Did you get my message?

We are so busy, just so very busy.

Psychologists now even have a term for it. They say we suffer from “time poverty.” In English, that means that we don’t believe we have enough time to accommodate all the things that we want to do.

Ironic, isn’t it? In the 30s they predicted that by now we’d only work about three hours a day, because technology would take care of the rest. As right as they were, they were wrong. Technology swallows up the spare time that technology was meant to provide.

So, we’re all really hectic. That hectic that we may miss breakfast. So insane that we can’t even reply to each other’s messages.

At least, I assume that’s the reason so few people respond to each other. It surely can’t be because people are outright rude, so it must be because we’re all so busy.

The thing is, it feels disrespectful to the person on the other side of the Whatsapp. If they can tell that you’re online or have read their message, and they get no response, they will be obviously feel offended. Someone captured it perfectly online: “It is easy to say ‘busy’ when someone needs you, but it is painful to hear ‘busy’ when you need someone.”

Hillel used to say, “What is hateful to you, do not do to others. The rest is commentary.”

The great irony is that it’s really easy to get back to people nowadays. We no longer have to compose a handwritten letter and mail it. We don’t even need to allocate time for a full phone conversation to communicate. Shooting off a text response takes just seconds. Yet, in the days of snail mail and rotary phones, people managed to stay in touch better than we techno-whizzes do today.

Twenty seconds of text-response can go a long way to building relationships.

I’m not suggesting that we should drop everything to hit reply as each new message arrives. That is simply impractical. Anybody who expects us to be thumbs-at-the-ready to respond on the spot is out of touch.

But, no response? No excuse.

I am reminded of the Mishna in Pirkei Avot that says that you only enjoy honour when you afford honour to others. Profound idea.

Ah, but maybe not every message needs a response. What if the person already knows what I think or that I have confirmed our meeting? Do I need to respond then too?

Here, we can take a page from Moshe’s book.

In this week’s Parsha, Moshe is charged with coordinating the three days of preparation before receiving the Torah. In that time, Moshe had to shuttle back and forth from the Jews at the foot of the mountain to G-d at the top. He had to guide the Jews on the steps they needed to make before G-d would reveal Himself. He had to cordon off the entire mountain. He had to shimmy up the mountain for updated details from Hashem on the nuances of the preparation. And he had to gear himself spiritually to handle the biggest Divine event since Creation.

Now Moshe could well have had an excuse not to respond to messages until after all the chaos. He certainly didn’t have to report to G-d, because G-d knows everything.

Nonetheless, the Torah reports that Moshe made the trip up the mountain (pity he didn’t have Whatsapp) to let G-d know that the Jews were preparing as instructed and that everything was on course for the Great Reveal.

Rashi, the Ramban and other commentators ask why Moshe stressed so much to personally communicate this information to G-d. After all, he would only be telling G-d things He already knew.

They conclude that Moshe wanted to model the importance of communication. He wanted us to appreciate that it’s only right to get back to someone who has communicated with you, even if they already know your answer.

If Moshe felt he should return G-d’s messages, we should do the same for each other.

Hope you got my message 😉

About the Author
Rabbi Shishler together with his wife, Naomi and their eight children, runs Chabad of Strathavon in Sandton, South Africa. Rabbi Shishler is a popular teacher who regularly lectures around the globe. he hosts a weekly radio show in South Africa and is the rabbi of Facebook's largest Ask the Rabbi group.
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