Askmoses-A Jews Resource
What may I bring my host on Shabbat?
Browse our archives

The Scholar is ready to answer your question. Click the button below to chat now.

Scholar Online:

Type in your question here:

Click the button below to either CHAT LIVE with an AskMoses Scholar now - or - leave a message if no Scholar is currently online.


Busy Signal

by L'Chaim Weekly Publication


Library » Daily Life » Business Issues | Subscribe | What is RSS?


It used to be that the most annoying thing about a telephone was the busy signal. In the olden days, one moved on, tried someone else and tried again later. But now, in an era of more instantly instant gratification, a sound intensely and intentionally obnoxious has become a personal insult. Ha-ha! We're too busy talking to someone else. Someone really important.

Bad as the busy signal was - and is - now the automated operators probably take its place. Press 1 if you want to go to menu 2. Press 2 if you want to go to menu 3. Press 3 if you want to go to menu 4. Press 4 if you want to go to menu 1. You may not hang up until you've been through the menu five time. If you try to hang up, we will automatically call you back until you enter each menu item.

Then there's voice mail. Phone tag. You're it. Some of us try to camouflage voice mail with cute or half-witty messages. Like commercials. But the real message gets through. We're not available. Even if we're home, even if we're watching the caller ID - we know who you are - we're not available.

Some of us try to camouflage voice mail with cute or half-witty messages. Like commercials. But the real message gets through. We're not available
The busy signal, the automated operator, voice mail - they all delay communication. There's no one to talk to. No one who will pay attention.

Sometimes it doesn't matter. The question was trivial, the answer can wait. Sometimes, though, it matters a lot - important news, life-altering decisions - these have to get through.

But the line is busy.

Prayer has often and famously been compared to a phone line with G-d, the difference being that you never get a busy signal when you call G-d. He's always available and always answers the metaphoric phone.

But let's look at our phone analogy from a different angle. Let's keep it between people.

What would it take to guarantee no busy signal, that you'd get through every time? Some sort of mental telepathy, obviously. Or some indication, some way of alerting the other person we want to talk or arrangement by which we'd know when both of us are free.

No such indicator exists because, well, we can't see the other person. Nor does the other person see us. Unless we arrange the call beforehand (see videoconferencing), we're talking blindly.

Too often, though, we get a busy signal when we "phone" the person next to us, a co-worker, a member of the family - even a stranger in line. Too often the person is tuned out, oblivious to those around.

And too often, those calling us get a busy signal. We come home from work, sit down with the paper or a good book and the child who wants to prattle on about how high the swing went or the discussion she had over fractions - gets a busy signal. Or the spouse, or the friend, or the neighbor signals - by expression, gesture and muttered words - the need to be heard. But we're too busy.

And a fellow Jew signals, by virtue of meeting us. And he wants to share with us a Torah thought, or ask us where a Kosher restaurant is, or play Jewish geography. And we, well, of course we answer the "hotline," the "Mitzvah phone."

These small turnings, these trivial respondings, this conscious removal of our internal busy signal - these are the acts of goodness and kindness that transform the world.

Reprinted with permission from


Please email me when new comments are posted (you must be  logged in).


Life Cycle » Marriage » Family Life
Daily Life » Family Life

(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.