Dear B’nai Shalom members, families, and friends:
Having now completed the entire cycle of the “September”-Tishrei holidays, we have the longest “drought” and empty space on our Jewish calendar until the next time we come to a once-a-year holiday celebration. Naturally, we will continue to look forward to Shabbat every week but as for “annual” festivals, we have to wait two months until the 25th of Kislev for the next holiday of Chanukah. We have to wait EVEN LONGER for the next “yom tov,” official holiday mentioned in the Torah: Pesach, almost six full months away!
I hope the chagim (holidays) were as enjoyable, meaningful, and filled with pleasure and family for all of you as they were for Robin and me. I am truly sorry to see the chagim end.
However with this period of time on our Jewish calendar when we do not focus on, or prepare for any upcoming holidays, it is a perfect opportunity for us to turn our attention to mitzvot that can be fulfilled without too much effort for which we are clearly commanded to perform, and expected to make part of our everyday routine and practices.
Reciting brachot (blessings) on all food items that we consume and enjoy is a good place to start. There are only six different blessings covering six categories of food that are relatively easy to remember and to ascertain prior to eating or drinking. Most of us may ALREADY be familiar with the “HaMotzi” blessing for bread and the “Boray Pri HaGafen” for wine and grape juice, leaving only four other blessings with which to familiarize ourselves with the rules about what to say, when to say them, and which blessing to select.
Remembering to say the “Modeh Ani” prayer, (the short, 12-word formula of thanks said upon first opening our eyes when waking in the morning), is a wonderful statement of our desired disposition of gratitude and an important display of thanks for G-d “returning our souls to us” following the night of slumber, NOT keeping our souls with Him, and thus sending us to the “world to come” instead of continued life in THIS world.
For women, making a point of lighting Shabbat candles each week on time in our homes is a marvelous display of our readiness and joy at welcoming the Shabbat “Queen” into our homes as a weekly, welcome guest. Reciting the short, 13-word blessing, ushering in the Shabbat with our hands three times, and covering our eyes — all create a memory to be held precious and a demonstration of our love and joy at welcoming the weekly Shabbat guest once more into our homes.
For men, reciting the Friday night kiddush each week, ALSO as a manner of welcoming the Shabbat Queen into our homes, is a practice that the younger generations will never forget and undoubtedly will hold near and dear in their hearts.
Learning the words and remembering to recite the more-lengthy bracha (blessing) “Asher Yatzar” following our relieving ourselves in the washroom is something that individuals in their 50s and 60s and older will likely NOT take for granted. Recognizing and thanking the Almighty for a healthy, working nutritional, digestive, dispositional system is an important expression of our acknowledging the complexity and gift of the various organs, glands, and apertures that need to work harmoniously and in a prescribed manner to maintain our continued good health.
For men, making the wearing of the Tallit Kattan (the under-the clothing garment often referred to as the “Tzitzit”) as part of our wardrobe would allow us to fulfill a direct, clear, Torah-commanded mitzvah (commandment). The Tallit Kattan can be purchased for a modest amount at any Jewish bookstore and can be acquired in many different styles to match our personal comfort levels.
Reciting the “Shma Yisrael” prayer in the evenings and in the mornings would also be a practice worth including in our daily lives and practices, thus fulfilling another direct, clear, Torah-commanded mitzvah.
If I can be helpful in directing anyone to the correct manner or details in fulfilling these mitzvot, it would be my pleasure.
With Torah blessings always,
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin