Sunday, November 29, 2015

VaYishlach by Ari Bar-Shain - "The world moves quickly and there is very little time to think."

Ari in the Gush Beit Midrash with his father

Black Friday is a time of rushing. Running to the store as early as possible, hurrying to the aisle where the product you need can be found, checking out, and then going as fast as you can to the next store. The world moves quickly and there is very little time to think.

After שמעון and לוי massacre the city of שכם and יעקב scolds them, God tells יעקב to ascend to בית אל.
א  וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹקים אֶל-יַעֲקֹב, קוּם עֲלֵה בֵית-אֵל וְשֶׁב-שָׁם; וַעֲשֵׂה-שָׁם מִזְבֵּחַ--לָאֵל הַנִּרְאֶה אֵלֶיךָ, בְּבָרְחֲךָ מִפְּנֵי עֵשָׂו אָחִיךָ.
1 And God said unto Jacob: 'Arise, go up to Beth-el, and dwell there; and make there an altar unto God, who appeared unto thee when thou didst flee from the face of Esau thy brother.'
The רמב"ן is puzzled about the phrase ושב שם. Why would God tell יעקב to go somewhere, establish residence, and then make a מזבח? Who cares if he first lives there?

He theorizes that perhaps the commandment if for יעקב to clear his mind before clinging to God. Prior to building an altar for Divine worship, יעקב needs to focus and get in the right mindset.

In the next few פסוקים, יעקב tells his household to remove the strange gods that are among them, collects these figures, and buries them. The רמב"ן, as he did previously, explains why this was such a critical prerequisite to going to בית אל and carrying out ה'’s command.
יעקב צוה להסיר אותה לטהרת הקדש שיהיו ראויים לעבוד את השם ולהקריב לפניו קרבן, כאשר צוה להם בטבילה וחלוף הבגדים
Yaakov commanded to remove it (the strange gods) for purification, so that they would be fitting to worship and offer sacrifices to God, just as he commanded them to immerse and change clothing.

תפילה and other forms of Divine worship require mental clarity and focus. It’s impossible to open up to God when there are other thoughts on your mind. Distractions have to be removed in order to attain proper concentration. This means both physical and mental disturbances. Your body and room in which you are davening have to be clean, as you also have to be in the right frame of mind. The משנה in ברכות even mentions that the חסידים ראשונים used to wait an hour before davening in order to direct their minds to God! It’s not just about תפילה or offering קרבנות, but also ridding the area of idols and setting aside time to dwell there before you begin.

Extremely similar to preparation for davening is preparation for שבת, as we can see in the רמב"ם. He says that it’s a מצווה to wash your face, hands and feet in warm water, put on a טלית, and sit waiting to accept שבת the way you await the arrival of a king. As we clean our bodies before and wear טליתות during davening, we also do the same for שבת.

Fridays are a dangerous time in the week. People are rushing home from work trying to cook, clean up, and get a long list of things done before שבת. This often means working until the very last minute before candle lighting. As much as possible, it’s also important to enter שבת with the right mindset. Whether it be half an hour or only five minutes, pausing and contemplating the holy time of the week that you’re about to accept upon yourself is essential.

Ari Bar-Shain

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