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Thought for the Day: Z'rizim Makdimim l'Mitzvos

When of the best things about going to a chasuna (the only good thing?) is the opportunity to discuss sh'eilos with a talmid chacham.  One of the best things about discussing a sh'eila with a talmid chachim  is getting additional insights into how to even pose the question.  I asked R' Plotnik my question about a 12 year old boy finishing a meal right before sundown on his 13th birthday; would it be better to wait till he is 13 to bentch d'oraisa, or rather fulfill "z'rizim makdimim l'mitzvos" and bentch immediately?  First he told me, "Old, well known sh'eila."  Good, I thought, that means I am asking a reasonable question.  (The nice thing about being ignorant is getting to learn new stuff all the time!)  In the midst of the discussion he told me, "Of course, z'rizim has nothing to do with being fast; it means to do things best."  I would love to say that I immediately stopped to clarify, but I really just plowed on to say my chidush.  By the time the chuppah was finished and while waiting for the family to come back from pictures, I finally had realized my error and went back to discuss the issue with R' Plotnik.  Baruch HaShem, I got some clarity; Baruch HaShem, R' Plotnik is very patient.

Before my conversation, had I been pushed to translate "z'rizim makdimim l'mitzvos", I probably would have said something like, "those who are enthusiastic are quick to do mitzvos"; and I would have been wrong.  Now and after some consideration, I think the appropriate translation is more like, "those who want to serve HaShem are on the look out for opportunities to do mitzvos and advance themselves to be in a position to perform those mitzvos in the best possible way".  (More evidence for why ArtScroll does not contact me to help them with translations.)  The M'silas Yesharim describes z'rizus as the active trait corresponding to the passive of z'hirus.  That is, just as one needs to be scrupulously careful to avoid mistakes in avodas HaShem, one one also be scrupulously careful to find opportunities for avodas HaShem.

For example: I daven at the vasikin minyan when I wake up in time.   I do not daven at the hashkama minyan.  (I always bristle when some refers to our minyan as "hashkama", in fact.)  We could daven earlier and fulfill our obligation, but we would not be fulfilling it in the best way.  Rashi, in fact, explains "vasikin" as those who love to do mitzvos and/or are very careful in mitzvah observance.  Nothing about davening early; just davening at the best time.

What about our bar mitzvah boy?  The best would be to eat a k'beitza of bread after tzeis hakochavim; then he is good according to all opinions.  What are all those opinions and what are the factors?  Great questions.

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