[As the LORD your God has charged:] These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting around your house and when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are getting up. Tie them on your hand as a sign. They should be on your forehead as a symbol. Write them on your house’s doorframes and on your city’s gates.
—Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (Common English Bible)
We were reading the Shema yesterday in my church-class; we were wrapping up our study of Adam Hamilton’s Moses (book & video!), and Hamilton neatly focused our ending attention on the challenge of sharing our faith. Which is part of what the Shema is about. Though it’s also about not forgetting, about putting sticky-notes, as it were, everywhere your eyes go. On the doorframe, so you notice it as you come in and out. Likewise the city gates, as the whole community goes in and out. On your forehead, so that if they don’t itch and thus remind you, you’ll see them on each others’ faces and remember.
And on your hand, which I found funny.
Not that the hand’s a poor choice—it’s not; it’s a great choice. I fully affirm the back of the hand as an excellent reminder-location. Why?
Because for the notes I really need to recall, I write them on the back of my hand.
I don’t hear the sarcastic remarks or see the raised eyebrows that I used to (“You’re writing on the back of your hand?! Why not use a sticky-note?? (implicit: like OTHER PEOPLE?) ). At first I put that down to my increased age—the community begins to give up on one and chalk odd behaviors up to eccentricity somewhere in one’s 40s—but reflection reminded me that I haven’t worked in a “regular job” since my 30s. I haven’t had a consistent community of commenters in over a decade. Nevertheless, I have not wavered in my devotion to back-of-hand note-taking.
Nothing else is like it!
There you are, using your hands in all the average, usual ways. Making things happen, as you tend to do. And your eyes skim from the focus proper—in this case, the laptop screen—and slip downward… to your hands, backs thereof. If you had written something there, you’d be reading it by now.
Driving along? The reminder’s just below the windscreen. Reach for a glass? There it is again. Don’t forget! How can you? It’s right there. (Unlike a sticky-note, which often falls off. Speaking from bitter, regular experience.)
So yeah, I am a huge reminder-on-the-hand fan. I do wonder whether routine wearing would blunt the reminder’s effectiveness; I don’t know that much about phylacteries, being Presbyterian and all.
Nevertheless, I find it amusing that, even without knowing much about phylacteries, I stumbled on one of Moses’ preferred locations for the most important reminders of all. Take that, you scoffers!