"H ow he happened upon you on the way…” (Devarim 25:18)

The word karcha shares a root with the word kirur — to make cold.

After the miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim and Kri’as Yam Suf all the nations of the world were trembling in fear. Amalek saw and heard as well but they remained unmoved. They attacked Bnei Yisrael an act that Rashi describes as “cooling off a boiling bathtub” so that other nations wouldn’t be scared to come and fight.

Such blatant indifference is the source of bad within the world and therefore Amalek must be completely eradicated. (Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz Sichos Mussar)

“Thank you for calling the Peritzmans. Please do not leave a message as we will not respond. Goodbye.”

This wasn’t actually the message on my answering machine but I wished it were. I wasn’t trying to be rude; I just wanted to save people the hassle of leaving a message we wouldn’t receive.

For close to half a year we didn’t have a landline. Nor did we have access to our company-generated answering service to let people know that we couldn’t receive their messages.

It started with a temporary move into a rental while we were renovating. We generally use cell phones more than our landline so we assumed a short hiatus wouldn’t inconvenience anyone. But two months stretched into three and we had no way of notifying anyone who called our home number.

This is similar to what happened with the Mitzrim. The pasuk says (Shemos 9:21) that those who didn’t pay attention to Hashem’s warnings before the plague of hail left their cattle in the field. Since this was the seventh plague one wonders why the Egyptians didn’t take Moshe’s warnings to heart. They heard the warning but simply didn’t care. (ibid.)

Once home one of the first things we did was plug in the phone. But the line didn’t work. The phone company claimed it was our fault and the electrician remained firm that it was the phone company. They dueled it out at six paces with a cordless and finally both proclaimed the line was working. Terrific. I plugged in my long-unused phone which refused to cooperate after a four-month vacation. The batteries were dead.

Go to the store get new batteries. Wrong batteries purchased. Go back to the store. Get different batteries. Plug in phone. Phone works. Line doesn’t work. Whoops it was the jack this time. Buy new jack. Works. Great.

“Hello you have reached the Peritzmans. Can you believe it?” The first time the landline rang we all cheered. But we still had months of messages awaiting our attention.

This type of indifference is found within each person. Like Rashi tells us (Shevuos 5a): A person enters the mikveh holding an impure bug. He knows the bug is impure and is aware he’s holding it but he simply doesn’t internalize the message.

We all must pay attention to eradicate this indifference. We hear and see but don’t feel the message applies to us. It’s as if we don’t get the message because we don’t take it to heart. (ibid.)

By the time I sat down with the answering machine it was almost six months since I’d last checked my messages.

You have three hundred twenty-six messages.

I nearly gave up. I had no time to deal with this. But the first message caught my interest.

December 13 2016: Hi. Heard you’re moving temporarily to our building. Would love to make you supper.

I remembered that supper. And that neighbor’s constant favors throughout the time we lived near her. I’d thanked her but should I call now to thank her for her phone calls as well? That would be difficult to explain.

January 18 2017: Your dentist appointment has been delayed to 4:30. Thank you.

Doesn’t help me much in June.

February. A shadchan. Eek.

March. April. I jotted down names dates numbers and a note as I wondered whether to return a six-month-old message. The time flew by; I’d spent almost an hour listening to the messages of this past half a year. So many messages. All unheard. Not received. Many had been important.

As I cleared the messages I felt a sense of catharsis — of starting afresh — the past year behind me the new months ahead.

I reset the machine and listened.

No new messages.

For now.

But I knew throughout the year there would be messages sent.

To listen to life’s messages: press One. (Originally featured in Family First Issue 557)