I spent the past couple of days with N.'s family celebrating the simcha of his brother A. marrying a wonderful girl, Z. I'm not saying that just because I have to; I really do think that she's wonderful. Either way, at Shabbat dinner I found out that my sister-in-law's brother-in-law's parents are very close friends of my father's second cousins, who send me their regards. Are you lost yet? Good.
It's really not as complicated as it seems, but wouldn't it have been easier to just pick up the phone and call?
I love when things like this happen, because they're just ridiculous. For example, I recently received an email from my brother in the States telling me how he had eaten Shabbat lunch with the distant cousin of someone I went to elementary school with. This piece of information is crucial to me why, exactly?
People call it Jewish Geography, although I'm certain that other people do it, too. We as humans (and perhaps specifically as Jews, with our unique history) have this need to reach out and find something familiar, find some commonality with other people. In a way trying to find that connection with someone you've just met is testing them to see if they're legitimate and if you can accept them. Not that a lack of friends in common makes us shun people, but somehow two people knowing the same name makes you almost like family.
It's funny. I spent 18 years in Chicago, always in the same community. Since I left, people always like to ask me if I know so-and-so who lives there or who lived there when my grandparents were in their 20s. The sad part is, 80% of the time I say no. It just makes me wonder how I could spend so much time there and go to all the schools there and still not know anybody? I mean, it's not just that I don't know the person in question personally - these are names that I've never even heard in my life.
It kind of makes you think about how much you really know about anyone living around you. How well do you know your neighbors? Do you know what they look like? Their names? If they have kids? Pets? I'm not even sure how many apartments are in my building. My downstairs neighbor gave birth to twins (at least I knew she was pregnant) but I didn't find out there were two of them until four months later. I know nothing about anyone.
I could go on and say how this says such bad things about society and that we're too caught up in ourselves and our latest gadgets to pay attention to the real world, but I'll save that rant for a different blog. I suppose, though, that there is something to say for getting regards through a chain of a zillion different people - at least it gets us all to talk.