Don't Take Things For Granted
Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10 )
As the blissfulness of a young couple's marriage began to dissipate amid aggravation, quarrelsomeness, and disharmony, they valiantly sought out the advice and counsel of various marriage counselors. No one could seemingly right the ship which appeared to be on a crash course for separation and divorce. As multiple counseling sessions failed to yield any headway, one of their rabbinic advisors suggested that, as a last-ditch effort, they take the matter to one of the most senior leaders of the Jewish People, Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg zt"l.
With decades of Torah wisdom, life experience, and a razor-sharp understanding of the human condition, Rav Scheinberg exhausted every angle before he, too, ultimately conceded that perhaps severing the relationship was the only viable exit strategy. However, before deciding the fate of their union, he concluded that they should wait two weeks during which they should engage in self-contemplation and - unexpectedly - watch the couple's wedding on multiple occasions.
Lo and behold, when they reconvened two weeks later, a heretofore undetectable ray of hope began to glimmer from amid the abyss of hopelessness and helplessness. Somehow, that emotional core that remained beyond the reach of skilled marriage counselors was rendered (somewhat) accessible via the videographers' captured moments of the bedeken, the chuppah, the ring, the breaking of the glass, the mazel tovs, and of course, the optimism and enthusiasm that surged when everyone "put hands together...For the very first time...Mr. and Mrs...." Getting back to basics enabled them to refocus and reorient themselves so that the troublesome patterns that had developed could be assessed in a different light.
True, those initial moments of excitement, happiness, and optimism had been eroded by the realities of everyday life; nevertheless, revisiting them in full living color provided the foundation from which to rebuild, repair, and renew.
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"It shall be on Aharon's forehead ... always, for appeasement for them before Hashem." (Exodus, 28:38)
Rashi: "It teaches that he shall touch it while it is on his forehead so that he should not remove his consciousness from it."
One of the greatest challenges associated with Hashem's gracious and gratuitous outpouring of perpetual blessings is the wherewithal not to lose sight of how good things truly are. The increasing number of activities to complete, obligations to discharge, and car-pools to execute - all indicia of a "full" life -invariably divert our attention away from the pure joy of being alive.
Even if we haven't hit the lottery, doesn't the "everyday routine" provide ample opportunity to reflect upon and internalize a genuine and deep-seated outlook of gratitude.
All the doctors we didn't need to see.
All the prescriptions we didn't need filled.
All the drivers that didn't rear-end us.
All the nights we didn't go to sleep hungry.
And we haven't even begun to tally all the bills that got paid, all the food that was consumed, all the weddings we danced at, and all the times we arrived at our destination safe and sound...
Since our mind can easily rattle off dozens and dozens of "everyday" Divine gifts, why are we not brimming with gratitude? Why does our baseline attitude so frequently overlook all these undeserved riches? Why are we not eager to serve Hashem "out of an abundance of everything." Rav Miller zt"l identifies a primary culprit as none other than - habit.
While habit can be advantageous, i.e., when praying with a minyan becomes part and parcel of one's daily routine; or when your tefillin can practically wrap themselves while you're mentally out to lunch (at least until your coffee kicks in), it can (and often does) wreak havoc on our capacity to truly appreciate that which is already good in our lives.
Habit can wreak havoc on our capacity to truly appreciate the abundant goodness which is ever present in our lives.
We, as Jews, occupy a singular place on the world's stage. We are uniquely equipped (and expected) to perceive and express Hashem's wisdom, plan, purpose, might, and kindliness. When cued up properly, those blessings that are so frequently overlooked can amount to a perpetual song of praise and gratitude to Hashem. When we shed the blinders of habit and reawaken ourselves to the innate goodness in our days, a heightened awareness of Hashem's abundant kindness awaits.
1. Ex. 28:47.