Posted by: R Jonathan Gewirtz | December 12, 2014

The Importance of Being in Charge

iphonechargeOne part of the wondrous advances we’ve made in technology is the frustration of the constant need for electricity. As the phones get smarter, the battery life seems to get shorter. You need to always know where your charger is or else you risk missing an important call, e-mail, or Words With Friends notification.

The old phones used to hold a charge for days if you didn’t use them, but now I find myself keeping a charger in the car, in my wife’s car, at home, and in my various offices. It’s almost involuntary that I’m going to plug my phone in as soon as I sit down. Of course if I don’t, things stop working as they should and the specter of a totally dead phone looms large.

When my kids want to play on my phone, I have to consider whether I have enough battery life for them to do it before it dies completely. They already know that I won’t let them use it if I need to plug it in.

As I got in the car one day to go to shul, I began to plug my phone in. I thought about how silly it was. How much could it possibly charge in the three or four minutes it took for me to get there? Then, of course, I told myself it was better than nothing. If it wasn’t plugged in it would use using battery life just by being on, so I could at least combat that by plugging it in. It was then that I got the idea for this article.

I’m reminded of a famous comment of R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky z”l. Moshe told Pharaoh that the Jews wanted to go serve HaShem for three days in the desert. Instead, as we know, they left Egypt entirely, never to return. How could Moshe have misled Pharaoh this way?

R’ Yaakov suggests that in truth, the original plan was to go out for a three-day retreat, get the Torah, and come back to Egypt to finish out the four hundred years. It was only because Pharaoh refused and they tarried longer that they sank to the lowest level of impurity and had to be completely redeemed.

He explains that the original three-day trip would have given the Jews the chance to recharge their spiritual batteries, giving them the strength to withstand the remaining years of exile in Egypt. The study of Torah is unique in that it has special qualities that enable people to cope with difficulty. Having the Torah allows us to put challenges and hardships in perspective and survive what would otherwise be intolerable.

Do you see where I’m heading with this? Even if they couldn’t get completely recharged, the three days of Kabolas HaTorah and spiritual “charge” would have given our People the power they needed to make it through until they could be fully plugged in to HaShem in Eretz Yisrael.

We can and should apply this to everyday life as well. Any opportunity we have to do something spiritual should be taken. If we can plug in for three minutes in the car and listen to a Torah lecture, great. If we are waiting for someone and can say a chapter of Tehillim, fantastic. If we can think about the six constant mitzvos, that HaShem exists and is uniquely in charge of the world, to love Him, revere Him, and not seek out other gods or follow the desires of our eyes and heart – we’ve just connected to the Source and recharged ourselves a little bit.

When we find things that may pull us away from the Source, like when my kids (or I, myself) want to waste my phone’s battery playing games, we have to gauge the benefit or importance of them and how it will negatively impact our spiritual battery.

Remember, just existing uses up our battery. Walking down the street, controlling our thoughts and mouths, these things take energy! The best answer is to constantly plug in and keep charging whenever you can. Even those little moments of being “in charge” may be the ones that help you make it through the day.

Did you like this article? There’s plenty more where that came from! Pick up The Observant Jew, a compilation of some of the best articles from the first ten years of this column, at your local bookstore or order it online and bring the inspiration home.


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