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Answering Machine

Each prayer has an effect

Written by the rabbi

Almost all of our telephones today, whether they are land lines or mobile phones, are equipped with a "leave a message" answering service. Like all of our modern technological wonders, this telephone answering service has a darker side to its apparent sunny convenience. When I arrive home late at night after attending an event or a celebration and I see that red light flashing on our answering machine, indicating that a caller or numerous callers have left a message, my mood darkens.

I must then and there listen to those messages for there may be an emergency situation that demands my attention and even a response late at night. But most of the time, these messages can certainly wait for my response until the next day. But, I must listen to them even though it will now take me more time to get into my "going to sleep" mode, simply because I know that these messages exist and the callers expect my response.

I was born at a time when and in a place where phone numbers were only four digits in length and one spoke to a real live person called an "operator" to connect a call. Our home phone was one of four homes connected on a party line, and no one thought of having an answering machine attached to ones phone. We have certainly progressed at least as far as phone technology is concerned.

But, the nostalgia that overtakes those of my age tells me that life was simply less stressful when there were no answering machines attached to our phones and that miraculous hand-held phones were not the center point of our daily existence.

Heaven must also have an answering machine service to receive all of our calls and requests. There is no doubt that the Lords omniscience and omnipotence allows for instant awareness of all requests and entreaties to Heaven. Yet we do not always receive instant responses to our calls to Heaven. Sometimes we are put on hold and at other times our messages are recorded on the Heavenly answering machine for further attention and processing.

Our calls are never ignored though, for the Heavenly answering machine is always turned on and working. According to Jewish tradition and belief our calls can be returned, so to speak, years and even generations later. But once our message is recorded on that Heavenly answering machine it remains there permanently and will be dealt with in Heavens good time and effective manner.

The Talmud teaches us that not only our words and spoken wishes are recorded but that even our tears, unspoken and private as they may be, are also counted and stored in the vaults of Heaven. And the gates of tears are never closed or locked. Tears do not bring forth or require a leave a message" response. They are immediately assessed, counted and considered. In a macho society, tears are sometimes considered to be a sign of personal weakness and soft character. In Jewish life they are viewed as the lubricant of our souls and one of the keys to emotional holiness and psychological stability.

The call that the Jewish people placed to Heaven millennia ago regarding our restoration to national sovereignty in our ancient homeland, the Land of Israel, was on the Heavenly answering machine for a long time. Heaven never erased that original call from its answering machine and the Jewish people never stopped making that call over and over again, certainly many millions of times over the centuries of exile and dispersion.

And unexpectedly, against all odds and rational predictions, that call has been returned by Heaven in our times. And all of the tears shed over our exile and persecution have been counted and remembered and have, in fact, become the fuel for the renewal of our national energy and nation-building drive.

Maybe when I overcome my frustrations at having to listen to and respond to my answering machine messages I do so with a feeling that I am attempting to imitate Heaven in so doing. The Heavenly answering machine records when our calls were received but it does not indicate exactly when that call will be returned. Yet, we are confident that the return call will eventually come and that our communications are never completely ignored or deemed to be irrelevant and unnecessary.

The mysteries of our private lives and of Jewish national life oftentimes overwhelm and even discourage us. But we should continually remember that we left a message on the Heavenly answering machine and that we are certainly not alone or forgotten in our struggles and hopes.

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