Rabbi Simcha Bunam of Pzhysha once said to his students: “Everyone must have two pockets, so that he can reach into the one or the other, according to his needs. In his right pocket are to be the words: ‘For my sake was the world created,’ and in his left: ‘I am but dust and ashes.’
About a month ago, I started working periodically as a night time on-call hospice chaplain. As part of my work, the hospice agency has given me an Iphone in a black otterbox case. When I am on call, I carry the phone in my pocket and its with me. The phone only rings when someone has died and it is time for me to contact the family and arrange a visit to their home and the mortuary, even at 3am.
I also have a personal iphone, the same model, but in a faux wood case. One night I was at home and did not need my keys or wallet. As I was walking around the house, I put one phone in each pocket so the weight would hang evenly on my hips. Suddenly I though of Simcha Bunim’s teaching and exclaimed out loud “I have one phone in each pocket, one rings when friends call and keeps me in touch with all of the possibilities of life… the other one, the one in the black case, it reminds me I am but dust and ashes!”
I stood in the kitchen, having removed the phones from my pocket and feeling the weight of each in my hands. The one in heavy black plastic with a bulky form like a coffin, and the one in wood, decorated with the patterns of a living tree.