Imagine standing on the bottom of Mount Sinai, about 3,300 years ago. Moses had just come from a brainstorm session with God, a hackathon for humanity, and was finally ready to present his power points in front of a select group of chosen people. An ecstatic energy must have danced through the air. Only seven weeks prior, these people had been slaves in Egypt, run for their lives from an evil Pharaoh, and were now eager to turn the page to a new tablet. They were ready to accept the Ten Commandments, and live by a freshly decreed moral code.
This story marks the holiday of Shavuot, a Jewish harvest holiday celebrated as the jump off of Jewish heritage. Translated into the language of today, God was the CEO, Moses was the Chief Marketing Officer, and the Jews were the community, the early adopters of the Torah, gathered as a collective to approve their new guidelines. Every community begins with a shared set of values, and the Jews celebrated their new structure to living the good life, in relation to God and each other.
As a Jewess of today, and a Community Manager, I wonder: if an iPhone needs an update every two months, how has humanity been expected to survive, evolve and thrive based on rules set in stone some 3,000 years ago? The moral code might be deeply embedded in our fundamental human foundation, but could it be time to reevaluate our history, recalibrate our present, in order to realign and refine our future?
Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels
Back in the day, simpler times called for simpler measures. Modern society adds exponential layers of social, economic, environmental, and technological complexities. Amidst a globalized world, human relationships are being challenged more than ever. The growing imbalance is caused by extreme lack and abundance of resources, including everything from water, shelter, education and safety to screens, pills, money, and power. Technology creates worldwide connection yet also builds intangible walls, and the realm of digital morality seems largely unexamined. Humans grow simultaneously more connected and disconnected, from themselves and each other.
This dissonance weighs heavily on both the individual and collective. Humans once needed tribes to survive. We still do. However, with societal advancements creating more disconnection, it shines a spotlight on a most basic human need – belonging. Whether thousands of years ago or today, a sense of belonging is key to healthy human relationships, and so a flourishing humanity. The Ten Commandments touch on how humans should relate to God; and specify what not to do to other humans. Do not kill, do not steal, do not lie, do not cheat, do not envy. But they carry no positive prescriptions on how to support human connection.
What if our latest update used a more unifying language, and specified how to treat one another, instead of how not to? The Commandments 2.0 might add guidelines such as: Respect yourself. Respect each other. Respect the environment. Accept each other. Agree to disagree. Celebrate thy differences. Challenge authority. Act with unconditional compassion. Always be learning. Explore the world outside your doorstep.
No matter where your faith lies, humanity begins with each human. The Ten Commandments might be written in stone but a universal truth is that change is constant. Perhaps it’s time to reexamine and update our individual moral codes, so that as a collective community, we can foster our human relationships and continue to flourish in our home planet. No matter what has been written in the past, actions speaks louder than words in the present.
May we use the annual reminder of Shavuot to consciously choose to honor our moral codes, every day. May we practice with our neighbors, within our Facebook groups, and amidst our collective human tribe. May these words reach as many tablets as possible, no matter where you exist in the cloud.