Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Obligations are Opportunities

I was sitting next the non-religious, but very respectful father of a newly married Orthodox kallah at their second Sheva Brachos s'uda.  Somehow the conversation turned to Orthodox practice and philosophy.  (That's what I said, "somehow"; what, you think I can't talk about anything else?)  At one point, he asked me, "That's a lot to do every day.  I assume, though, that if something came up  at work in the middle of the day that was more important than mincha, then you could skip it, right?  Or is it an obligation?"  I had to quickly quell the urge to respond rhetorically with, "What could possibly be more important about your work than going to mincha?"

What I did say is that mincha is certainly an obligation and one would need to stop what he is doing in order to daven.  I didn't stop there, though.  I noted that as a created being, there is nothing I can give to my Creator.  I am always in the position of having to be a taker; which doesn't feel great.  Therefore, the Creator -- in His great kindness -- created for us an environment (ie, this world) where we can have the illusion that we are giving something back: We give up "our" time to fulfill an obligation.

In fact, Chazal tell us (Avos 5:19): l'fum tza'arah agra/the more distress/difficulty, the more reward.  Whereas the modern expression, "no pain, no gain", says that pain/distress/difficulty is a necessary condition for real progress in an endeavor; this ma'amar Chazal says that pain/distress/difficulty is a sufficient condition for progress and aliyah (elevation) in giving your life meaning.  Why?  Because HaShem sets up the situation; every moment is a separate and independent creation, arranged with infinite wisdom to give us the illusion of time and therefore give us the opportunity to exercise our free will and choose avodas HaShem.  It is not by accident that we have an obligation to pray in the middle of the afternoon when we are involved in our daily work -- it is by design to give us the reward of choosing HaShem/Torah/eternal life over another fleeting moment of life in this world (a life which always ends the same way; in the grave).

And what is that reward?  A mind to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear/understand (D'varim 29:3).  See Rashi there who explains that that pasuk refers to the day when Moshe Rabeinu gave the sefer Torah only to Sheivet Leivi.  On that day the rest of Klal Yisrael came and said, "We were also at Har Sinai, we also accepted the Torah -- if you don't also give us a sefer Torah, a day will come when we will be told that is wasn't give to us!"  That is, they wanted to be sure they were locked in to all those obligations.  That was one of the happiest days of Moshe's life, and the day that HaShem gave us "a mind to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear/understand."

Why are we excited about all our obligations?  They are the key to everything; to knowing, seeing, and understanding the Author or Reality Himself.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…