| Concentric Circle |


Already by Birchos haShachar I’ve remembered eight urgent things to do


ow you start is how you tend to continue.

“If they’re late on the first interview they’ll be late the whole way through” a boss warns.

“On our first date I lost my keys” a friend shares. “Since then I’ve lost at least twenty sets.”

“You shall not go out to war” for the shanah rishonah. The Torah teaches that we need that first year to concentrate on our marriage the family’s foundation from which all blessings flow.

And how admirable to help a young husband concentrate on Torah study for the first year of marriage to make that foundation infinitely more blessed.

If I start the day by concentrating on davening — blessings flow.

It’s hard. Already by Birchos haShachar I’ve remembered eight urgent things to do. I have to rein myself in by telling myself “Hashem will help you do it infinitely better — after davening.”

How many times have I not listened to that truth and decided “Before I get to Baruch She’amar when I won’t be able to talk I’ll call the doctor/lawyer/office and just take care of that ‘one’ thing before I forget/it’s too late.”

If I do make that call invariably the line’s busy or the person isn’t there yet.

It’s hard. But it’s so worth starting off on the right foot.

Once before davening I had to go get a very important paper from the doctor’s office. Take care of it right away! A voice urged. So many obstacles can turn up if you don’t!

Perfectly rational.

Run now — daven later the voice prodded.

I battled resisted.

Run now — and daven there it offered as a compromise. For sure you’ll have waiting time!

“That’s not always true” I protested.

Then take the bus instead of a taxi. The bus ride is forty minutes. Daven on the bus — and save money too!

Good argument. Really serious points.

“But I can’t always concentrate on the bus. And how many times has a lady I haven’t seen in twenty years sat across from me and I had to shmooze?”

So I tell myself “Just say Brochos and then rethink what to do.”

Already by the third brochah my head’s in better order. I continue davening and remember a few more things I need to take care of at the doctor’s.

More time saved.

I finish davening leaving only parshas haman for if there’s waiting time.

There is. A few people are waiting. I sit down by the entrance to daven.

A man of about ninety shuffles out of the doctor’s office. He has a silver cane no head covering. He heads towards the entrance sees me. He stops. “Could you say Tehillim for me?” he asks tearfully yet at the same time with a certain simchah in his eyes.

I look up surprised. “Of course!”

“I don’t look like I understand. … but I understand. I went through the Holocaust. Say Tehillim for me,” he repeats.

I ask his name so I can daven for him.

“Asher” he says and shuffles off pushing with all his might on the glass door.

I continue davening.

To my left are a strange pair: a Korean woman and a long-haired Israeli of about thirty. They’ve been watching the whole scene.

I’ve been concentrating on davening for the man to have only long peyos left by the end of this year.

A woman in slacks was also watching. “What does ‘Asher’ mean?” I ask her. “After that man told me his name I’ve noticed that the section I’ve been davening has the word ‘asher’ about fifteen times!”

The long-haired man says “It means ‘that.’”

“Why would someone name their child ‘That?!’” I ask.

“It doesn’t only mean ‘that’” the woman in slacks explains. “It can also mean wealth and happiness.”

A religious man on the other side of the room suddenly gets up and walks towards the long-haired man. “This is my chiddush” he tells him warmly. “You see this?” He points in the siddur to the brochah of “zokeif kfufim – Who straightens those who are bent.”

“You see the letters in ‘zokeif’?”

The Israeli’s concentrating. He nods his full head of hair.

“They’re all straight letters right? Now you see the word ‘kfufim’?” He points. “All the letters are bent!”

He leaves a space for the man to concentrate then recites the brochah out loud without Hashem’s Name.

I say a booming Amen in my heart.

A minute or two later a neighbor walks in to pick up something. “Do you need a ride?” she asks.

How many times do we or our children dash off in the morning dizzy because we went to bed too late got up too late? The day’s a mess.

A wise person told me many times: “‘Vayehi erev vayehi boker … It was evening it was morning … ’ The new day starts the night before!”

Beginnings are so vital. They’re the concentrate that slowly streams out over the course of the day the year a lifetime.

Let’s concentrate and daven: that Hashem will prepare for us this year a good sweet healthy rich concentrate.


(Originally Featured in

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