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Preparation Makes Perfect

Faigy Peritzman

The more we prepare, the more we can receive kedushah

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

I

 

“I

n the third month of the Children of Israel’s departure from Egypt, on this day they arrived in the desert of Sinai. They journeyed from Refidim, and they arrived in the desert of Sinai…” (Shemos 19:1-2)

 

The Mechilta asks: Why does the pasuk repeat that they arrived at Midbar Sinai?

It’s drawing a parallel: Just as their arrival at Midbar Sinai was marked by complete repentance, so too their travels from Refidim were also marked by complete repentance. They had already begun preparing for their arrival at Midbar Sinai as soon as they left Refidim. We learn from here that in matters of kedushah, the more a person prepares, the more he’s able to receive kedushah. (Netziv, Ha’amek Davar)

Procrastination.

The word stood out in the neat handwriting of my fifth-grade teacher. I loved new vocabulary words, and this one seemed tantalizing, with its many syllables.

Procrastination: to put off intentionally and habitually.

Ouch. I may only have been in fifth grade, but I knew my weak points. This word was clearly not going to be pushed off easily.

Fast-forward a few decades and procrastination is practically my watchword. I transmitted this trait to my children, who’ve incorporated it into their daily schedules.

Take mornings, for example. I’m not a morning person at best. Which makes most mornings the worst.

I need you to sign my trip form! Who stole my shoe? I have no socks that I like.

I run from one task to the next, spinning and sprinting and spiriting each child out the door, more or less intact. Then I drag myself into the kitchen for a much-needed coffee. As I survey the mess of cornflakes, sandwich crusts, and milk puddles, I make a solid resolution. Tonight, we’re implementing a revolution! Tonight, we’re going to prepare for tomorrow! Tonight, my life is going to change!

But when nighttime rolls around, I’m more than willing to procrastinate any changes until tomorrow.

The Gemara (Bava Metzia 85b) discusses Rabi Chiya, who wanted to make sure Torah was not forgotten among Klal Yisrael. Therefore, he accepted upon himself the mission to teach Torah to Jewish children. To this end, he cultivated flax. After reaping the flax, he soaked it in water, dried it, separated the fibers and spun them into strings, which he used to knit nets to trap deer. He gave the deer meat to poor people, then took the hides and worked them into parchment, on which he wrote Chamishah Chumshei Torah.

Once he had enough copies of the Chumash, he traveled throughout the cities of Eretz Yisrael, teaching little children Torah.

Last Thursday, three of my boys had their annual, all-day winter tiyul. They needed a full day’s meals, water, change of clothing, flashlights, compasses, and of course, treats. By Tuesday I noticed a change in the air. The boys were busy with their knapsacks, neatly folding spare socks and shirts, and had filled their water bottles and made their sandwiches a full 24 hours in advance.

Major epiphany: Excitement overrides inborn tendencies.

If Rabi Chiya’s purpose was to teach the children Torah, why didn’t he purchase parchment from the market and write Chumash on that? Why did he work so hard and devote so much time to preparations that seem superfluous?

Rabi Chiya wanted to infuse kedushah into the parchments to enhance their potential to influence the children. Therefore he devoted all his preparations l’sheim kedushah from the very beginning, planting the flax, until the actual teaching of Torah. Each action performed for the purpose of teaching Torah was done with deep kavanah and kedushah, and that influenced the final product.

Thursday afternoon, my house was blessedly silent. The boys were all returning late, so I settled on the couch, looking forward to some quiet time. I picked up a book. That’s when my conscience started niggling. When I turned the page, it began nudging. Soon it was working its way into a full-blown nag. I put the book down.

Friday would be a very short day. Every winter Friday I run ragged, ranting, raving, and reviewing my promise that next week I’ll start Shabbos prep on Thursday. But I never had. Until that moment.

No more procrastinating. I got up and went into the kitchen to make challah.

Major epiphany: The pure pleasure of Shabbos prep overrides procrastination. 

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 627)

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