Due to Rabbi Oppenheim sitting Shiva, he has not written his weekly dvar Torah. Therefore, I have chosen one from the past that hopefully will provide food for thought.
|Many productivity experts recommend a daily routine at the start of the day. They posit that the first few minutes of your day are the most important and can set the tone for positivity and productivity. The first mitzvah done in the Temple was the mundane act of removing the ashes from the previous day’s sacrifices. But it wasn’t merely an act of preparation for the new day’s service, rather, it was a reminder that each day’s service is linked to the previous day. Those who were there to serve in the Temple were given the subtle message that when a Jew connects to the Almighty and the Jewish people, whatever they will do must be connected to the past. Nothing is new today. All that you will do here is a continuation of what has been in the past. You are to do it with enthusiasm, but you need not reinvent the wheel. The foundation of your Jewish contribution has precedents charted out since antiquity. Every Jewish grandchild stands before G-d with the same mission in life that his or her ancestors bore. No one needs to innovate or to discover what G-d expects of us. You do not have to shoulder the responsibility for solving all problems in a vacuum. Furthermore, each person’s contribution builds on those of all who have come before with a rich and meaningful past. The little mound of ash testifies to the continuity of yesterday and the work of today. Its job is never done, and each generation needs to find ways to make it relevant and applicable. R. Shimshon Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) articulates this idea when he says there always needs to be a link to the past but that there also has to be uniqueness and freshness in what we do. A second lesson is that we shouldn’t forget the regular people and their day-to-day difficulties. Therefore, the day’s first act of service in the Temple, removing the ash, is a mundane act without fanfare. It’s not the superstars that keep the world going, it’s the people who clean the streets, take blood tests, and other necessary duties. The practical application of this is that life as an active and involved Jew will have components that are not glamorous. Being a committed parent means making lunch in the morning, carpooling, cleaning up and other daily grinds leaving parents feeling they haven’t done anything significant that day. It’s the same for an adult child who cares for an aging parent doing mundane things like managing bank accounts and medical visits. It’s exhausting and doesn’t have the glamor of some other endeavors, but this is part of the life of a Jew. We have a system of values laid out in the Torah. Doing them does not mean we will feel good all the time because a life of meaning isn’t meant to provide great times on a regular basis. Think of a doctor working long days to administer to people. It’s exhausting and there are the mundane aspects like checking patient lists and writing reports, but the doctor is allowing others to have a better quality of life or, in some cases, to be alive. The pleasure comes from realizing you are involved in something meaningful; that is what gives a person maximum pleasure. Whether it’s doing service in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem or caring for someone who needs you, the prerequisites are dedication and the commitment to work through challenges. The desire to feel good all the time will not get you where you want. Each of us needs to find our unique talents and contributions; G-d would not have created you if you didn’t have something special, something only you could contribute to the world. It doesn’t have to be winning a Nobel Prize, it has to be you. What’s your unique contribution? How will you link it to the past yet find relevance for the present? Whose life will you enrich?