Life in the Regular


My korban, My bread for My fire, My sweet savor, you shall observe to offer Me in its appointed time… two [offerings] each day, a regular offering…

Numbers 28:2-3

The human being is attracted to the unusual. One might argue that it is the routine things in life – the regular intake and expulsion of breath, our daily meals, our home life, our jobs – that are most crucial to our existence, while the “special” things are of lesser import. One might so argue – but to little avail. Our nature dictates that the occassonality of an event makes it “an occasion,” while an event’s regular occurrence drains it of interest and significance.

Hence the Torah delegates various aspects of our relationship with G-d to moadim, or “appointed times.” We are enjoined to sustain a perpetual awareness of the Creator,[7] yet one day a week is designated as the particular time in which “to remember … that the world has a Creator”[8] and to “establish in our hearts the belief in the creation of the world by G-d in six days.”[9] We are commanded to “Remember the day that you went out of Egypt, all the days of your life,”[10] yet the once-a-year festival of Passover is appointed as the occasion to dwell upon and internalize the gift of freedom. And so it is with the other moadim of the Jewish calendar: if these are to be “special” days whose message and import makes a lasting impression upon our souls, they must be occasional days, departures from the routine of our lives.

Our sages go so far as to say: “One who recites Hallel every day, commits blasphemy.”[11] Hallel is a prayer of praise and thanks to G-d for the miracles He performs for us, which is recited on festivals and other designated days. But are we not enjoined to thank G-d “for the miracles You perform for us every day”[12]? Why reserve Hallel for the days which commemorate the Exodus from Egypt or the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days? Is not every heartbeat no less a miracle, and no less evocative of recognition and gratitude?

But to recite Hallel every day is akin to not reciting it at all. Certainly, our “routine” lives must be imbued with an awareness of our indebtedness to our Creator – to this end the Jew prays three times a day, morning, afternoon and evening. The entire point of Hallel is that, in addition to our daily prayers, we devote certain occasions to a “special” appreciation of G-d’s miracles – a specialty which would inevitably be diluted if the recitation of Hallel were to be made a daily routine.

Beyond Nature

In this and numerous other ways, the Torah tells us to employ our inborn characteristics and inclinations in the quest for a holier and more G-dly life. But the Torah also calls for more. G-d desires more from us than the optimal exploitation of human nature – He desires that we also transcend our natural selves in our relationship with Him.

The Torah provides us with “routines” (such as the daily prayers) designed to make our relationship with G-d an integral part of our daily lives, as well as “appointed times” to lend it prominence and distinction. At the same time, however, it also urges us to transcend these categorizations, to impart a sense of specialty and occasion also to the “regular” rhythms of life.

This is reflected in the manner in which the Torah introduces the laws of the daily korbanot (animal and meal offerings) brought in the Holy Temple. The communal korbanot fall into two general categories: the “regular” offerings (temidim) brought each day; and the “additional” offerings (mussafim) brought on special occasions – Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, the festivals, etc. The same “regular offerings” were brought each day; the “additional offerings” varied in accordance with the occasion, reflecting the nature and characteristics of their appointed times.

As a rule, the Torah uses the term moed (“appointed time”) to refer to those special days of the calendar imbued by the Creator of time with unique spiritual resources and potentials (the tranquility of Shabbat, the freedom of Passover, the joy of Sukkot, etc.).[13] However, in introducing the laws of the daily offerings, the Torah states: “My korban, My fire-offering, My sweet savor, you shall observe to offer Me in its appointed time.”[14] Rashi, in his commentary to this verse, notes this unusual application of the term moed, and remarks: “The ‘appointed time’ of the perpetual offerings is every day.”

The korbanot, representing man’s endeavor to refine and elevate his natural self and bring himself close to G-d, constitute one of the “three pillars” of creation[15] (today, lacking a Holy Temple, prayer fills the role of the korbanot). In this context, the Torah is alluding to the need to go beyond the habits and instincts of the natural self in our relationship with G-d. Our nature dictates that the “occasions” in our lives are touched with a special vitality and enthusiasm, and we exploit this trait in our seasonal celebrations of the various aspects of our relationship with G-d; but we should also endeavor to make “every day an appointed time” – to evoke in ourselves a sense of wonder and specialty in the most routine aspects of our daily existence.

Indeed, the very concept of “monotony” and “ordinariness” is an illusion resulting from our inability to see beyond the limitations of human nature. In truth, distinction is not a factor of a thing’s difference from other things, but an inherent quality of the thing itself. In truth, every moment of life is a distinct creation of G-d, embodying a unique, special and indispensable potential which cannot be duplicated by any other moment.

Based on the Rebbe’s talks on Shabbat Pinchas 5744 (1984) and on other occasions[16]

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber

[7] Knowledge of G-d is one of the six “perpetual commandments” binding upon the Jew at all times (Foreword (“Iggeret”) to Sefer HaChinuch).

[8] Nachmanides on Exodus 20:8.

[9] Sefer HaChinuch, Positive Commandment 31.

[10] Deuteronomy 16:3.

[11] Talmud, Shabbat 118b.

[12] From the thrice-daily Amidah prayer.

[13] See Appointments in Time, WIR, vol. IX, no. 33.

[14] Numbers 28:2.

[15] Ethics of the Fathers 1:2. See Kuzari II:26; Siddur Im D’ach, p. 33b-c.

[16] Likkutei Sichot, vol. XXVIII, p.190, et al.


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