Computer Shiva-Call On-Line Friendships, Found and Lost

We have entered an age not only of computerized Talmud study, but of electronic ‘”shiva calls” for study partners whose love we know only on-line.

When Reconstructionist Rabbi Daniel Kamesar, a regional director of Mazon [the Jewish anti-hunger organization], suffered a fatal heart attack in the North Philadelphia Amtrak station, the news went out in the Jewish section of the WELL, a computer bulletin board:

“He was 35 years old,” posted Rabbi Michael Plotnick (logon name: Zola) from Bordentown, New Jersey. “He is survived by Cynthia, his wife, and their three children, Nathan, Sophia and Henya.” Plotnick went on to eulogize Daniel, and to solicit tzedakah (charity) for the children.

Kamesar had started an on-line computer study-group of the Talmud (tractate Baha Metzia) in the WELL, and the study partners, who for the most part know each other only electronically, had developed close and supportive relationships on-screen.

The next day, an on-line. Shiva-call grapevine took root.
“I’m in a little shock right now. There’s a certain bond that happens when two people study hard together. They share a soul for a little while,” posted David Cooper (log-on name: Dayac), a para-rabbi from Berkeley, California. “Scrod [Kamesar’s log-on name] and I really entered each other’s study space and part of him became part of me. This is the first intimate on-line friend I ever had who died. I miss his presence in a way that I have never experienced before. I sensed such a wonderful goodness about him during the several thousand words we exchanged. That’s all I can say right now. Just that if someone on-line could feel such goodness, kal va-chomer [how much more so] for those who knew him in person. Their loss must be indescribable.”

Another electronic friend quickly added: “May the Source of Being bring comfort.”