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Personal Identity Theft

Friday, 27 May, 2011 - 1:30 pm

How many advertisements a day do we hear about identity theft? It’s a serious concern nowadays. It may begin with a stolen credit card number, but if identity thieves get your detailed private information they can wreak havoc on your personal and financial life.

As technology continues to develop, concerns about safeguarding information rise. Part of that concern circles around intricate codes and numbers. After all, there may be many Jacob Goldsteins out there, but only one has the social security number with 3841 as the last four digits.

Imagine if we did away with social security numbers, dates of birth, names or any other personal information. Would that make us safer? Perhaps. But at what expense? Are we prepared to sacrifice our identity in order to protect it?

***

In this week’s parsha of Bamidbar we read about the encampment of the Jewish people as they dwelled in the wilderness. Throughout their forty-year journey each tribe was assigned a specific position. The flag of the particular tribe identified its station. Reuben’s flag was red with a depiction of mandrakes embroidered on it. The image of a wolf decorated Benjamin’s multicolored flag. And so on.

We might wonder – why the need for identity markers? Why not just simplify it? After all, aren’t we all the Children of Israel? Aren’t we creating more opportunity for rivalry, discord or confusion? What difference does it make who my parents were? Isn’t my own character most important?

In today’s global community and melting-pot society we are tempted with the same attitude. Society insists we forget our unique heritage. Better to just “fit in.” In the name of acceptance and progress we are urged to abandon the past.

***

But the Torah’s message is clear. We are all the children of Jacob. Yet each has a unique identity. As Jews, we can never allow that individuality to be replaced by “broader ideals.”  At no time may fashionable rituals and trendy campaigns replace our traditions and customs. Jewish uniqueness will forever remain bound to Torah and Mitzvot.

Indeed, constant vigilance is necessary to protect our Jewish identity from being lost or stolen. But I’d rather have an identity that requires security (and maintenance) than be carefree and identity-less.

In fact, in this era of hackers and accidental security breaches, I better go invest in some security upgrades.

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