May 28, 2024
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May 28, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Summer days are winding down. Leaves on the trees are laced with shades of burnt orange, yellow and red. There’s something so special about this season. There’s that carefree feeling of just walking out the door, coatless, bootless, with just the simple clothes on your back. Days of shoveling, sanding the sidewalks, and icy mountains at the end of the driveway wreaking havoc on car bumpers while driving in reverse from the garage are still months ahead.

I was taking an early morning walk and enjoying the soothing summer sounds of the early morning buzzing music of the cicadas, the cool calming breeze, and the smell of freshly cut grass. Being a people watcher, I was looking at the passing cars and the drivers who were out and about. That’s when I spotted a woman holding a cell phone, talking animatedly while driving. She had one hand on the wheel and the other holding her phone. Poof went the serene summer mood—that’s my pet peeve in a nutshell!

Can’t it wait?

With so many effective advertisements for distracted driving, even a potential fine, why on earth are there still people out there who continue to hold cell phones while driving? Listen, I love my new fancy shmancy iPhone 6 as much as the next guy. It performs so many adorable tricks: it texts faster, has more apps, and can even talk to me! It’s got an improved camera and international phone access which came in handy while away on vacation. My iPhone keeps me company on walks, at the pool, and on long shopping lines at the supermarket. When I’m bored and fidgety, it’s there to keep me interested. But, when I’m driving, my iPhone is tucked snugly in the pocket of my purse. Besides being unsafe to use while at the wheel, I’m afraid of a police car pulling me over and issuing a big, fat, expensive fine.

Admittedly, I’m attached to this piece of great technology. It’s the first thing I turn to when the stars come out and Shabbat concludes. Tap on messages, tap on email, and a quick look at the news. Voila! I’m back in the world and in the know.

All this tapping and clicking, however, can absolutely wait until after Shabbat. It is the one day when I’m free of any kind of technology that has invaded the week. On Shabbat, we are simply ourselves with no bells or whistles or apps. Without the temptation of technology, the day of rest means returning to ourselves without distraction. We can choose to lose ourselves in great literature and catch up on newspaper articles. There is nothing more delicious than snuggling on Shabbat with a book and a cup of coffee. It’s the perfect time to have real-time conversations with the people in our families and our friends.

Speaking of memorable conversations, you probably wouldn’t expect a periodontist to offer words of wisdom, but mine did just that a few years ago. At an appointment, while discussing the importance of proper and consistent flossing in order to sustain and protect the gums, he said the following: “There are some things you can’t control in life, but you can be in control of certain things.” I’m sure he was alluding to general gum health, but it’s an overall great message for life. Taking his message to heart, I embarked on an improved flossing routine and often think about his statement. Besides, it’s not easy to find an excellent periodontist who is also a wise philosopher.

And there are certainly aspects of life that we can control, besides gum health, like our interpersonal relationships. Even though texting is convenient and quick for short messages, we sometimes lose the personal connection that a conversation requires. Hearing someone’s voice and their intonation tells us so much more than words on an email or text. You can hear emotions that are lost on a screen. You can make a faux pas that’s forgettable and not imprinted in a hard drive somewhere forever. It’s healthy to put our devices aside and have that real-time conversation. Yes, we’re all busy nowadays, multitasking and juggling, but it just takes a few minutes to pick up the telephone and say—“Hi, just want you to know I’m thinking of you. How are you?” Or, unexpectedly knock on a friend’s door for a quick hello.

It’s so easy to let texts and emails take over our communication and do our talking. The other day, I was reminded of this by my daughter who has sharp people-instincts and a great eye for fashion, but that’s for another time! We were talking about someone whom we hadn’t seen for awhile, and I said—“Ok, I’m going to text her.” She replied (eye roll here), “Oh, Mom! That’s so impersonal, why don’t you just give her a call.” Like any reasonable mother, I listened to my daughter.

The old adage rings true—“there’s a time and a place for everything.” This is a great time of year to rekindle relationships and connect to old and new friends. Is there anything nicer than hearing from an old friend and wishing one another a Shana tova umetuka? Isn’t this is also the perfect time of year to pick up the phone and ask forgiveness for something we might have done over the year?

Some things just shouldn’t wait. Shana Tova!

Esther Kook is a Teaneck resident. She’s a reading teacher, tutor, and freelance writer.

By Esther Kook

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