Hiking on Sunday morning around a random, beautiful lake near Oakland NJ. Many of the red-orange-purple leaves have already fallen, and the trail is often lost under the crinkling sound. I’m walking in a golden-copper forest.
“I got likes!”! Facebook has created a false sense of community and a false sense of self. Many of us have tens, hundreds and even thousands of friends, who “like” what we do. Those whom we don’t like, who don’t like us enough or just because we don’t want to see anymore – we can ignore, block and/ or delete, no explanation or simple politeness is necessary. We’re talking to ourselves, then we wonder how come our own echo is so empty.
Shabbat in Riverdale: On route to a semi-potluck lunch nearby, one of my friends goes to get some salad and two of us, who were walking further behind, are waiting outside the door, locked by a code. Then another person walks by: “Do you need the code to get in?” she asks seeing us there, “here”, she clicks a set of numbers. We live on a moshav at the edge of NYC.
Torah: On Getting Up Early in the Morning (published in this week’s Maharat newsletter)
In the beautiful Lecha Dodi” song, we say the famous line סוף מעשה במחשבה תחילה- namely, that we should be thoughtful in our actions and consider the possible end when we start. In this case, from the very beginning, Hashem knew he’d create Shabbat, the crown of creation. Everything prior to it, was made for it.
That value, that we should do things with thoughtfulness and consideration has entered our life far beyond Lecha Dodi. And it’s not just ours. In Arabic there is a similar idiom: el-ajl min al-shaytan – haste is of the devil.
In this light, Avraham getting up “early in the morning” – twice – in order to do something that results potentially in harming both his sons, seems troublesome:
|יד וַיַּשְׁכֵּם אַבְרָהָם בַּבֹּקֶר וַיִּקַּח-לֶחֶם וְחֵמַת מַיִם וַיִּתֵּן אֶל-הָגָר שָׂם עַל-שִׁכְמָהּ, וְאֶת-הַיֶּלֶד–וַיְשַׁלְּחֶהָ; וַתֵּלֶךְ וַתֵּתַע, בְּמִדְבַּר בְּאֵר שָׁבַע.||14 And Avraham arose up early in the morning, and took bread and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away; and she departed, and strayed in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.|
|Genesis 22: 2:|
|ג וַיַּשְׁכֵּם אַבְרָהָם בַּבֹּקֶר, וַיַּחֲבֹשׁ אֶת-חֲמֹרוֹ, וַיִּקַּח אֶת-שְׁנֵי נְעָרָיו אִתּוֹ, וְאֵת יִצְחָק בְּנוֹ; וַיְבַקַּע, עֲצֵי עֹלָה,
וַיָּקָם וַיֵּלֶךְ, אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר-אָמַר-לוֹ הָאֱלֹהִים.
|3 And Avraham rose early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he cleaved the wood for the burnt-offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.|
Fearing for Avraham’s good reputation, I was glad to find another “vayashkem” – and he rose. In chapter 19:27-28 we read:
|כז וַיַּשְׁכֵּם אַבְרָהָם, בַּבֹּקֶר: אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם–אֲשֶׁר-עָמַד שָׁם, אֶת-פְּנֵי יְהוָה.||27 And Avraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the LORD.|
|כח וַיַּשְׁקֵף, עַל-פְּנֵי סְדֹם וַעֲמֹרָה, וְעַל-כָּל-פְּנֵי, אֶרֶץ הַכִּכָּר;
וַיַּרְא, וְהִנֵּה עָלָה קִיטֹר הָאָרֶץ כְּקִיטֹר הַכִּבְשָׁן.
|28 And he looked out toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the Plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the land went up as the smoke of a furnace.|
In this case, Avraham gets up early in the morning to go to the place where he last spoke with Hashem regarding Sodom and Gamora. After pleading with Hashem to save the cities, he now stands overlooking the region which has been destroyed. There is nothing but smoke as that of a furnace and its chimney, a description that especially in our own era, is even more real and so much worse.
How do these three “early mornings” tie together and teach us, maybe even inspire us?
Avraham traditionally is associated with the quality of chesed, kindness, and with Tefilat Shacharit, the Morning Prayer, exactly because of his notorious rising early. But why is chesed associated with the morning?
When we wake up, we meet God’s in His kindness. Simply – because we are alive. The moment we open our eyes, it means that we were just given a gift: life and the potential of another day when we can partner with Hashem to better the world.
Our tradition is very clear about the idea that waking up is a gift because the first thing we say is mode / moda ani – literally – thankful I am, for even before there is an “I” which is fully present, there is already thankfulness. Saying ‘thank you’ implies that we got a something, something great. Much later, we will be named Jews – Yehudim, from Yehuda, Judah, Jacob’s son, whose name comes from – and teaches – thankfulness. That is the foundation of who we are, and therefore, of each and every one of our days.
On these three occasions when Avraham gets up early, he actually discovers, to his horror, that Someone has tampered with his morning kindness! On those mornings, God’s kindness was not at all obvious. God here was the destroyer, not the giver. A whole region was wiped out. His first born son was out in the desert and the younger one, who should have been the true heir, had to be brought up on the altar.
Avraham here gets up for a “berur” – an inquiry – with God. Things are not as they “should be” and he needs to figure them out, vis-a vis himself, vis-a vis the Divine in his life. These are times when he is called to meet God in the absence of kindness and there, to seek Him out. As Elie Wiesel said, “For a Jew to believe in God is good. For a Jew to protest against God or be angry at God, is still good. But simply to ignore God, that is not good”. For Avraham, settling his relationship with hashem, is the first thing to do in the morning. Especially when it is not there for him, he seeks the pained place to go figure it out. This also might help explain why the binding is considered Avraham’s “nisayon” – test – and not Isaac. It should have Isaac’s, to give up one’s life for Hashem?! But it is Avraham’s (as we learn from Genesis 22:2). It is possibly easier to find the quality of Din and Gevura – judgment and might – in the world, than that of chesed, kindness. Our patriarch leaves us with the message that every morning, no matter what, we need to engage with Hashem, and we need to look for, introduce and share – kindness in the world.
Shabbat Slalom from TLV!