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Thought for the Day: Oh Yes... *DO* Sweat the Little Stuff!

I am easily distracted and therefore do much better with a chavrusa or very small shiur than with a large lecture.  I also do well while exercising or commuting, where I am a captive audience and also can replay as needed.  Still, there is something lost when not attending live and in person the lecture of a talmid chacham.  All the more so when the talmid chacham is one's רבי מובהק/main source of Torah learning.  In addition to the "facts of the case" (which one can get from published sources, of course), there is also how to weigh the facts and what seemingly extraneous information may actually have bearing on the case at hand.  Still, even that can be gleaned from a breadth of sources.  There is one dimension and can only be learned from live attendance: attitude.  Seeing/hearing the excitement (or not), dismissiveness (or not) of how the talmid chacham addresses the mix of questions is itself worth attendance and attention.

R' Fuerst is currently covering hilchos brachos.  It's a well known subject and we all make brachos all the time, so one might think there is nothing much new to learn.  The rabbi also knows that (shocking, I know) and is making a point to chose areas where he feels people are making mistakes or are ignorant of this or that detail.  First, בעזרת השם, I'll relay a behavior I am changing because of last Sunday's lecture.  Then, בעזרת השם ממש, I'd like to conclude with the most important new idea I took away and hope to carry with my into all my future actions.

As is really well known, there should be no interruption between the bracha and eating.  As is also well known, it is better to make the bracha on a שלם/whole and unbroken.  Sometimes these two enhancements come into conflict.  For example, it takes a relatively long time to peel a banana/grapefruit/orange (or to crack a nut).  Therefore, it is better to remove the peel before making the bracha before reciting the bracha in order to minimize the activities incurred between recital and consumption.  I always assumed that included separating the sections of the grapefruit and loading my fork with a piece of cake.

As the rabbi often says (or, at least, I hear it a lot in response my constant, "but I thought..."): live and learn.  A peeled but unsectioned grapefruit is considered more שלם/שלם-er and the time it takes to remove the section is not considered an interruption.  The time it takes to cut a bite sized piece onto ones fork is also not considered an interruption.  More than that, if the cake is not yet cut, then one should first recite the bracha and then cut the size he wants.  (Of course, one should have the fork, plate, and napkin there ahead of time; let's be reasonable!)

At the point, you may very well be thinking the same thing that one attendant laughingly shouted out, "Oh my... well at least I am not going to burn for cutting the cake before the bracha!"  To which the rabbi quietly (but firmly) responded: "How do you know?"  The guffawer guffawed again, and the rabbi once again responded (quietly, but firmly); then continued with the lecture.

I have thought about that question in the past... does HaShem really care about this or that detail?  Of course He does, and there are many answers to that question; I've even expressed some thoughts on that in this forum.  Having heard the guffaw and the response, though... I've had another thought.

I would like to say that I am in a constant struggle with my evil inclination.  To be honest, though, I think I mostly just roll over and give in.  What am I going to say at the end of 120 when questioned on my behaviour?  Don't worry... I have oodles and oodles of answers to that question!  I didn't grow up frum (or even Jewish, actually); I had no role models; things that are forbidden by the Torah are actually lauded by the society in which I spent my formative years; ... I have more; basically variations on that theme; and I'll give every last variation I can muster!

At the end of my diatribe of a defence, I imagine that the Judge will, teary-eyed, say, "My, my... that is very well said.  You really couldn't have done better.  In fact, given where you started, it is amazing what you have achieved.  I'll be breathing (or whatever; I'll be dead, after all) a sigh of relief... then I'll hear: "But tell me, what about things that didn't contradict your admittedly shabby and un-Torah-dich upbringing?  On those issues did you really try to do your best?"

Umm... sure; I'll say; but there weren't any.  "Well... what about being careful with brachos?  You remember that shiur you heard from R' Fuerst about reciting the bracha before sectioning your grapefruit and before you slice your cake.  Surely there is nothing in your upbringing to prevent you from being careful with such a small detail."

If I were to answer that I frankly just didn't think it was such a big deal so I chose to be lazy and doing things like I had always done them.... doesn't that mean that I am admitting that it was not my bad upbringing, but my own laziness that prevented me from achieving anything in avodas HaShem?  Doesn't my whole argument get deflated, and we have to start all over with my lack of performance?

It seems to me that being as careful as I can with the easy stuff, I get a tremendous boost in my claims to having tried my best with the big stuff.


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