writers used to make fun of the industrial workers who after eight toiling hours on the assembly line, would stop off at the local bar ( before going home) for an hour or two, to relax, chat, gossip and experience a sense of companionship with friends with whom they grew up with in a small industrial town. The artist would make fun that this male-bar discourse was simply repetitive gossip and intellectually empty chatting. But believe me, such face-to-face social contact possessed a dimension of social-emotional depth that no Facebook chat group can obtain, despite the fact that the words 'spoken' in the chat group 'sound' more intellectually 'profound and learned'.

The internet social media is an assembly line for creating/abetting social loneliness and vulnerability.

Very personally, it is great meeting with my college friends over zoom and talking current events, but it just does not create the same companionship, depth and bonding that we had when we sat for hours, fifty-eight years ago, in our college cafeteria over a single bottle of Coke, listening to great music over the juke box and sharing our college learning and social life.

Second, the worst curse of internet social discourse is that it has created a language and tone of 'shouting at each other' and 'never Really listening' to each other. We shout, scream and talk in polarized language because this is the only way one will get attention for his opinions. Moderate, thought-out opinions are simply 'boring' and never go 'viral'.

I am thoroughly convinced that the current paralysis, current stalemate, current reign of polarization and extremism in our political life is the direct result of now fifteen years of conducting political and social discourse primarily over the internet social media.

And the radio television and printed media have been forced to adopt the shallow, polarizing discourse of the internet social media simply in order to 'catch attention', compete and remain relevant.

This 'curse' of the acerbic tone, and shallowness, of the social media, inevitably makes our emotional coping, in this time of war, much, much more difficult

The main point of this article is that the social media, because of its polarizing-shouting nature inherently 'creates hysteria'. It thus acerbates, in time of war, our sense of fear, vulnerability, insecurity, and even powerlessness. In one sense it 'artificially' creates a sense of 'trauma' even before there is one.

In contrast, in order to properly emotionally cope the stress of our 'war for survival', we have to develop and sustain a sense of stability, , routine, and a sense of order and boundaries, in one's daily life. Only when we hold on to such values can we stand up against and 'fight off' the sense of 'chaos and powerlessness' that is the inner core of stress and trauma.

Thus to successfully cope with inevitable stress of our war, we must be attentive to, and moderate and modulate, how much we expose ourselves to discourse of a 'social media' that is getting out of control. We have to protect ourselves, and expose ourselves only to the very individualistic degree that is appropriate to one's personality strengths. One who is easily given over to anxiety, and yet is almost compulsive about listening to the radio-television all day, is almost committing 'emotional suicide'.

Speaking personally, when I do occasionally expose myself to radio-television I feel I am engaging a force that is out to manipulate my mind and feelings. And I refuse to let such an outside force manipulate my inner Being. So, I prefer to update myself by reading internet news and opinion sites. Reading, as opposed to seeing and listening, gives me the upper hand in regulating what information enters my inner self. Reading allows me to much more easily modulate the 'outside social forces' attacking my soul.

The sanctuary of our Torah

So, in this crazy, alienating, and polarizing social world, I find the best emotional coping resource is to live as much as possible in the World of Torah.

The beneficence of a Torah way of life is shown by research that reports that religious soldiers suffer fifty per cent less from battle stress and trauma. This may be explained that in coping with the stress of battle religious soldiers usually more intensively benefit from the critical social coping reources of family and community social support, and usually posses a stronger sense of national purpose.

But at this point I would now like to focus on the how immersing oneself in a Torah way of life is the 'best antidote/vaccine' against the 'polarizing craziness' of social media discourse.

In this era of polarizing social media discourse, immersion in a life of Torah is a very healing experience. Why? Because the social values of the world of Torah counterpose the social values of the world of the social media. Everything that the Torah is, social medias discourse is not. And vice versa.

For example, the Torah world deals with eternity, while the social media discourse deals with the moment, the transient, the 'going viral today and gone tomorrow'.

Also, the truths and morality that the Torah teaches us are ancient, time tested by the wisdom of our scholars, objective and very relevant to our daily lives. In contrast the morality that flows through the social media is a morality of relativism. It is subjective to whatever idea gets more 'likes' in the media, and is a property of the flabbiness of changing public opinion and changing fads.

Similarly, the world of Torah unites us, allowing us to gain strength and purpose by becoming a part of a strong, traditional communal identity, and encouraging us to participate in communal activities. The world of the social media isolates us, encouraging us to live lonely lives opposite our computer, and teasing us to spend our lives living in a virtual reality.

Ending on a very personal note, a prayer

I now want to end on a personal note. I confess that there our days that when confronted with reality of the seeming perilousness of Israel's military situation, and angry and sad about why the world does not understand or accept us Jews, I can fall into sadness, worry and confusion.

And the only message that can then uplift my spirits is my religious faith that tells me, "Chaim, yes, we all are living, and are all actors in, a very trying drama, whose producer and director is the Lord Our G-d. We are shocked by the Beginning of His current drama, and in no way see the End. We are very small, and G-d's historic drama is very big. We may feel 'trapped' inside G-d's historic drama. But we just have to hold ourselves in a very patient pose, and repeat over and over again, G-d will deal faithfully with His People, because we have tried with all our might to be faithful to Him."

May this 'prayer' be G-d's Will.