Every day – or rather, on the days when I let my kids have some time to play computer games or watch videos online (not quite every day) – they start their computer time by checking what “Day” it is.
I’m not sure how it happened that so many days are Days – National Day of X, World Day of Y – but the growing trend can be fun, interesting, and informative, depending on the Day.
As I’m writing this, for instance, America is celebrating National Ice Cream Day. I made sure to share that one with my family, as no one would want to miss such an auspicious event. (Well, except perhaps my one child who doesn’t like ice cream – but we pasken that sorbet, which he eats, counts.)
It is also, apparently, World Snake Day. I owe my discovery of that one to Sefaria’s Facebook post for the occasion; hat tip to them for the excellent Torah connection!
And tomorrow, or today, by the time this post goes up, is World Emoji Day.
I discovered World Emoji Day last year and thought it would be fun to put together a graphic showing how various emojis relate to TorahTutors.org. As Ben Bag Bag teaches us (Pirkei Avot 5:22), if you delve into Torah, you can find a connection to everything. I wouldn’t say quite the same for TorahTutors, but we can definitely relate to a lot of different emotions in our learning journeys!
Even better than a fun emoji graphic, though, is what Google taught me today about the background of World Emoji Day. First, we have the interesting bits of trivia, like the fact that the date was chosen because it’s the one on the calendar emoji, or that the idea of marking World Emoji Day came from a man named Jeremy Burge, founder of Emojipedia, in 2014.
(Why was July 17th chosen for the calendar emoji? What’s Emojipedia? Look it up! We at TorahTutors.org believe in the value of real student engagement in learning, like googling these questions yourself.)
But beyond the basic facts, is the meaning. Again, I wouldn’t hold World Emoji Day to quite Ben Bag Bag’s standard, but certainly we can delve a little deeper. What is it about emojis that makes them worth celebrating? (Assuming, for the moment, that they are.) Here’s one article I came across that notes the psychological importance of emojis in modern communication. For instance:
1. Similar to punctuation, they express emotion through irony or humor and even suggest tone of voice or body language in text-based communication. They trigger emotional responses in people, which can cause us to be more empathetic. Basically, as we become better in identifying our emotions, we also become better at sensing others’ emotions.
2. Emojis help us better understand something visually when things can get lost in translation through words. … They improve our capacity to communicate effectively with others and make our intended meaning be known.
There’s also the way they can serve as an almost universal language – though of course, there’s still room for different interpretations, like that one some people use as a high-five and others use to represent prayer.
Of course, at TorahTutors.org, we love all of that: the idea of connecting people across the world; the idea of conveying deeper meaning through layers of text; the potential for multiple interpretations even in the layers of text that are meant to be explanatory, which forces us to dig ever deeper to get at the truth(s).
Yup, we see connections to Torah everywhere.
To highlight some of these ideas with a Torah connection, I’ll share a few excerpts from something I wrote about Gidon (Shoftim 6:13) several years ago, that still resonates with me and I hope with you (even out of context):
We all know the potential, in our age of email and texting, for the written word to be misunderstood in tone. I still remember the first email argument I got into as a teenager, before there were emojis to help smooth things out, because of one such misunderstanding. …
If we go back to history even more ancient than my high school years 😉 (See how useful they are?), we find that not much has changed under the sun: Even in Tanach, written words are often subject to different readings depending on what tone one ascribes to the speaker… which might lead a reader to wonder: Why would a prophetic text preserve such a lack of clarity? Why not use, if not emojis or creative punctuation, a few more words that would clarify Gidon’s tone so we could appreciate the account more accurately?… Often, the notion of “70 faces of the Torah” can feel overwhelming; many students of Tanach would rather identify one “right” explanation, and wonder why things couldn’t have been stated more clearly. …
The textual ambiguity in Gidon’s dialogue with the angel gives us, as readers, room to determine how we think Gidon meant it, and what we might learn about and from him based on that meaning. The same choices exist in our everyday communications as well. …
We might enjoy emojis because they can be cute and fun, because they’re elucidating and create connection – and we might also appreciate what we can learn from the ambiguity that remains, and the exciting challenge of delving into it to discover everything.