You Tube Is Watching

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The story below is true and was reported by the Associated Press. However some slight embellishments were made for heightened enjoyment.

A new menace has been striking fear in the hearts of the kindly citizens of northern New Jersey but, due to YouTube, that menace may soon be brought to justice. (YouTube is the most popular video-sharing website on the net). The villain, known as the Dunkin Donuts Desperado a.k.a. the Blueberry Muffin Bandito, has terrorized numerous Dunkin Donuts location throughout the region. This cold-blooded, scheming scoundrel follows the same modus operandi each time with frightening chutzpah¸ thumbing his nose at the entire law enforcement community.

He strolls into a Dunkin Donuts establishment with no face covering, and asks to buy a blueberry muffin. When the barista (fancy word for the guy who works behind the counter) rings him up, he hands over payment. As soon as the cash register opens, he leaps on all fours onto the counter, and starts grabbing the big bills out of the drawer. At one location, two employees tried grabbing his wrists, but he laughingly shrugged them off, and ran out of the front door. The police force, noting his brazenly unconcealed face, were particularly concerned that the ne’er-do-well was high on drugs or other mind-altering substances, and was therefore particularly dangerous.

Understandably, the proprietors of Dunkin Donuts were quite concerned for the safety of their employees and their cash registers! (Besides for safety issues, many of them wrestled with the perplexing issue of theodicy; why do bad thing happen to good people or, put more simply, what did Dunkin Donuts ever do to anybody?) Some locations took the passive route and stopped making blueberry muffins, while others took the G.I. Joe stance and armed their baristas with AK-47’s and Soviet-era rocket launchers.

But all crime sprees must come to an end, and, sure enough, our insolent scalawag met his match – a java-junkie/YouTube-inspired employee. The incorrigible knave strolled into the Dunkin Donuts in Elmwood Park, NJ, and asked for his usual, a blueberry muffin. The barista, Dustin Hoffman (no relation to the actor, but related to parents who thought it would be cool if their child was asked that question thousands of times throughout his life!), calmly served him his order and rang him up. Sure as bars sell beer, as soon as the cash register opened our miscreant jumped onto the counter on all fours and started grabbing the big bills out of the cash register. But Dustin, who told the press “I drink coffee all day,” leapt into action. He grabbed the perp’s wrist with one hand. With the other, he seized the big mug on the counter normally used for tips, and smashed it onto the head of the thief. The thief, not desiring Round 2 of My Head vs. Big Mug, ran out of the store. He managed to make off with about $90 in cash, but he left his hat behind, containing that oh so precious DNA in hair strands. The local law enforcement, headed by Police Chief Donald Ingrasselino, is confident that they should be able to apprehend him soon.

What I found fascinating about this story is that Dustin was galvanized into action not by a desire to do what’s right, but by YouTube. As he told the local paper, “The Record of Bergen County,” “What was going through my mind at that point was that the security tape is either going to show me run away and hide in the office, or whack this guy in the head, so I just grabbed the cup and clocked the guy pretty hard!” Evidently he feels it paid off. “There are only a few videos like that on YouTube now, so mine’s going to be the best,” he said. “That’ll teach this guy!” I guess northern New Jersey should thank YouTube for the newfound safety of their Dunkin Donuts.

Interestingly, had YouTube been around 3,500 years ago, Jewish history may have been noticeably different. When Yosef’s brothers conspired to kill him, Reuvain came to his aid and persuaded the brothers to put him into a pit instead of murdering him. Reuvain’s intent was to return later and save him. The Midrash tells us that had Reuvain known that this story was going to be recorded for perpetuity, then instead of leaving him in a pit for future salvation, he would have carried Yosef back to his father on his shoulders. When we know that our actions are being recorded to be revealed to others they have a different weightiness to them.

It is for this reason that the Sages taught us in Ethics of Our Fathers, “Consider three things and you will not come into the grip of sin; Know what is above you- a watchful Eye, an attentive Ear, and all your deeds are recorded in a Book.” (Pirkei Avot 2:1). To translate that to modern terms, we should live our lives as if there are webcams with microphones everywhere, and all the files are being displayed on YouTube.

Rav Ovadia Mibartenura (Born in mid-15th century in Italy, died in 1500 in Jerusalem after founding the first yeshiva in Israel in over 1,000 years) offers a very interesting idea as to why this thought is so effective. He explains that most sins are not done out of directly evil intentions, but due to a faulty perspective. The Evil Inclination is so good at twisting our logic that he makes us see the incorrect action we are about to do as not so bad or even good. When we focus our minds on the idea that someone else is involved in the picture, we suddenly have an objective observer, and nothing gets by Him. We can fool ourselves, but we know we can’t fool anyone else. We can tell ourselves that we should just let the guy have the money and forget about it, but we know that millions are going to see that on YouTube, and look at it as cowardice. Knowing that others are watching lets us see everything through their objective eyes. Once we see things in a clear perspective we are unlikely to sin as we are inherently good people.

So even when there are no webcams or microphones, let’s remember to always play our A-game, as everything is being recorded on our JewTube!

Leiby Burnham, LMSW, is a rabbi, psychotherapist, and writer. He lives in Detroit with his wife, an ICU nurse, who is on strict orders to “leave her patients at work” and their two daughters, Orah and Shifra. Rabbi Burnham works for the Jean and Theodore Weiss Partners in Torah program of Yeshiva Beth Yehudah, where he does community outreach, and runs a Jewish educational programs at University of Michigan, Wayne State, and Oakland University. He taught learning-disabled high school students for eight years in NYC, while receiving Rabbinical training at Shor Yoshuv Institute, and obtaining his Masters in Social Work from Yeshiva University.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.