New technology puts a telephone in your hand no matter where you are. We developed a culture where many of us are willing to let an intrusive phone ring summon us out of our present context in order to talk with whoever is calling. And with uneven cell-coverage, we’re willing to put up with terrible connections, drop-out and interrupted conversations. Add the technology of a built-in speaker phone and the sound quality deteriorates even further. But we’re all, most often, more than eager to try to communicate.
It’s Friday afternoon here in Seattle, about four hours (it’s summer) from Shabbat. An hour ago I was walking my dog in an off-leash dog park, speaking on the phone with a friend on the east coast, three hours closer to candle-lighting, bustling about the kitchen with the phone on speaker. The wind is blowing, water is lapping at the rocks and dogs are barking. I’m confident of hearing less than 80% of the conversation and am constantly asking, “What did you just say? Can you hear me?”
And I’m happy to do it!
Humans seem to be hard-wired to constantly seek connection.
Which brings me to Tefila, prayer. I know what a struggle it can be, even for someone as motivated as I am, to take advantage of the built-in structure embedded in the halachot of davening and to even make a cursory prayer three times every day. Davening with full kavana, concentration and intention, is an almost unreachable dream.
Jewish tradition teaches us of the holy energy embedded not only in every word of Torah and Tefila, but in every letter, even in every vowel. R. Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, the Me’or Eynayim, among others, encourages us to take advantage of these opportunities and to bind ourselves, as much as we are able, to the very letters of Torah and Tefila as one of the most direct modes we have to communicate with God, the be connected with The Creator.
A phrase that appears frequently in the Oral Torah is עד כמה וכמה, ad kama v’kama. It’s best translated as “how much more so!” My thinking after my less than optimal phone experience was that if I’m willing to put up with such ridiculously bad call quality just in order to feel connected with another person, ad kama v’kama should I feel motivated to connect with The Creator.
I have the power, as we all do, to determine the depth and quality of those communications. The door is always open. Therefore I should feel an overwhelming motivation to do so with all my heart. May I, and all of us together, soon reach that level of direct connection, free from interference and distraction, with as direct a connection we’re able to handle.