The Chai Times // Your Real Self

Aug 11, 2023 6:20 pm


Real Self - by Mordechai Lightstone

“Would you rather give up all access to the internet forever and live a much simpler life only in the real world, or leave your real life behind and exist only as your Internet self?”

That was the question viral content creator Hallie Tut asked her audience in a recent post on her Instagram.

The answer for many, Hallie among them, may be increasingly less obvious.

The question seems obvious. When our communities, our friendships, our very sense of self is so intrinsically tied to a different plane of existence, what gives one ‘self’ more validity than the other? After all, as Hallie illustrates in her color-saturated surrealist video, her online persona is one she can create, able to fly, to explore untold worlds, adored by hundreds of thousands.

We’ve always lived multi-layers of existence - our professional selves, ourselves as we are with friends, with family, alone at night. These different, sometimes conflicting, senses of self have always competed as to which self is the “true” one. How many people, dedicated body and soul to their professional lives, have retired, only to realize that they have somehow lost a sense of purpose and being?

As we move increasingly online —where a constant ‘other’ world with our friends, jobs, and above all expressions of self floats in the æther around us, beaconing us to enter its digital escape— the question of centering reality becomes even more profound.

Is cyberbullying any less concerning than school-yard taunts? Are relationships, sustained through a myriad of chats, zooms and other forms of communication, any less real?

Writing last summer, David Chalmers notes that “Human beings are conscious, and this gives us the capacity to invest meaning into the physical world. We can do the same with virtual reality. While an artificial city might not bear the same significance as one’s hometown, virtual worlds will build meaning of their own over time — meaning that comes from us.”

Which world then, is truly more real?

Among the chassidim of the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, was a businessman whose dealings took him to the business centers of the large cities of Russia, as well as to several foreign centers of trade. As time went by, he became increasingly uncomfortable in these environments with his long black coat and chassidic hat. Gradually, he adopted a more secular mode of dress on his business trips. Of course, he continued to travel to his Rebbe in traditional chassidic garb.

Then, one day he appeared in Lubavitch in his businessman’s attire. “Rebbe,” he announced, “I’ve decided to put an end to my hypocritical behavior. This is how I dress on all my travels—so why delude myself and others with my chassidic clothes?”

Chabad, as a philosophy, has always demanded a dedication to the truth, of sometimes even brutal honesty, to better refine oneself. What could be a greater expression of this honesty?

“Reb Yid,” said the Rebbe. “Do you think that I was not aware that you dress differently in Leipzig and Paris than you do in Lubavitch? But I thought that here you showed us your true self, and there you were the hypocrite . . .”

Wishing you an uplifting Shabbat,

Rabbi Mendy & Mussy

p.s. As always, we would love to chat with you over coffee or drinks, about Judaism, or just life - reply to this email.


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Of interest:


BookSmiles is now one of the largest book banks in the nation.


The Incredible Story of the Jewish Prisoners Who Revolted Againts the Nazis.


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