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DAY BY DAY

by Avraham Chaim Feldman    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"And these words which I have commanded you today shall be on your heart"(Deuteronomy 6:6).

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"And these words which I have commanded you today shall be on your heart"(Deuteronomy 6:6).

Commenting on the above verse recited every day in the Shema prayer, the sages taught that the words of the Torah should always be seen as a fresh and exciting letter just received from the king today, not like some old edict that nobody cares about anymore.

An important concept in human nature can be seen in this teaching. A good deed that is constantly carried out can easily become habitual and make absolutely no impression on the performer. Even though he may know the importance of what he is doing, it is almost impossible to maintain that realization with him each and every time he does it. Therefore, we must be reminded to always view our observance of the Torah as a new and exciting experience.

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, an outstanding personality in Jewish thought in the first part of this century, illustrates this idea by examining a tiny seed. It is planted and watered until it suddenly sprouts forth and grows into a huge plant. This is a miracle! Why don't we recognize it? Because it happens all of the time. All of nature is like this. How do our eyes see, our fingers feel, our feet walk? Nature is nothing less than a common miracle.

The question may arise: Why then do we have a set prayer service that hardly changes from day to day? Why do we pray so frequently and perform daily and weekly mitzvot? Wouldn't it make more sense to limit these commandments to a few times a year so that we could perform them with a passion and a feeling that is otherwise prone to be lacking?

The Torah responds that we must strive to view the mitzvot like they were commanded to you today. Everyday, our approach to the mitzvot should be as if we are about to experience the joy and wonder of performing Hashem's commandments for the very first time. The mitzvot are not just arduous tasks that we perform only because we did it yesterday and the day before. Everyday is a new experience.

However, the problem still remains: How can we bring ourselves to this level of recognition each and every day? Rabbi Dessler explains that by analyzing the action which we are about to perform or the words which we are about to say, we can rise above habit and renew our understanding of these commandments each time they are performed. Why am I doing such and such? What is the meaning behind it? Where will the practice of this mitzvah lead me? Discoveries will be made and the depth of the mitzvah will be revealed more and more.

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Avraham Chaim Feldman, a native Atlantan, is a senior at the Ner Israel High School in Baltimore.

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