The Medrash quotes a verse from Proverbs, “For they are a wreath of grace,” and explains that it refers to Mitzvos that accompany a person wherever he goes. Reb Pinchos begins with a Mitzva that is included in this week’s Parsha. When you build a house, the Torah tells us to build a safety fence around a usable roof. Or for that matter, a gate around anything that has a potential hazard such as a gate around a swimming pool. The Medrash continues, when you put up your door of your house, attach a Mezuza to the right doorpost.
More examples of Mitzvos that accompany us are given; when one buys clothing he has to make sure that it does not contain a blend of wool and linen – Shatnez. If it is a four cornered garment, one is to attach Tzitzis to the corners. When men get their hair cut, they are to make sure to not round the corner sideburns, rather they should extend at least to the protruding bone. When you plow a field, the Torah instructs us not to have two species of animals working together. When you plant, the Torah prohibits planting wheat and a vine together. When one harvests, there are laws concerning forgotten strands and bundles of produce which are to be left to the poor. When one kneads dough, the Challah portion is given to the Kohein. (Today it is burnt.)
The Torah states a law that if one chances upon a bird’s nest with the mother bird upon it, one is to send away the mother bird and only then take the chicks or eggs. The reward for this mitzvah, which is quite easy to fulfill, is length of days. Thus, Mitzvos accompany us and present themselves, at times, even when we have no intention of fulfilling a Mitzva.
The other day I was speaking with my dear friend Mr. David Epstein, a Scrantonian who now resides in Charlotte, NC. He shared with me that in Judaism there is a rhythm. “We are always looking ahead to the next Shabbat and next holiday, and we associate personal and family lifecycle events in the proximity of the holidays of the year.” I loved the word he chose, “rhythm.”
In fact, The Torah is actually called a Shira – a song. Each song has a rhythm. So, rhythm fits perfectly with the Medrash we mentioned. A Jew with an eye on the Mitzvos associated with his surroundings will realize that he is in a continual concert to the rhythm of Mitzvos. I would like to expound on this a bit.
The Torah and haftorah are read to the tune of the cantillation notes. Often, when one studies the Talmud it is accompanied with a tune. This reflects on the sweetness and enjoyment he is experiencing.
When we take a look at the luminaries in the sky, the sun, moon and stars, they are not just awesome creations, they spark a rhythm of a Mitzva function. Sunrise, is associated with the opportune time to pray the morning Amidah. It Halachically defines the time of daybreak and impacts on when we are supposed to recite the morning Shema and our prayers.
Sunset is beautiful, but it also regulates when the Shabbat begins, and when the appropriate time is to recite the night prayers and when the halachic day ends.
The appearance of three stars tells us when it is nightfall, when the Shabbat concludes and when the nightly Shema should be recited.
The appearance of the new moon tells us when the Hebrew month begins, and while it is it waxing, it is the time to recite the blessing on the new moon.
Stormy weather, such as lightning, thunder, and earthquakes trigger us to recite blessings attributing the power to the awesomeness of G-d. Seeing the great sea (if one hadn’t seen it for 30 days) causes us to recite a blessing.
Before and after we eat food or drink we recite the appropriate blessing. We recite a blessing over fragrances that grew from the ground. We recite blessings over the Mitzvos we perform. All this is part of the rhythm and beat of a Jew recognizing G-d within our basic function of the day.
Within our formal prayers to G-d, we mention and are in touch with our ancestors, Avraham, Yitzchok, Yaacov, Moshe and David. They are part of our rhythm. Every one of us identify as either a Kohain, Levi or Yisroel. It’s our personal rhythm.
In fact, my son in law, Rabbi Reuven Epstein’s maternal grandfather Mr. Moshe Yitzchok Austein o.b.m., a Kohain, upon hearing the news of the birth of a grandson would wish Mazal Tov and say in Yiddish, Nuch ah Kohain – another Kohain in the world. He did not only appreciate that another member was added to his family and the Jewish people, he reveled that another Kohain with all his holy responsibilities, had joined its ranks.
We display a certain rhythm during our simple trip to the food market. We look at what has a kosher certification and pass over what does not. This may seem trivial, however when we take pause and think about it, it is actually a spiritual exercise.
My sister Nechama Tepfer once related to me that she was shopping at a kosher supermarket one Thursday night with the store teeming with customers buying food for Shabbos. She noticed that her cart was filling up rather quickly and people in the aisles had a skip in their beat. She stopped, and then figured it out. The background music in the store was the tune of a lively carousel. It literally got customers to move more easily and get them to feel more relaxed and make quicker decisions of what to purchase.
It is up to us to set the rhythm when we perform Mitzvos. A happy, cheerful and enthusiastic beat proves to have everything else beat!