It happens all the time:

You pass by an acquaintance on your way to work. Without breaking his stride for a moment, the guy waves and cheerfully calls out, “Hi! What’s up?” Then, before you get a chance to even open your mouth in response, he’s already down the block.

If you do get a moment to answer, you’re likely to say, “I’m okay, thanks.” Satisfied that he has done his social duties, your acquaintance will smile and respond, “Great. Bye!” Come on, would you really consider telling the guy what’s really going on your life? Is he interested, anyway?

We have become accustomed to an indifferent, business-like society where the very question “How are you?” may be met by a skeptical “How can I help you?” After all, you can’t be coming just to chat!

The Talmud notes that of 1,000 greetings that a person receives, only one is truly sincere. To put it bluntly: 99.9 percent of individuals couldn’t care less about how you are really doing. We know that, anticipate that, and act accordingly.

However commonplace this sort of behavior has become, though, we must recognize it for what it is: a virulent virus poisoning the fabric of society. Indifference has no place in human interaction; we must care about each other. And if that is true for all people, how much more so when family is concerned.

In this week’s Torah portion, the Patriarch Jacob passes away. Surrounding his deathbed are 12 men –his sons. Earlier differences and conflicts aside, they stand united, determined to stick together in the challenging Egyptian environment. And they do. Although they are concerned that Joseph, the sold-as-a-slave-brother-turned-viceroy, would now distance himself from his brothers, Joseph has no such plans. Instead, he commits to protecting and providing for them for the duration of his life.

Indeed, as living in exile becomes increasingly more difficult, the 12 sons of Jacob stand erect and strong–by holding on strongly to each other. For though a solitary stick may break in fierce winds, a dozen sticks attached will not.

Reach out to your fellow Jews. We are one nation, one people. Let us stand as one bundle–and stick together.

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