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ב"ה

The Company You Keep

Friday, 3 September, 2021 - 7:26 am

It turns out that the (digital) company you keep can have a profound influence on your financial life.  Some lenders and credit card companies investigate your tweets and Facebook friends to learn more about your spending habits. Apparently, they are also judging you by your friends’ activities.  If your online acquaintances are delinquent or have accumulated too many DUIs – you may be denied a loan.

Many of us might consider it unfair for banks to withhold funds due to my neighbor’s unpaid bills.  Why should I suffer if my coworker’s birthday party was at Seven Eleven instead of the Hilton hotel?

Yet, some financial institutions argue that the information gleaned from your social media interactions is more meaningful than the typical standards currently utilized by credit bureaus. It’s a two way street, they maintain.  You might be adversely affected if, say, you tweet about past drug use. But you can improve your candidacy when your friends compliment you on your new car purchase.

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As the Days of Awe approach, we too wonder how G-d looks at us.  Does He judge us based on our associations? Is G-d more compassionate if we hang out in the right circles?

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In this week’s parsha, Nitzavim, the Jewish people are described as standing before G-d:

You stand upright this day, all of you, before the L-rd your G-d: your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, and all the men of Israel; your little ones, your wives, and your stranger that is in your camp, from the hewer of your wood to the drawer of your water.

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While Judaism maintains that we are personally responsible for ourselves and G-d will hold us accountable for our own merits and demerits -- we also recognize that we are all part of a community.  Even the hermit amongst us is essentially a contributor.  We earn credit by virtue of what we do as individuals and by the impact we have on others. All of us are both contributors and recipients. From the leaders to the woodchoppers, we all are uniquely indispensable.

I was reminded of this message when reading about the fascinating story of David Lidstone, a hermit that lived off the grid in a cabin for 27 years – on someone else’s land. He was jailed for it. This led to a huge outcry. In the end, a tech billionaire gifted funds for him to build a new home.

I’ll sidestep the ethics and legalities for a moment to focus on one ironic point. This person went to great lengths, seeking privacy and anonymity. Instead, he became a social media sensation, a front-page news item and a source of great controversy. Finally, he became the catalyst for a good deed.

You can run, but you can’t hide from being a critical cog in G-d’s masterplan of humanity.

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Ultimately, all the high-tech algorithms that Silicon Valley can produce do not come close to G-d’s watchful eye. He will differentiate between man and his fellow.

But He will also be on the lookout to grant us weightier credit when we display that we indeed are all pieces of a greater puzzle.

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As Rosh Hashana nears, let us all recommit ourselves to the true currency by which genuine credit is extended. If we influence others to do more good deeds, we will certainly increase our own (and their) heavenly credit worthiness.

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