Day 10, April 25: The Tiferet in Gevurah

I enjoy having a smart phone, but sometimes I think it is incredibly enslaving! I'm talking about "the tyranny of over-connectedness" and the constant interruption and distraction that our availability to others – via text, email, Facebook and so forth – has created. And yet…blogEntryTopper
For the past couple of years, I’ve been trying to leverage my cell phone in the service of Hesed (presence, involvement and kindness). When somebody in my community is in crisis - especially a crisis that isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon, I will very deliberately give them my cell phone number. I will say something like, "I want you to have my personal cell phone number and I want you to feel free to use it whenever you need me. It's the easiest way to reach me directly."
I've been doing this because people seem to get the message and the intention: "I am here for you and I'm going to make it as easy as possible for you to reach me. I don't want to be invading your space and giving you attention when it's burdensome or not wanted. But just know that when you need me, I'll be there."
The fact is that I will check in on this person on my own from time to time, but giving them an easy way to reach me takes pressure off both of us. I know that they can find me if they need to do so and that I don't have to be a mind reader to respond to their needs. And they have the security of knowing that it's easy to get in touch.
I've also found that people really appreciate getting even something as simple as a text message that says, "Thinking of you. Here if you need me."
It's not that any of these things is a substitute for in person, face-to-face contact. But sometimes, when someone's crisis becomes public, they can be overwhelmed with so much attention that it becomes burdensome. Also, it's not always easy for well-intentioned people to discern the difference between responding to the needs of the person in crisis versus responding to their own needs to somehow do something constructive, or to be appreciated, or not to feel powerless.
If Tiferet as we have understood it is about balance, then perhaps the Tiferet in Gevurah is about the balance between Hesed (connection, intervention) and Gevurah (restraint, distance). Perhaps this is about knowing when to "interfere" and when to "withhold."
One of our commentators brings the example of having two children who are fighting with each other and knowing that if we allow them to fight it out on their own, they may get the message that no one cares about them. But if we immediately interfere, we may be giving in the message that someone else will always solve their problems for them. Parenting in so many ways is the ultimate test of striking a balance between involvement and distance.
The reason I began talking about leveraging my cell phone number in the service of Hesed is that it can be a way of saying to someone, "I don't want to be distant, and I don't want to be in your face. You can help me to strike that balance."
I'm very interested in your thoughts!
Rabbi Steve Folberg
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