Pop Parsha: Mishpatim and Facebook Look-Alikes


Separated at birth?

This week is one of my favorite weeks of the year, and even though I’m a huge sports fan, it has nothing to do with the Super Bowl. For the last few years, this week has been Doppelganger Week on Facebook. Millions of Facebook users change their profile pictures for the week to a picture of a celebrity (or other person they know) that supposedly looks just like them. My News Feed gets cluttered with (often hysterical choices of) pictures of which celebrities my friends think they look like. This year I changed my profile picture to one of Jared Dudley, a basketball player on the Phoenix Suns.
This year, Doppelganger Week seems right on time as Purim is rapidly approaching. While they don’t seem to have any connection, certainly the light-heartedness and fun of Doppelganger Week can seep its way into our Purim festivities. And the switching of an identity, even for a moment, allows us to take a step back and be somebody or somewhere else.
Much has been made recently about misrepresenting ourselves on the internet (see ESPN, CNN, or any other news outlet for the Manti Te’o story). But on Purim we are essentially encouraged to act as someone else, to literally impair our judgement of who is really who (with masks or drinking); as we learn from the Talmud in tractate Megillah 7b, “Rava said: A person is obligated to drink on Purim until he does not know the difference between ‘cursed be Haman’ and ‘blessed be Mordecai.’”
In this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, Moses does a bit of his own disappearing act himself. As Exodus 24:15-16 reads; “When Moses had ascended the mountain the cloud covered the mountain. The Presence of the Lord abode on Mount Sinai, and the cloud hid it for six days.” Moses was hidden from the people for six days, and what happened there is a mystery. We he finally appears again, he descendes down Mount Sinai to encounter the Golden Calf, the biggest blunder to date of the Israelites.
The disguises of Purim and the Internet have potential troubles as well. Too much blurring of Haman and Mordecai, or too much pretend life on the internet can result in permanent problems. And unlike the two tablets Moses receives, we might not get to press restart.
Purim is an amazing time of year and probably my favorite holiday (I can actually celebrate AND drive to synagogue). It’s important we not only get caught up in the blurring of Mordecai/Haman, but also the story and mitzvot that surround the holiday. As for the Internet we need to be careful of who we communicate with and how we represent ourselves. Like Aaron and the Israelites, if we only party and lose sight of who we are, we too can fall victim to unfortunate circumstances — short and long term.
As for Doppelganger Week on Facebook, that’s just fun. Go crazy, but just make sure to switch your profile back next week…otherwise its just weird.
(Jared Dudley photo: Wikimedia commons)