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Thought for the Day: The Gift of Time

Today is the earliest day of the year that the work day starts; barely two hours after ha'neitz ha'chama on Rosh Chodesh.  What with Hallel, K'rias haTorah, and Musaf, that means that the work day starts only 1½ hours after the end of davening.  Work starts much later during the summer... as much as additional two hours later.  I wish work would start the same time every day, but I do have a chiyuv hishtadlus, and this is the only job for which I am qualified that almost covers my bills.  Ok, ok... I could have chosen a lifestyle with smaller monetary obligations, but I'm American!

Perhaps you are wondering why I don't just daven some place that finishes earlier.  I am glad you asked.  The second sefer of the Rambam's Mishnah Torah is "Sefer Ahava".  The first is "Sefer Mada", the book of knowledge, which discusses fundamental beliefs, learning Torah, the issur of foreign worship (avoda zara), and hilchos t'shuva.  That is, the fundamental things you need to know before you sign up to be a Jew.  The second book -- the book of Love -- consists of the fundamental things you need to know to be a Jew.  The first chapter of that book is hilchos k'rias sh'ma.  At the end of the first chapter (halacha 12, if memory serves), the Rambam gives the time for k'rias sh'ma shel shacharis.  He says "the time for k'rias sh'ma is in time to finish the second bracha after k'rias sh'ma at ha'neitz ha'chama, which is approximately six minutes before ha'neitz ha'chama" (that's not free translation, it's as literal as possible).  He doesn't say "minhag vasikin" or even "l'chatchila"; just stam.  The Ra'avad doesn't argue, so that's two rishonim who pasken that way.  The Rambam says what do to if you miss the time or need to get going early, but clearly he expects that to be the exception, not the rule.

The first mitzvah given to Klal Yisrael was kiddush ha'chodesh -- to ordain the beginning of each month.  Seems a bit... I don't know.. I mean... didn't HaShem have something with more pizazz to start us off?  Yes, yes; I know it's important.  You certainly want to be able to know when to start cleaning for Pesach, when to blow the shofar, when to fast, and when to build a hut.  Rosh Chodesh is very utilitarian.  So is a vacuum cleaner.  I've never heard of a chosson giving his kallah a vacuum cleaner in the yichud room, though.  (I think you are supposed to give pearls.  My poor wife got nothing -- even after three tries!)  The Torah begins with the creation of the heavens and the earth.  The giving of the Torah begins with "I am HaShem."  Those are like wow.  Imagine Moshe Rabeinu and Aaron (soon to be haCohein) walking back to the assembled masses.  "Nu?  What did we get as the very first mitzvah?  Our first channel to connect with the Creator of the world?  I bet it's really amazing!  Nu, already... what did we get??"

What we got, explains the S'porno was the most exquisite, beautiful, and powerful gift possible: time.  The one thing that a slave does not and can not own.  It's also the one thing that can never be taken away from a free person.  But kiddush ha'chodesh means more than just being able to make my own choices about time, it also means that I am responsible for those choices.  Each and every moment is a chance for k'dusha, a chance for the ultimate connection with HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

Davening k'vasikin, therefore, is not a midas chasidus; it's just common sense.

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