What I Learned From Government Eavesdropping
So the government has been intruding into our private lives by listening in to our telephones and our emails. The howls of protest are inevitable, but we need to remember that this transcends the legal issue of constitutional rights of privacy. We are at war — and with an enemy that will destroy us if we do not defend ourselves by every possible means. I, for one, am willing to give up some of my liberties temporarily so that all of my liberties in this blessed land are not destroyed permanently.
The current flap about eavesdropping bears in it a lesson for me. As believing Jews, we know that nothing is private or hidden from the One Above. Everything we do is seen, heard, and recorded. Kol ma-‘asecha basefer nichtavim, say the Sages in Avot II:1. “All of your deeds are recorded in a Book.” And not only deeds: words as well. There are no conversations and no communications that are hidden from the One Above. ‘Ayin ro-ah, ozen shoma-‘at, says that same Mishnah. “An Eye sees, and an Ear hears….”
How different our lives would be if we took that seriously. An Ear hears: if we really believed that, the heretofore impregnable fortresses of gossip, slander, and character-assassination would soon crumble. It would exponentially increase the incidence of honest speech and radically reduce truth-stretching and outright lying. And an Eye sees: the conviction that Someone is looking at our public and private behavior could make righteous tzadikkim of us all . The very concept of being listened to and observed via a transcendental sound camera surely concentrates the mind.
That we continue to talk and behave as if no one is listening or observing us is a commentary on the true state of our belief in a personal Gd.
A personal Gd is not merely One Who listens to our prayers individually; He also listens to everything else we say. He is not merely One Who watches over us individually; He is also One who watches us individually.
So I thank Pres. Bush for bringing the matter of eavesdropping to the front of our consciousness. Let the political debate continue in the public square. As for us in our private squares, there can be no question that an awareness of Divine eavesdropping can be quite salutary.