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Thought for the Day: Fixing Time/Place Gives Glory to the Activity; Not the Other Way Around

The topic of having a makom kavu'a for t'fila and what its all about came up this morning.  The generally heard explanation is that it helps to minimize distractions (although even your fingerprints seem to take on a whole knew level of fascination during shmone esrei...). Rabeinu Yona, however, has a different p'shat: fixing a place to daven gives kavod and chashivus to t'fila.  Rabeinu Yona takes this idea so far as to say that the concept of being kovei'a makom la'tifila is only relevant at home.  Once someone has gone to shul, says Rabeinu Yona, he has already demonstrated that t'fila is important.  But when he needs to daven at home, it requires fixing a place in the house for davening to demonstrated the importance.

The importance of "k'vi'us" (consistency) runs throughout halacha.  "kovei'a itim la'torah", "kovei'a makom la't'filah", "kovei'a s'uda l'shabbos v'yom tov".  In each case the matter being fixed (time, place, meal) is not important in and of itself, rather it is that fixing time/place/meal shows the importance of the matter for which it is being fixed: torah, t'fila, shabbos v'yom tov.

Unfortunately, things sometimes get turned upside down; the activity becomes an excuse to claim rights to the place/time/meal.  "I am davening, so get out of my place."  "It is Shabbos, so I can eat and drink (and drink) as much as I want."  And those two examples have a source in halacha.  (Though I know of no source for requiring closer than "dalad amos"; about six feet.) There are other cases where it is just stam "because its mine"; not out of meanness, just thoughtlessness.  I usually eat the Shalos S'udos meal with my wife.  This week she is out of town; I will probably still each the shalos s'udos meal at home because it will be too hard to figure out where I could sit.  Everyone has their seats picked out and are almost more makpid on those seats than their shtender.  I realize it is a great time to visit with friends, but it's also a great time to practice real hachnasa orchim -- bringing a guest from the outside in.

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