PARSHAT MISHPATIM: Do You Communicate?

For the eternal merit to the soul of my grandfather Yitzchak Aziz Ben Mashallah Hacohen A”H

The great revelation at Sinai was a most significant moment in the experience of communication. The event is described as an experience like “eating and drinking;” a real, live, enjoyable experience. Moshe, the leader of the people, achieved an even greater level of communication with G-d. “Mouth to mouth… as a person speaks with his friend.”

Rabbi Mordechai Rhine explains that in those formative years of our nation the communication from G-d had to be with utmost clarity. All future prophets would compare themselves with the known truths of Judaism as established during that first generation of our nationhood. It is because of the clarity of communication of Moshe and his generation that we know G-d as compassionate, wise beyond our understanding, almighty, and able to be communicated with. Since the times of Moshe and his generation effective communication has been greatly reduced. This is true not only in spiritual revelation but also in basic human interaction. The level of G-d’s communication with Moshe would be described as communicating “Face to face.” In our generation, we don’t do much of that.

There are some people who are perceptive communicators. For them, even the use of a telephone is considered imperfect. Take, for example, Reb Yaakov Kamenetsky z.l., a wise and perceptive person who passed away in the 1980s. About him, it was said, “Even if a charlatan could fool us all, no one can fool Reb Yaakov.”

A Rebbe of mine once tried to call Reb Yaakov to discuss an issue. While my Rebbe considered the phone a most convenient way to communicate, Reb Yaakov declined. “The correct use of a phone is to make an appointment,” Rabbi Kamenetsky insisted. He added, “If you can come over, it would be my pleasure to meet with you in person.” Although many of us do consider the phone a legitimate mode of communication, it is fascinating that a person like Reb Yaakov, who understood people well, felt cheated. The limitations of perception imposed by the lack of face to face contact were simply too great a loss for this great man to bear.

While Reb Yaakov considered phones to be off-limits for a real communication for his reasons, others today consider phones to be off-limits for other reasons. With e-mail, texting, and virtual realities, one’s face can appear in 3D even if it is in a “Book”. But the loss of face to face communication is taking its toll on true relationships. Not only are there many misunderstandings resulting from the brevity of virtual communication, but there is also a deep void in the relationship experience. Full relationships are built from a quantity of real live experiences taking place over a significant period of time. Virtual reality has its uses, but for people of perception it is clear that live interaction remains unmatched.

It has been said that no generation needs a Shabbat break as much as our generation needs it, simply to unplug. Shabbat is a time to escape to a different virtual reality, a spiritual reality that includes our loved ones in real-time. Our generation has become so busy with commodities that we have perhaps forgotten the greatest commodity of all: People. As for me, you can text me, you can e-mail me, you can call me, or you can meet with me in person. Personally, I’m okay with it. The choice is yours. But let us not forget that there is such a thing as real communication.

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