Minute #661: Cellmates

“We want to thank you all for your prayers and good wishes,” Sergeant Cohen said, surveying the crowd of civilians who turned out to welcome them home. “Private Brander and I also want to thank all those who worked on negotiating our release. And of course we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge our gratitude to Hashem.”

Brander then stepped up to the microphone and said, “I don’t have much to add. You all should know that we as a people are fortunate to have men like Sgt. Cohen on our side. I thank Hashem for my cellmate.”

Because cellmates are deprived of freedom of movement, they form bonds unlike those between free men. At least, that’s how it used to be. Today, a “cellmate” may be an electronically connected friend whose cell phone is licensed to interrupt at any time in any place. Voice, text and images travel through the airwaves and locate others — even groups of people — anywhere on our planet. The invisible “cellmate” is forever present. Some look at it as a major societal advance. Others, not so much.

One should realize that even in this digital age, relationships with others depend a great deal on how they feel you feel about them. People respond in kind to your respect or care. By answering a text or call while in someone else’s company, you convey that the individual before you is in second place to whomever else tries to contact you.

Don’t bring a cell phone into a synagogue or bet midrash. When in your children’s domain — helping with homework or tucking them into bed — don’t carry it. Don’t bring it to the dinner table. Use modern conveniences, but don’t abuse the people you care about. Ensure that those you love know that THEY are important to you.

One More Second: Another Thought for the Day

How then do we learn to love our neighbors? By giving… One of the easiest ways to give, especially to total strangers, is by smiling when you greet them. The Talmud says that showing a person the whites of your teeth when you smile is better than giving them food. It provides a mutual lift to both the giver and the receiver. (Max Anteby, Spiritual Lite, p. 101)