6 Reasons to Write Torah Commentary on Twitter
I've recently started writing short (133 character) Torah commentaries using the Twitter platform. It's been fun. Yesterday I blogged about it at the JPS Interactive (aka Yavnet) site:#Torah: Using Twitter to Comment on Torah.
In trying to convince my Reconstructionist colleagues to jump on board and write their own Torah Tweets, one asked why on earth one would want to limit oneself to 140 words when writing about Torah. She had actually misread my explanation that one is limited to 140 characters. She asks a great question,
Aren't there more meaningful ways of using email/computers, etc. to engage in divrei Torah with people who have intelligent things to say on a topic we all care about?
My first response is that the idea of writing microblog posts using the Twitter platform and then categorizing them with #Torah is in no way meant to discredit any other form of writing about Torah.
Here are six answers I came up with. If you have more answers, do comment, or also any reasons why you think it is a bad idea.
- Twitter is growing by leaps and bounds. People are flocking to it. Don't we want to go where people are?
- It is a form, nothing more or less. Haiku is a form. A sonnet is a form. The fact that the form is being imposed externally by forces that have nothing to do with the content itself, in this case Torah study, is irrelevant in my opinion. Forms always come by way of external factors.
- Even though it is actually quite hard to compose in 140 characters, I find it less overwhelming to start. And starting is my main stumbling block in writing.
- Yes, we live in a distracted culture of multitasking, we can rail against it... blah blah... but we deny these facts at our peril. People are more likely to read 140 characters than 1400 words. Let's meet people where they are.
- In my experience, writing about seven of these Torah tweets so far, the form causes the writing to become more opaque than it might otherwise be. That opacity might make the writing less clear, but it seems to me it also invites more questions, more thought. So in reading a Torah "tweet," one may not learn anything, but maybe it will lead the person to think about something, form their own question or thought. it reminds me of how the Torah itself is opaque and invites questions [L'havdil -> I don't mean to compare my words to words of Torah]
- There is a good opportunity for clal yisrael (creating opportunities for a Jews of different stripes to feel connected in positive ways). I say "opportunity" -- no guarantee. I think the form itself might limit vitriol. Another aspect: The aggregating power of this material (via http://search.twitter.com and then typing in #Torah) is not owned by anyone. It is indeed an experiment in anarchy. We'll see what this leads to. One thing it cannot lead to is ownership and authority. Unlike a web domain name that you purchase, no one can own #torah. The advantage to this re: clal yisrael, is that it can give people cover to participate. People hate to participate (and are sometimes forced NOT to participate) when some other group owns something. So they might feel tainted by others ideas simply by participating. This form might be a way around that.