On my recent trip to America I encountered great difficulty with my mobile phone. It kept on telling me that it could not complete the calls I was attempting to make because there was “no service.” This happened at numerous locations throughout my American stay, frustrating me greatly. I was hooked up to a major American telecom provider and could not understand why I was encountering this difficulty.
Visiting the company’s retail outlet only frustrated me even more since it became obvious to me, quite early on, that they were mainly interested in selling me a new wonder phone that does everything necessary for an old rabbi, short of delivering sermons. After a while, seeing that I had no intention of abandoning my trusty nine- year-old phone, to which I had become emotionally attached, the clerk put me in touch with the experts in the tech department. They readily admitted to me that they were having a problem with their service providing abilities but I was not to worry since they were working on it.
By the time my visit to America was already in an advanced state, they apparently were still working on it. I could only make intermittent use of my phone, which in the broader perspective of life and its vagaries, was not such a great obstacle to my happiness. Nevertheless, I was able to draw a lesson for life from this prosaic technological frustration.
That lesson is that no matter how great the ability to dial up the intended number may be, if the there is no connecting service operational at the time, nothing will really happen. And that is true not only in terms of telecommunication but in other more important phases of life as well.
The basis for functional family life is strong and constant communication between the various members of the family group. This requires an efficient and constantly reliable communication service. No matter how great the desire may be of one individual to connect with someone else in the family group, the ability to do so is dependent upon the service – the connection – to be able to deliver the intended message.
This connecting service entails honesty, tolerance, forbearing and the intangible quality of love and affection. When the service is properly grounded, it is a life line. When it is not strongly present there will be, at best, an intermittent connection, wavering and impermanent.
One of the great challenges of life is the ability to build such a connection. It requires constant effort. The starting point is the realization that the effort and resulting connection are necessities. Many people make the erroneous assumption that such a connection is automatically operative.
Would that this assumption were true…but the clear lesson of life is that it is not and great energy and talent is required to build it and keep it in good operating condition. When there is “no service” present in a family, then dysfunction and frustration will always prevail.
This lesson is also true regarding our spiritual lives. Our inner souls should long for a connection to eternity and to the Infinite. But again our connection is oftentimes thwarted by the fact that there is “no service.” In times of crisis and trouble we all want that connection to somehow be operative. But if we never built up such a ‘server,’ the chances for a strong and deep connection in one’s time of need are at best sketchy.
Jews traditionally recited Psalms, prayed thrice daily, engaged regularly in Torah study and attempted to do good deeds on a regular basis, all in a constant effort to build a ‘server’ that would allow them to connect to the Creator. All of our efforts in Judaism are only to create such a ‘server.’ It is what the rabbis meant when they demanded of us “awe and fear of Heaven” and the idea of “love of Heaven.”
These are the tools and materials necessary to build and maintain that ‘server.’ This is the correct way to view the Torah way of life. Constancy, regularity, focus, attention to detail, and the joy of pursuing noble goals, are the raw materials of our spiritual ‘server.’ We should never allow ourselves to be found in that dreaded no-man’s land with ‘no service’ available. Meanwhile, I am going back to a land line.