Reducing distance

Comedian Crystal Lowery recently tweeted, “My 2nd grader has 5 video meetings a day. Five. At one point he goes, “I think this one could have been an email.”

We spend a lot of time these days deciding how to communicate. Which mode is most suitable? This or that app? This online method or some other form of technology?

Yet genuine substance can be conveyed in just about any way, from telephone to text, from hand-written letter to FaceTime. My dear father, Bert Hamilton z”l, taught me this over the years through our content-rich notes and calls. Sharing words about the things that matter can be done as freely as sharing nonsense. The how matters less than the what.

One of this week’s portions of Torah addresses the subject of distance. “The mandate I am prescribing to you today is not too mysterious or remote from you” (Deut. 30:11). You need no intermediaries to bring it to you from heaven nor from across the seas to access and activate its lessons. Moses’ message is clear: you will come to discover that Torah lessons have been right here all along.

God’s Torah longs for a closeness that dismisses intermediaries and go-betweens altogether. How can its lessons feel so close? Because they provide cupfuls of wise counsel, heaping helpings that nourish our lives.

Although required distance limits today’s modes, it need not dilute their content. Until the day comes when conditions make hugs and close contact safe again, our daily diet can still be fortified with substantive nutriments, featuring interactions that are unhurried, that feel responsive, and that find us coming away feeling heard.

If that which was carved into Tablets and quilled onto parchment can feel intimate, then it’s up to each of us to make sure that voices, texts, and videos can too.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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