It seems like everyone on the Internet has either taken part in or seen the so-called “Ice bucket challenge.” Participants either donate $100 to the research of ALS, the debilitating illness also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, or dump a bucket of ice-water on their heads— and then challenge their friends to take part as well.

The challenge has seemingly spread across society, with a cavalcade of celebrities, business executives and politicians calling one another to take part. By way of example, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who in turn challenged Bill Gates, who went on to challenge other well known personalities.

The cause has quite literally gone viral

According to the New York Times, “more than 1.2 million videos on Facebook” have been shared between June 1 and Aug. 13, and “the phenomenon [has been] mentioned more than 2.2 million times on Twitter since July 29.”

The cause has quite literally gone viral.

But as the meme has gone from cute to ubiquitous, the inevitable cycle of Internet culture has progressed towards the absurd, with endless lists of “ice bucket challenge FAILS” drawing increasing attention over the cause itself.

One must wonder, what value is gained by dumping a bucket of ice water on one’s head for a cause? Wouldn’t it make more sense to simply write a check in the first place — especially when it comes to celebrities?

What is more, aren’t we celebrating people who are essentially getting out of a donation or at least giving only after getting a few more minutes in the spotlight? What about all the people who are eagerly tweeting about the challenge without doing anything? I’m sure everyone taking part honestly wants to do *something* to help ALS, but is this the best option?

Judaism seems to concur. After all, “action,” our sages tell us “is the main thing.”

What is more, when listing the eight levels of charity, Maimonides highlights the importance of anonymity and discretion when donating.

In truth, these issues aren’t new. So-called “slacktivism,” where participants may share a hashtag or wear a band in support of a cause, without actually donating their time or energy, has often been criticised.

And the criticisms aren’t entirely off the mark. Despite the hype, hashtags can be dangerous. They lull us into thinking we’re actually doing something when in reality, all we’ve done is share a series of characters online. We may feel empowered, but what have we we done to actually help others? When the conversation changes, the topic may be forgotten, but the human suffering that galvanized us only days before still remains.

Yet, while the question of hashtag activism as a whole may still be up for discussion, there is an important — and powerful — caveat to the ice bucket challenge and other, similar, causes:

To paraphrase the rabbinic statement about prayer, “the movement of the lips is also an action.”

According to the ALS Association, donations have spiked. As of August 21, the association said it had received $41.8 million in donations, compared to $2.1 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 21).

What about those who haven’t taken part in the challenge through some combination of ice and money? The greatest enemy to any cause is apathy. When no one knows what ALS is, the ability to rally people behind the cause - now or in the future - is exceedingly difficult. Since the challenge started, according to Google’s Trend search, queries about the destructive disease have skyrocketed. ALS disease is currently one of the top five most searched terms in the United States.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe once quipped on 11 Nissan, 5732 about the uniquely American custom of honoring a donor as the “man of the year.” If big titles, or in our case, silly videos, are what it takes to motivate someone to give towards a good cause, then its worth the fuss. After all, action is the main thing.

Action is the main thing

With the ice bucket challenge, it seems, people are learning and giving . . . and those are powerful actions. Giving charity is one of the three pillars our sages say the world stands on, and the goodness it brings to the world is something that no bucket of ice water can wash away.

In a summer that has seen war in Israel, threats of genocide in Iraq and riots in Missouri, there is something to be said about the fact that we are, quite literally, ‘chilling out’ by doing something good.