Wife (calling husband at work): Hi, Honey! I have a great idea. Let’s get a babysitter and go check out that new restaurant tonight. We haven’t been out together in a while.
Husband (barely hearing her): What did you say? Oh, go out together? Sounds like a good idea, but not tonight, working late.
Child: Look, Mommy, I made a project in school just for you!
Mother (barely looking up from her computer): What? A project? Oh, that’s nice. Put it down in the kitchen, and I’ll check it out later.
Do these interactions, or some variations thereof, sound familiar? Do they happen to you more than you care to admit?
Don’t worry; we always have time to bond with our family while on vacation.
Except that we walk around during our vacation glued to our smartphones.
We are oh-so-busy. And oh-so-important.
The phenomenon of being too busy to appreciate the good things in life is not a new one. In this week’s Torah portion, we learn that when Moshe gave the Jewish people the great news that G-d was about to free them, they didn’t even hear him. It wasn’t that they didn’t believe him; they were simply too busy and overworked even to listen to what he was saying. (See Shemot 6:9)
Moshe: Great news, G-d is gonna free you!
The Jewish people: What did you say, Moshe? Anyway, later, please. Gotta finish the brick quota now.
The Torah tells us that this was all part of Pharaoh’s plan: Keep ’em so busy they won’t have time to think. (See Shemot 5:9)
The Kabbalists teach that our evil inclination follows in Pharaoh’s footsteps, trying to keep us so busy that we won’t have time to focus on the essential things in life: Our marriage, our children, and our soul. (See Ramchal, Path of the Just, chapter 2). Like the Jews in Egypt, we will remain enslaved until we learn to focus on and prioritize the significant parts of our lives.
One way to start is to set aside intervals of “sacred time” when you are disconnected from your smartphone. The best opportunity for this is the holy day of Shabbos, a time set aside for G-d, family, and friends. But really every day, we should get into the habit of not needing to check our messages every few minutes. You may be surprised to learn that your work performance may actually improve, and you may discover that you are not as indispensable as you thought. In words attributed to Charles De Gaulle, “Graveyards are full of indispensable men.”
Paradoxically, you will discover that those whom we take most for granted are the ones to whom we are truly indispensable, and likewise, they are indispensable to us.
So take the time to smell the coffee. Literally. Take the time to tell your spouse how great they look, your kids how proud you are of them, and to get acquainted with your soul.
Rabbi Yitzchok Oratz is the Rabbi and Director of the Monmouth Torah Links community. Shortly after receiving his semicha (rabbinic ordination) from Bais Medrash Govoha, the famed Lakewood Yeshiva, Rabbi Oratz, along with his wife Toby and family, moved to Marlboro, NJ where they co-founded the MTL community in 2001. Aside for his “Devar on the Par” that he writes for MTL, his writings have also been published on Aish, Times of Israel, Seforim Blog, Hakira, and in various Rabbinic journals. Rabbi Oratz looks forward to continuing teaching Torah in a way that is timely and timeless, and sharing meaningful Jewish experiences with the amazing MTL community.