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Thought for the Day: Teaching the Importance of Mitzvos by How You Do Mitzvos

At the vasikin minyan we like to learn two halachos from Mishna Brura as a group either before (winter) or after (summer) davening.  That is to say, we are all actually quiet while the halacha is being learned.  I mean, there is even someone there who will shush you if you are talking during the learning!  (He's been spoken to, but he is incorrigible.)  This has allowed us to complete one cycle all the way through all six volumes of the Mishna Brura; sometimes even with audiovisual aids (Alice's Restaurant style -- circles and charts and stuff). If you are thinking, "Heck... you've been in business over 19 years!  What's taking so long?"  Firstly, "Oh yeah?!  You try it!"  Secondly, we don't learn straight through; we break to learn "inyanei d'yoma" -- halachos relevant to the upcoming holidays.

In fact, we just switched; and the switch itself gives one pause.  Until yesterday we were learning hilchos Tisha b'Av.  From today we started learning hilchos Rosh HaShana.  That should make an impression.  It says something about why we were learning hilchos Tisha b'Av.  If one just wants to know the technicalities of observance, then we could just as well start with hilchos Sukkah.  In fact, that would make a lot of sense. There are lots of details in sukkah construction and we never get through more than a tiny fraction in the two weeks between Rosh HaShanah and Sukkos.  Wouldn't it be more efficient to each year start back when we ended last year?

But learning halacha is not about being efficient.  They way we do things is not efficient in terms of covering ground.  On the other hand, it drives home the point that the sadness of Tisha b'Av is our distance from our Father, our King, our Creator.  Therefore we take are first opportunity to learn about being closer -- Rosh HaShanah; the celebration of our unique relationship with the Creator of the world.

In fact, Moshe Rabeinu did something similar when he separated the three cities of refuge on his side of the Jordan.  As Rashi notes, even though the cities would not come into use before all six were established, Moshe Rabeinu wanted to take the opportunity to do whatever mitzvah he could.  The S'porno explains more that it wasn't just that Moshe Rabeinu wanted to do a mitzvah that he could do, he wanted to do that particular miztvah.  Why that mitzvah?  Specifically because it could not be completed.  Moshe Rabeinu wanted to demonstrate that mitvah performance is not about efficiency and marking off some checklist of stuff to do.  Mitzvah performance is about relationship -- the relationship between each individual Jew and His Creator.

It pays to have good teachers.  It pays even more to follow their example.

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