"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Postponing Mitzvos until a rainy day

Reb Folleh Kahn relates:
The Rebbe Rashab suffered from stones in his gall bladder. Once, when Dr. Shachor was visiting, the Rebbe Rashab was beset by very severe pains, during which he took a break to pray Mincha. Soon after he finished his prayers, the pains ceased.

The doctor asked him: “Rebbe, couldn’t you have waited for a brief while until the pains subsided, and prayed then?”

“I didn’t know; I calculated that the pains could have worsened, so I prayed as long as I could,” the Rebbe Rashab explained.

Shemu’os V’Sipurim, Vol. 1, p. 165.
Sometimes there are so many things going on in our lives that we tell ourselves that “for now” we need to delay learning Torah, delay praying with concentration (kavana), delay attending farbrengens ... until we’re less stressed, less overworked, have a clearer mind, and more patience. “Until a rainy day.”

But oddly enough, often the more that we delay devoting time to the spiritual, the more the material concerns pile up, and the more the spiritual eludes us.

However, when we manage to overcome the distractions and difficulties and make the time, even if it means “stealing” time, to focus on learning Torah and prayer, we suddenly start to see that more time becomes available.

In any case, since we never know what the future may bring, we can’t delay anything. We must grab every opportunity that comes our way. As our sages say, “Grab and eat; grab and drink! (Eruvin 54a). Likewise, they say, “Don’t say, ‘When I have free time I will learn, lest you never have free time’” (Avos 2:6). Moreover, “It is not given to man to tell [the Angel of Death]: ‘Wait until I have settled my accounts and arranged my household’” for “who knows when his time will come?” (Devarim Rabba 9:3).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Saying "Boruch Hashem"

“How are you?”
Boruch Hashem, I’m fine. And how are you?”
Boruch Hashem, I’m fine too.”

Now, please excuse my bluntness, but if the inflection in the pronunciation of “Boruch Hashem” and “I’m fine” were filled with feeling, these words would have some meaning. But in my experience, the vast majority of the time, in such exchanges Boruch Hashem seems to be said without any feeling. This expression has thus become hopelessly clichéd, and lost any meaning, to the point that it sounds banal.

To be sure, one notices the difference between whether someone is in the habit of saying it or not, and that says something about the person speaking and counts for something. Yet like everything in Yiddishkeit that is done out of habit, saying Boruch Hashem often becomes a rote routine.

The “popularization” of this expression comes from the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov used to approach ordinary Jews—men, women, and children—and inquire about their material lives in order to hear their simple but heartfelt expressions of thanks to Hashem. The whole purpose of saying Boruch Hashem is thus to inject into our mundane lives recognition of Hashem and genuine gratitude for his manifold blessings. This goal is not attained if we recite the formula without a second thought for what it means.

So remember this the next time someone asks, “How are you?” Regard this as an opportunity to take a moment to reflect on your blessings, feel gratitude to the Giver of those blessings, and express that feeling in a genuine way. Hashem is listening.