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Email

We live in a time when written letters and even typed letters are no longer the main means of communication. Everything today is done by either mobile phone or electronic mail.

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Rabbi Berel Wein

Tammuz 13 5781
We live in a time when written letters and even typed letters are no longer the main means of communication. Everything today is done by either mobile phone or electronic mail. I’ve become so accustomed to the reality of rarely receiving any written mail, that I am perfectly content that my postman delivers mail to our address once a week, sometimes even once in two weeks.

I have concluded that anyone who really wishes to contact me with something important that I need to know will call me or at least send me an email. So, every morning after prayer services in our synagogue and breakfast, I park myself in front of my trusted computer and examine the email that has arrived overnight. This email is mainly from the United States and arrives late at night simply because of the time difference between Israel and America.

I must admit that I am flattered by the amount of email that I regularly receive. Most of it is really junk mail that has nothing to do with me personally and is just part of the enormous amount of advertising, solicitations and nonsensical messaging that dominates the email field. However, there always is a nugget of gold to be found amongst all the pebbles that are being sent. And since I never know which message is important and real, and which is not, I pretty much open all of them to discover their importance. I find this to be an intriguing pastime, for I always value some sense of mystery and surprise in life.

Naturally, emails have a definite downside to them. Oftentimes, they are little more than a nuisance and just take up memory and clutter up one's computer. There is also a distinct coldness to email correspondence. Whatever the computer is, and it is many things to different people, it is never an instrument of warmth and serenity. Rather, it always appears as an intruder into the pattern of the day.

We are so addicted to it, that almost everyone looks at every email they receive, even those that one knows in advance deserve the trash bin immediately. I once received a very complementary email from someone with a very famous name. I was instantly flattered that this noted scholar and brilliant wordsmith should deem little me worthy of such a kind letter. So, I responded by email thanking the person, and I mentioned in my letter that I was a fan of his writings and opinions. I was chagrined to receive an email in response in which my correspondent indicated to me that he was not the person that I thought he was, even though he did have the same name as that more famous individual. I then realized that anonymity is another one of the attributes of email, and that because of that, many mistakes can easily be made that can have unwanted consequences.

Because of emails and texting, spelling has become a lost art in current society. The English language has always presented difficulties when it came to spelling words properly. Because English is so heavily influenced by German, French, Gaelic and Celtic derivatives, its spelling does not lend itself to phonetics, and it is difficult to arrive at clear-cut rules. The English language clearly harbors within it so many exceptions to any of the spelling rules that have been established.

Well, emails have no spelling rules of their own, and even though spell check and other such computer programs are readily available, most of us receive emails with words that are misspelled, but that we can somehow figure out on our own what is being communicated to us, mistakes and all.

I am not a stickler for spelling, and this element of the email revolution really does not trouble me greatly. Every so often, I do receive an email that I am unable to decipher because the spelling is so different from usable English. I also notice that in the past when one person sent a written letter to another person, the sender usually receives some sort of acknowledgment of his letter. That certainly is not true regarding email, where the recipient in most cases does not feel any obligation to respond to the sender if there is no pressing need to do so. This, again, is an example of the coldness of email that I mentioned earlier. But my friends, these words are being sent to you via email as we must adjust to the times.
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