Ethics

For the week ending 14 May 2011 / 9 Iyyar 5771

Cellphone Manners

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: My parents gave me a cellular phone for my birthday but my teacher tells me that I have to be careful where I use it. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: The lack of discretion that is sometimes connected to the use of the cellphone is illustrated by a true story with a heavy flavor of graveyard humor.

The funeral was over and the mourners who had participated in the burial ceremony were about to depart. Then, from the freshly covered grave, came the sound of a cellphone ringing. After a brief moment of shock at the thought that the Day of Resurrection had arrived, one of the mourners touched his empty breast pocket and realized that he had left his cellphone on and it had fallen into the grave.

But what would have happened if that same cellphone had started ringing in the middle of the rabbi’s eulogy or the mourner’s recital of Kaddish? Situations such as these have prompted synagogues, yeshivot and other public places to post prominent warnings to all who enter their premises to turn off their cellphones while inside.

Even in public places that do not restrict use of cellphones, such as buses, trains or anywhere where people are captive audiences to your conversations, the tone and nature of your talk can be disturbing to these unwilling listeners. It is almost impossible for them to avoid hearing your end of the conversation because of the proximity and some people have no idea how silly one end of a telephone talk sounds, especially since it deals with matters known only to the caller.

A final observation what happened to the sense of privacy we once all treasured? Does everyone have to know what’s doing in your life, or perhaps the cellphone is just a way of showing off?

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