Three women are on line at Glatt Savings. Woman X observes the cashier carefully placing her groceries into bags based on weight, refrigeration, and fragility. She smiles at the cashier and says thank you. The cashier smiles back.
Woman Y observes the cashier carefully placing her groceries into bags based on weight, refrigeration, and fragility. She says to herself, “that’s what she’s getting paid for,” takes her bags, and walks out the door.
Woman Z observes the cashier carefully placing her groceries into bags based on weight, refrigeration, and fragility. What does she say to herself?
It was so nice of Woman X to acknowledge the cashier’s careful packing. I want to be like her.
I don’t see any reason to be any better than Woman Y. That’s what most people do. She’s busy. Me too.
Now let’s imagine that each of these women has a child standing next to her. In addition to the opportunity to perform a Kiddush Hashem by thanking the cashier, each of them will be teaching something to her child.
Don’t miss these opportunities.
Right now, we don’t have these opportunities, trapped as we are in our homes. How do we cope with this?
“Go, my people, enter into your chambers and close your doors behind you. Hide for a brief moment until the anger passes. For behold, Hashem is going forth from His place to visit punishment for the sins of the inhabitants of the earth upon him; the earth will uncover its blood, and it will no longer cover its slain ones. (Yeshaya 26:21)
“Yeshaya is telling us there will be a time when we need to isolate ourselves in our homes. It will be relatively brief and the storm will pass. Radak explains the seclusion in our chamber as a metaphor for seeking refuge in good deeds and complete teshuvah. Then the danger will pass quickly and the righteous ones will be saved. Rashi in his comments quotes a Medrash that advises that in this time of danger, go into the Beis Medrash and study Torah, go into the Shuls to daven. If this is not possible, then engage in introspection in your deeds, deep within the chambers of your heart. Rav Schwab, zt"l suggests that at this time we should think about the deeds we do in private, behind closed doors.
“The Gemara (Bava Kamma 60b) learns from the above posuk that when there is a plague in the city, go into your house.
“This protocol is most reminiscent of the preparation for the redemption from Egypt, where Moshe commanded b'nei Yisroel not to leave their homes the entire night of makos bechoros [see Shemos 12:22] when the firstborn Egyptians were being slain by the plague. The prophet Michah (7:15) already taught us that the miracles of the ultimate Redemption will parallel those of Yetzias Mitzrayim so we need to glean lessons from that time.
“We are now at a time where we are hiding out, ‘riding out the storm.’ When we cannot run to a Beis Medrash or Shul, as Rashi advises, when the hiding must be in our homes, we have our inner chamber to inspect and introspect. We are alone with our families and with Hashem. We have a chance to connect privately to Him.
These days we don't have to rush through birchas hamazon or our berachos. Where are we running to? We are stuck at home! Even those of us who are working remotely save the commute time, so we have ample time to focus on our davening. This can be a time of unimaginable growth in many areas. Let's remember Yeshaya's prediction that this period will not last long, and then will come the day when all will recognize Hashem echad, u'shmo echad.”
(Rabbi Yechiel Biberfeld, Rosh Kollel, Philadelphia Community Kollel)
I am sure that Tefilah and tehilim are necessary at this time. I don’t think they are sufficient. I believe we have to evaluate our deeds in private now, and our words and actions bein adam l’chaveiro from now on.
As I write these coming articles, b’ezras Hashem, I am guided by the words of Rabi Yehuda Leib m’Gur.
The Tanna (Avos 1:6) was careful to write “es kol ha-adam,” rather than “kol adam.” This teaches us that we must judge the entire person. Even if a person has… a failing or a bad propensity, they definitely have other good attributes [maalos] and good things which enable you to judge favorably on the whole [b’chesbon kollel]. You must also take into account the situation and the conditions that person is living with. (Mi’Mayanos haNetzach al Avos, Aharon Sorotzky, page 44)
I am interested in how we can learn better choices. I wondered how to know which behavioral choices we need to look at.
Rabi Levi Yitzchak mi’Berdichev, was invited to visit a shul. He stopped at the open door and stood there. The townspeople asked why he wasn’t going inside. “The shul is full of tefilos,” he explained. “Tefilos without kavanah don’t reach Shamayim.”
I think that when it comes to certain tefilos, the kavanah needs to be more than what the words mean and the intention to be yotzie the mitzvah of tefilah.
I think, in some tefilos, it has to mean “what is my intention to do differently as a result of this tefilah.” The word l’hispallel can mean to evaluate oneself. Ideally, that introspection leads to a change for the better.
Which Tefilah most clearly gives us a mandate to do better?
I suggest that it is a Tefilah we say rather seldom. I think the occasions on which we say it hint at the mandate for improvement in its words even though it doesn’t tell us to do anything.
Once we expand our understanding of it, this tefilah will provide us with a list of 44 things we need to work on.
Rabeinu Tam changed the wording of Kol Nidrei from past tense to future tense.1 Similarly, this tefilah addresses past behaviors. I believe that this tefilah implicitly demands change for the future.
B’ezras Hashem, in the coming articles we will examine this powerful tefilah and hope it will provide the antidote to the machala, lo aleinu, that has changed our lives for the time being. In the meantime, and may it be a short time, be sure to take care of yourself to the best of your ability both physically and emotionally. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be better able to support, reassure, and enjoy your children.
Stay healthy. Have nachas.
1 For the halachic reasons behind this change, see https://www.oxfordchabad.org/templates/blog/post.asp?aid=708481&PostID=84746&p=1
Rabbi Ackerman is the author of Confident Parents, Competent Children, in Four Seconds at a Time
Available at bookstores and on Amazon.
He can be reached at 718-344-6575