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Taking time out

  • 8-Parshat Chaya Sarah
In this week’s Torah portion of Chayei Sara, we read about the mission Avraham gave his servant, Eliezer, to find a wife for Yitzchak (Isaac).
by Rabbi Yossi Baumgarten, Torah Academy Shul | Nov 23, 2016

The Torah tells us that Rivkah’s (Rebeccah’s) first sighting of Yitzchak was when he was praying in the field as she and Eliezer were arriving. Our Sages tell us that Yitzchak instituted mincha - the afternoon prayer, while Avraham instituted shachrit - the morning prayer, and Yaakov (Jacob) instituted ma’ariv - the evening prayer.

Of the three, mincha is most important. It was only during that prayer that Elijah the Prophet was answered. What is it about mincha that makes it special?

Shachrit almost comes easily. When one wakes up each day, it is only natural to want to say thank you to G-d for granting anew the gift of life. Moreover, as the day begins, it only makes sense to collect one’s thoughts, direct them to Hashem and ready ourselves for the challenges of the day ahead.

Ma’ariv, too, is not too difficult a challenge. As the day ends, it is time to stand back and review, and thank G-d for all that we accomplished, and acknowledge areas in need of improvement tomorrow.

But mincha is different. It comes smack in middle of the day. No matter what occupation or business you might be in, you are almost certain to be busy in the afternoon, so deeply involved with making a living, it would be difficult to even think about anything else.

Yet it is precisely then, in middle of our hectic lives, that we “hit pause” on it all to daven mincha, and direct our heart and mind to G-d. That sacrifice is what makes mincha so powerful.

But there is another vital lesson to be learned, one which is particularly pertinent as we enter the holiday season. Just as it is important to take time out for G-d in the middle of our work day, we need to “take G-d with us” on holiday, too.

Just like we can’t get carried away in our daily slog and forget that it is G-d who is truly in control, when we are relaxing and having a good time, we need to remember to take the time to daven. 

When we are packing and preparing for our trips, we need to remember to take our Jewish gear: a menorah and candles/oil for Chanukah; talit and tefilin; Shabbat candles/tea lights, etc.

We need to remember to take along Jewish books and literature, including a Siddur and Chumash. (We won’t be able to access these on our tablets and smartphones on Shabbat.) And, of course, we need to make sure that we have everything in place to maintain our standard of kashrut while on holiday.

Let’s use the holiday season not just as a time to become physically refreshed and rejuvenated, but also as a time for spiritual renewal.  

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