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Phone Sense

By Rabbi Raymond Beyda

The new edition of Webster's dictionary has added many new terms, words and phrases that have come into common usage since the last edition of the dictionary was published last year. One that stands out is "9/11". Never before has a date taken on so much meaning and been referred to so frequently by people so that the editors of the world's foremost dictionary felt compelled to add it to the catalogue of words currently in use by the English speaking peoples of the world. Most feel that it is justifiable because since that fateful day so many things about our lives and how we view events have changed that we look at things as “pre-9/11” and “post-9/11” many times each day.

It really doesn't take a catastrophe of great magnitude to change one's life from pole to pole. A phone call can do it. A friend might call and say, "There is someone very interesting I would like you to meet" and one's 1st meeting with one's lifetime mate will change one's life forever. "I just came from a meeting where plans for a new school were put forth and I would like to discuss it with you", could lead to a change in your life and that of your children and grandchildren for many years to come. "I hate to be the one to break this news to you but..." could also alter one's life forever.

When the phone rings brace yourself for the next piece of news you are going to absorb. It may not make the nightly news or the newspapers but "things may never be the same". It only takes a minute to change a life for better or for worse. Preparedness is a good buffer to soften the shock of change that can come with any ring of the phone.


If one does not have access to clean water for ritual washing of the hands before eating bread --netillat yadayim -- within the time it took a person to walk 4 mil [not a mile --it is set at 18 minutes per mil making 4 mil 72 minutes] -- in the direction in which one is traveling or 1 mil [18 minutes] back to where one came from --the person may wrap one's hands in a napkin (or wear gloves) and eat the bread. Therefore, one who is traveling in a car or bus and wants to eat bread must estimate the travel time between where one is located and where one may find clean water for washing and apply these guidelines to determine whether a napkin is permissible or whether one must wait until he or she has access to water. [Source Yalkut Yosef, volume 3, Siman 163:1]


"Rebbi Elazar Hakapar said: "Envy, desire, and pursuit of honor remove a person from the world." [Abot 4:21]

Envy is a trait that focuses a person on the traits and the possessions of others. When one is constantly looking outward at what others possess, one always finds someone who has more than he or she has and the result is a sense of dissatisfaction with one's lot in life. Desire works in a similar fashion to push one to chase after whatever is new in the physical realm or even merely to work hard to accumulate wealth in spite of the fact that one has enough to live comfortably. When desire takes over one will sacrifice valuable time that could be used for Torah study or for one's family in the pursuit of illusory happiness. The Ramhal said honor is pure vanity. One who seeks honor is chasing something that one will never have enough of to satisfy. Pursuit of these traits is like drinking salt water. It does not quench a thirst rather the more you drink the thirstier you become. Since there is nothing that can quiet these false needs the one who chases these unachievable goals not only sins and loses his or her share in the World to Come --one also cannot find satisfaction in this world. These three take one out of both worlds -- this world and the World to Come.

Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Raymond Beyda and

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