Today was just a remarkable mess, no really, it was. Nothing went as planned; in fact everything I touched seemed to turn to dust. It started with a phone call early in the predawn hours. The call was from someone living far away. He didn’t reckon on the time difference and so his cheerful hello was met with my dazed “who is this?” From this little wake up call the entire day rolled on, or better said, rolled over me. I lost phone numbers, got the wrong directions for an important meeting, only to find at my late arrival that the said meeting had been canceled. I then got held up in traffic, making me late for everything else. Oh yes, just to add insult to injury, long made plans for a trip to Israel fell through, with a loss to my small but valiant bank account.
See, I told you the day was an unmitigated mess. When such things happen, I begin to ponder the meaning of life. I can see you smile; here he goes again, getting all philosophical over a minor mishap. However, let me beg your indulgence for just one moment. What I mean by the meaning of life is that there are occasions when you can see quite clearly that the time given you is of great value, and that we need reminding of this every so often. You may ask why a seemingly wasted day full of life’s trivialities seems able to remind one of the values of time. But then perhaps the banality of such seemingly worthless moments is the greatest lesson of them all. Sure I went from one mishap to the next with a feeling of forlorn weariness, but in truth that was because I missed the point.
We wake up in the morning thinking that we have things to do, and places to go. Nothing is as important as what you have to do, nothing at all. We are driven by the “I” in every act of our life, and if things get in the way, then we see them as barriers on the road to our own self absorbed interests. Then Hashem throws a spanner in the works, taps you on the shoulder, and whispers in your ear that the “I” is not what life should be about. There is a whole other world out there that is the real place, and we are meant to accept this reality in our hearts and minds.
Sure in the light of day, when sitting and sagely reading these words we will all shake our weary heads in agreement, however, as gutte Yidden were wont to say, “you live where your mind is,” and if your mind does not truly accept all this, then you are not yet where you should be. As my messed up day unraveled I kept saying to myself that there is a reason for all this, and I hope I have accepted this in my heart.
Chasidim tell us that we should make a seuda, a festive meal, to show our thanks to Hashem for all the wonderful miracles He showers upon us everyday. They speak not of the miracles we may have the merit to perceive, but of the thousands of wonders that happen around us which we are never aware of.
Your day is a mess? How do you know? Who can tell what wonders were happening to you whilst you stewed in that traffic? Hashem was performing miracles, saving you from stuff that you will never even know about. Sounds far fetched? Only if you are enamored with Mr. “I” and think you are in charge.
When Avraham Avinu was called upon to take his only son Yitzchak to be sacrificed, he was entering into a new world view. He was accepting that Hashem’s Will could never be understood and that human understanding had to become nullified against the Will of Hashem. Even though the sacrifice of his cherished son flew against everything he had learned and taught, he rose above all such thoughts and started off early in the morning to fulfil Hashem’s words.
We are not the baalei batim, only the servants, and this realization is what a meaningful life is about. Without this we are just talking up space, when in truth we should be creating kiddush Hashem. A day spent trying to persevere through the mindlessness of the mundane, is a day that is full of Hashem’s gracious miracles, we may not discern them, but then again that in itself is Hashem’s wondrousness. Such days come our way so that we can remind ourselves of all this, and thank Hashem for allowing us the benefit of growing through life’s difficulties. Trials in life are not about Hashem testing our abilities, but about our realizing for ourselves what we are capable of. Hashem knows us, the problem is we don’t. The daily miracles, the acts of salvation that whirl about us as we balefully traipse through life, need awareness. Difficult days are ours so that we can actualize the knowledge that Hashem creates miracles even in such sterile moments. We are meant to celebrate the everyday, acknowledging Hashem’s Hand in the mundane.
This kapital was included in our daily prayers as an expression of thanks for all the many unrecognized kindnesses Hashem performs for us everyday.
Mizmor Lesoda, Hari’u LaHashem … “Serve Hashem with joy, come before Him with exultation.” Rav Shamshon Rephael Hirsch teaches that serving Hashem means devoting every moment of one’s life to executing Hashem’s Will. Here we are being told that such service must be done in joy, for only such a state can energize us throughout our lives.
De’u Ki Hashem … “Know that Hashem is G-d, He has made us and we are His, His people and the sheep of his pasturing.”
This totality of belief is what Avraham taught us. Sheep do not even begin to imagine that they are in charge of their lives. The Sheppard places them where he wants, and does so for their own good. Much conspires against them. Lack of food, dangerous predators, unsafe environment, the list goes on and on, yet they fear nothing for the Sheppard is there with them. His constant care gives the whole flock a sense of safety. We are Hashem’s holy flock, and although we have no idea what dangers face us daily, we need never fear, for Hashem is our Fatherly Sheppard.
Bo’u She’arav Besoda … “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courtyards with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless his Name.”
So, the kapital leads us onto the first rung of the ladder to heavenly ascent. Enter His gates with thanksgiving,’ gain access to His Presence by giving thanks for all His care. Come ever closer by praising in your heart His constant support.
The final words are a true reflection of our deepest longings.
Ki Tov Hashem Le’olam Chasdo … “For Hashem is good, His loving kindness is eternal and to every generation His faithfulness extends.”
This is the reality of everything we experience, in all times, all places, and every generation.