Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thank You card etiquette

[Track on-going developments in the Israeli response to Hamas rockets, here at the Muqata. Updated throughout the day.]

I believe in having Bar Mitzvah boys / Bat Mitzvah girls write Thank You notes for the gifts they receive, as well as for the other efforts people make to mark their entry into religious adulthood in a beautiful and meaningful way. Gratitude, humility, thinking about other people - these are indispensable elements of a mature personality and of civilized society.

And as my Rebbetzin and I grew up with written Thank You notes, that's what my Rebbetzin and I expected our son to do as well at the time of his Bar Mitzvah this past year, and so he did. Writing each note involved him thinking about his relationship with the person who had given the gift, and about the gift itself, with the goal of writing a note that would be meaningful.

I mention this because someone asked me the following question yesterday: She received a "Thank You phone call" from a Bar Mitzvah boy. Is that better than, worse than, or of the same level as, a Thank You note?

On the one hand, a Thank You phone call is easier to do, mechanically, and it may reflect a casualness and lack of effort. My initial reaction, certainly, was to view it as less 'serious' than a Thank You note, and to group it with Thank You email, unworthy as a response to a gift.

On the other hand, a call can be more meaningful than a note, since there can be a "How are you," a conversation, and a spelling-out of ideas which thirteen-year old arms tend not to write out in full, legible sentences.

Further, many teens have a hard time holding conversations with anyone other than their friends; the Thank You phone call may actually represent more of an emotional investment, for them, than the Thank You note with its distance.

So I'm not sure. What do you think?


  1. I would tend to say letters are more polite and formal, but agree that phone calls can be more of an emotional investment (I find phone calls generally hard even as an adult for various reasons and did not like them at all as a child and teenager. I would still much rather send a letter than phone someone).

    Of course, some people may feel that letters in general are becoming obsolete. I don't know anyone who communicates with distant friends or relatives primarily by letters rather than phone calls, email or social media. I don't think the letter is dead by any means, but most of the mail we receive at our house is junk mail, mail order catalogues, charity appeals, bank statements or bills (with the occasional government information leaflet), so I can see why some people might not automatically associate mail with a formal-but-personal communication any more.

  2. My New Hashkafah of Shidduchim :-)

    My new hashkafah of shidduchim is thanking and praising HASHEM always :-)

    Even when my dating experiences are far from pleasant, I realize that HASHEM is guiding my life with His infinite wisdom and abundant love, and exact precision that only He is capable of :-)

    HASHEM always knows what is truly good for me, even when I do not :-)

    Often what I need most is atonement and humility, so G_d gives me those precious things through unpleasant dating experiences :-)

    I now realize that I must always thank HASHEM for ALL of my dating experiences, because even the worst dates are for my eternal benefit, because they provide me with precious atonement and humility :-)

    Tractate Avot teaches that the reward for a good deed is proportionate to its difficulty; by giving me difficult dating experiences, HASHEM is providing me with greater reward for Olam HaBa, in addition to precious atonement and humility :-)

    G_d loves me even more than I love myself, and He would never give me an unpleasant dating experience unless it was for my eternal benefit in both Olam HaZeh and Olam HaBa :-)


    Thank you for all my dating experiences, whether pleasant or unpleasant or mediocre :-)
    You are always guiding me with endless wisdom and love; You always help me and give me everything I need :-)

    I regret all the times I complained;
    instead of complaining, I should have been busy thanking You.