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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Searching For The Self in The Selfie

Updated: May 9

לֹֽא־תִקֹּ֤ם וְלֹֽא־תִטֹּר֙ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י עַמֶּ֔ךָ וְאָֽהַבְתָּ֥ לְרֵעֲךָ֖ כָּמ֑וֹךָ אֲנִ֖י יְ-הֹ-וָֽ-ה׃

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against members of your people. Love your fellow as yourself: I am י-ה-ו-ה. (Leviticus 19:18)


Parshat Kedoshim contains a series of mitzvot that emphasize fairness, empathy and awareness of "the other." It demands fair business dealings, specific ways to help the needy. Parshat Kedoshim restates the Ten Commandments and asks us to raise ourselves high to be a holy people.

Perhaps one of the most quoted phrases of Kedoshim is V'Ahavta L'reyacha Kamocha, or to love your fellow as your yourself. I was intrigued by the idea of loving our fellow people as much as we love ourselves, but also about that word SELF. The word SELF is used in many ways, including selflessness, selfish, self absorbed, myself, selfhood, thyself. Through the word self we we focus inward. It is only with effort that we make the jump outward to care about others, from selfishness to selflessness.

And then there is the relatively new phenomenon called "The Selfie," which has become common place on social media. Look on social media where selfies live. Scan social media and you'll find millions of amazingly happy faces staring back at us from people's posts. Here is where The Self of Parshat Kedoshim meets the 21st century. What do these selfies mean and what can we learn about ourselves from them?

James Franco writes in The Meaning of the Selfie from the New York Times.

"We all have different reasons for posting them, but, in the end, selfies are avatars: Mini-Me’s that we send out to give others a sense of who we are." and In Capturing the Meaning of Moments: The Science of Selfies and Why People Include Themselves in Photos by Ohio State University, the author writes, "Research suggests that the perspective of a photo—first-person or third-person—reflects an individual’s intent to capture either the physical experience or the deeper significance of an event. Contrary to popular belief, the study suggests that selfies on social media platforms are not merely for self-promotion, but often to encapsulate the meaningful aspect of moments."

So, maybe there is some value in the selfie, outside of a big toothy smile.

This post veers far from the the serious and important socially conscious mitzvot of Parshat Kedoshim*, but maybe this week we can be the tiniest bit silly and examine the self in this newish 21st century way.

In closing this post, I hope that pay close attention to Parshat Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1-20:27) as it contains rich content that forms the basis of caring for others as we care for ourselves.

Tonight marks that 15th evening of counting the Omer and the beginning of Rosh Chodesh Iyar. May this month bring better news on so many fronts.

Thanks for reading Words Have Wings.



Searching For The Self in The Selfie

There is a self behind the selfie

a self much loved,

if measured in the width of grins.

Full heart throbbing behind toothy smiles,

thoughts suspended behind sunglasses

eyes hidden from view-

What were you thinking?

Clocks keep ticking.

Phones swiftly click, click, click.

There we stand, bravely alone,

in a glorious pair,

or bond in tight packs,

We hoot and howl toward the lens


swiftly posturing,

shoulders back,

chins raised,

we stare at the glistening light

and are fossilized in the clear amber of time,

dazzling smiles frozen on a screen.

Once I was here.

Do I remember that moment?

Arms cannot stretch far enough to reveal who we are

as we are held hostage in micro-moments.


Who would we be without selfies? 

Image from Wix Stock Photos

Image Generated from AI

Image from Wix Stock Photos


More on Selfies and what research shows.


*More on Parshat Kedoshim:

Other Posts From Words Have Wings on Parshat Kedoshim

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