“Hey, what’s up? How ya doin’? How’s life?”
“Nothing major, you know, same old stuff, different day. Can’t wait until summer to get away for a few days.”
Does the above conversation sound familiar? No doubt it does. Whether among co-workers, family, or friends, this jaded-sounding interaction, or some variation of it, is all too common.
How very sad.
In this week’s Torah portion, the Torah sets forth the daily service performed in the Holy Temple, day after day, every day of the year (Shemot 29:38-42). Regarding this service, the Rabbis make an astonishing statement. While some are familiar with the usual answers to the question of which Torah verse encompasses all the ideals set forth in the Torah (“Love your neighbor as yourself,” “Hear O Israel . . . G-d is One,” etc.), one Rabbi astonishingly rejects these in favor of the verse that describes the offering that was repeated in the Temple every single day (29:39).
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, love, and meaning at moments of great excitement, such as holidays and weddings. Saying “I love you” on your wedding day is beautiful but easy; saying it with meaning decades later is what really counts. Meaningful prayer on Yom Kippur is awesome but no less significant is intensely concentrating during an evening prayer when exhausted on a random winter’s eve. True greatness lies in finding meaning, joy, and love in the “same old, same old” routine: the committed interactions with loved ones, co-workers, friends, and G-d Himself.
Immediately upon awakening 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 it still is a unique gift, replete with possibilities and golden opportunities.
We can learn a similar message from the upcoming holiday of Purim. Unique among Jewish holidays, the Purim story does not include any open, apparent 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 laid the groundwork for the miraculous salvation of the Jewish people.
In truth, our lives are filled with miracles no less potent than the Purim story. We say in our daily prayers that 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 the words of the famous song from Fiddler on the Roof, “To life, to life, l’chaim”: l’chaim to the meaningful and 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.