“Hey, wassup? How ya doin’? How’s life?”
“Nothing major, you know, same old stuff, different day. Can’t wait until summer so I can get away for a few days.”
Does the above conversation sound familiar? No doubt it does. Whether taking place among co-workers, family, or friends, this jaded-sounding interaction, or some variation of it (frequently with an expletive thrown in for good measure), is all too common.
How very sad.
At the beginning of this week’s parsha the Torah sets forth the daily service in the Holy Temple. Much of it seems to lack excitement, including the daily Temple “housework.” On the face of it, the day-to-day routine doesn’t sound all that meaningful or spiritual; yet we are told that all the service in the Temple brought great spiritual gifts to the Jewish people.
Furthermore, the Rabbis make an astonishing statement about the Temple daily service. An obscure teaching (see introduction to Ein Yaakov) discusses which Torah verse expresses the most fundamental principle that encompasses the rest of the Torah. All the usual suspects are mentioned – “Love your neighbor as yourself,” “Hear O Israel … G-d is One,” etc. One Rabbi, however, rejects these verses in favor of one that describes the offering that was repeated in the Temple every single day.
While the reason for this choice is not given, it seems to me that we are being taught an important lesson. It is easy to find joy, to find love, to find meaning, at moments of great excitement, such as holidays and weddings. True greatness, however, is finding meaning, joy and love in the “same old, same old” routine: the committed interactions with our loved ones, co-workers and friends. Saying “I love you” on your wedding day is beautiful but easy; saying it with meaning decades later is what really counts.
Immediately upon awaking daily we say “Modeh Ani” – a short prayer thanking G-d for entrusting us with a new day. True, each day may involve some “same old stuff,” but still is a unique gift, replete with possibilities and golden opportunities.
A similar message can be learned from the upcoming holiday of Purim. Unique among Jewish holidays, the Purim story does not include any open, obvious miracles by G-d. Indeed His name is not mentioned in the Megillah at all. It is only at the end that we see how, through all the seemingly unrelated details, G-d was laying the groundwork for the miraculous salvation of the Jewish people.
In truth, our lives are filled with miracles no less than the Purim story. As we say in our daily prayers, life is filled with “Your miracles that are with us every day . . . evening, morning, and afternoon.” It is our job to recognize and appreciate them, to realize that G-d is with us at our family dinner table as much as he was at the splitting of the Red Sea.
So this Purim raise your glass and make a toast to words of the famous song from Fiddler on the Roof, “To life, to life, l’chaim” – l’chaim to the meaningful mundane miracles of daily life.
Rabbi Yitzchok Oratz is the Rabbi and Director of the Monmouth Torah Links community. Shortly after receiving his semicha (rabbinic ordination) from Bais Medrash Govoha, the famed Lakewood Yeshiva, Rabbi Oratz, along with his wife Toby and family, moved to Marlboro, NJ where they co-founded the MTL community in 2001. Aside for his “Devar on the Par” that he writes for MTL, his writings have also been published on Aish, Times of Israel, Seforim Blog, Hakira, and in various Rabbinic journals. Rabbi Oratz looks forward to continuing teaching Torah in a way that is timely and timeless, and sharing meaningful Jewish experiences with the amazing MTL community.