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Commentary on Zoom

 I have been conducting classes and lectures on Zoom for about three months now. I admit that Zoom is a great creation and that it enabled many of us to remain connected one to another, and to be able to study together. However, as with all good things in life, like chocolate and ice cream, they have their limitations and perhaps should only be done in moderation. I find it quite difficult to speak on Zoom. It requires much more preparation and basically does not allow for any spontaneity as does delivering my lectures in classes. In fact, it has a certain degree of inhibitors to it, because even though you may see people whom you were talking to, you're not really talking to people, but you're talking to a machine that is quite impersonal and shows no reaction to whatever you are saying.

This is hard for me because, as someone who has been a public speaker for most of his life, I always depended on audience reaction to instruct me as how to proceed, when to pause and when to stop. All of this is lacking naturally when I am on Zoom and I am oftentimes at a loss for words. And I find it hard to express my emotions when I am only speaking to a machine
However, there are instructive things about speaking on Zoom as well. Firstly, one realizes the power of the spoken word. It becomes the means of connection to other people. When you cannot see the person in the flesh and you are not getting a response from your audience, then your only means of connection is the spoken word itself.
The rabbis assign great weight to speech; life and death are in the hands of the spoken word. When one is on Zoom, or at least when I am on Zoom, I measure my words perhaps more carefully than I do when speaking to a live audience, face to face. Also, if one makes a mistake speaking on Zoom, it's hard to rectify. In an ordinary conversation or even in public speaking, somehow it becomes easier to correct errors and to set matters straight.
Zoom has taught me that greater preparation is necessary before giving any sort of lecture. Now, as a rabbi, I have spoken many times about the same subject, albeit in different venues and to varied audiences.  Every rabbi has in his arsenal, so to speak, prepared speeches that can be repeated, but I find that with Zoom that becomes almost impossible. Without an emotional or psychological reaction, I am always creatively challenged whenever I deliver a Zoom speech or lecture.
Now that is good for me because somehow it refreshes my old brain, but it also takes a lot out of me, and I noticed that when I used to be able to give a one hour class, let us say, in person, I was not as tired as when I have to give a 40 minute class on Zoom. This is because creative thinking is always something that taxes us physically as well as emotionally and intellectually.
With the reopening of synagogues, there will be also a revival of speeches and lectures that will be delivered personally. I do not know exactly how this will work out and what form it will take, but I am certainly looking forward to it. The question has arisen whether our synagogue should continue Zoom programs even when all of this has passed. I imagine we will cross that bridge when we get to it, but I am much more in favor of speaking to an actual physical audience than I am of Zooming all the time.
However, whatever is necessary will be done. We have all been taught how adaptable we really are and how we can face unimagined situations and somehow deal with them. So, this situation will also be resolved, and we will be able to experience the restoration of personal communication face to face. Personally, I hope it will happen speedily and in good health.
 Shabbat Shalom
Berel Wein

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