I saw her smirk out of the corner of my eye. I tried to ignore it, but then she did it again. Finally, I asked her what she found so amusing.

“I just can’t believe you really think these things make a difference!”

She had been watching me all day. After years of not seeing this friend of mine from childhood, we finally were able to reconnect when she was in town for a business meeting. She knew that I have been living a Torah-observant life since college, but she just hadn’t seen it yet in action.

She had been watching me all dayMeanwhile, I thought I integrated what I did pretty seamlessly, but because she was watching, she noticed. She noticed me say a few words under my breath before putting anything in my mouth to eat. She watched me wash my hands in a particular way after exiting the restroom. She even picked up on the fact that when I put on my shoes I first put on the right, then the left, then tied the left, then the right. And she was right. I did do all those things. And I did them very much on purpose.

I tried explaining the meaning, the significance. I spoke about the need for gratitude before and after we eat, how even something seemingly as simple as being able to relieve oneself is something to be very grateful about, and how there is the idea of starting and ending everything with love, which is represented by our right side—thus the reason for beginning with my right shoe and ending with tying it.

But she didn’t care. It wasn’t that she didn’t agree that we should be thankful or that we should appreciate what we have; that part she was fine with. It was thinking that the particular way I did it actually made a difference. What bothered her was my insistence on adhering to the mitzvot, the commandments, and not just the concepts.

The root of the word “mitzvah” is tzav, which according to Chassidut relates to tzavta v’chibur, meaning “cleaving and attachment.” Bottom line, if you want to connect to someone, you do the things that he or she wants and has asked for. If I want to connect to my Creator, I want to do things His way, not mine.

But something else was bothering my friend. She couldn’t accept the fact that something so small and simple as saying a few words, or any of the multitude of actions that are done throughout my day, actually make a difference.

And then she took out a pill.

It was small. Ridiculously so.

I asked her what it was for, and she told me she was suffering from horrible migraines and that her doctor had prescribed her this new medication. It was a “miracle drug,” she bragged. All she had to do was take this one small pill, just once a day, and her debilitating migraines disappeared.

What we can’t see can affect usClearly, I trust that it works for her. I would never imply that it was only a placebo effect. And while I can’t for the life of me comprehend how they get such powerful medication into these small pills, I know they do it. This is why we lock away medications from our children. Why would they ever think that those bright red little pills that look so yummy could hurt them—could kill them! They seem harmless. They seem insignificant. And yet, what we can’t see can affect us.

I didn’t want to turn the rest of our lunch date into a theological debate. I changed the subject, and we focused on what our kids are up to and their crazy antics. We thoroughly enjoyed our time together, and for all of our differences, recognized that we still have so much in common. But I did slip in one more comment before we parted ways. As I finished saying the blessing after my meal, and watched her eyes roll yet again, I asked if I could see those migraine pills one more time. I held one up, smiled, and remarked, “It is pretty amazing how something so small can make such a life-changing difference, isn’t it?”