Stop me if you heard this question before:
“If you were on an island, and could bring only 3 things with you. What would you take?”
The beauty in this question is that it makes you think about what you value most. Assuming that the island has all you need for survival, limiting you to only 3 items is pushing you to ask yourself what you really care about.
I came up with a similar question that will help you evaluate relationships.
“Imagine you are on an island with no way to communicate with the outside world. After 22 years, you are given a phone but allowed to send one text message that contains only one sentence. What would you write?”
Just one line of text, that’s it.
That line is going to speak volume about your relationship with the person who will receive the text.
To your neighbor, you will likely write “keep on eye for my yard! And make sure my house stays in good shape!” Because much of your relationship with your neighbor is about your house, street and neighborhood.
To your boss, you might want to apologise for not showing to work for the past 22 years, because your relationship is all about work.
But what would you write to your sibling? Or your parents, or children? After the “I love you” and “I miss you”, what would you choose to tell them?
So here is a similar story that happened to Yosef, the famous biblical figure. Except he wasn’t stuck on an island, but in Egypt. Still, he was away from his father for over 22 years, and finally – upon meeting his brothers – was able to send his father a message.
Give a look in Rashi who tells us what type of message he chose to share:
“He gave them a sign, in other words, (he told them to tell their father) in which (Torah) topic they were engaged when he (Joseph) separated from him (Jacob).”
For 22 years they didn’t speak. For 22 years, Jacob thought that Joseph died. Yet when he finally has an opportunity to convey a message to his father, Joseph doesn’t share with him about his great new life in Egypt; Neither does he speak about his position of power.
Instead, he is reminding his father that he still remembers what they study together.
Because the father-son connection was a deep bond, based on the spiritual values they share. What Joseph was essentially telling his father was: for 22 years we didn’t see each other, but those moments we studied together, the times we spent basking in the holiness, kept me connected to you all these years.
This is a powerful tip to strengthen any relationship. Try bonding not only over earthly experiences such as vacations, eating out or shared hobbies. Connect over a spiritual pursuit. Learn Torah together. Do mitzvot together. By doing so, you introduce a new, deep dimension into the relationship that will bring you much closer.
May we all enjoy happy and fruitful relationships with all of our loved ones, for many years to come.