Rabbi Yehoshua Weber

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It is a story about a desk.

It is a story about life.

That desk had been crafted by one of England’s greatest woodworkers. It had beautiful drawers, the finest veneer and little gargoyles at its edges.

It had been displayed at an exhibition, where a wealthy London businessmen bought it for thousands of pounds.

Shortly after that purchase, that businessmen’s fortunes began to turn. One bad investment led to another until the vultures of repossession descended on that businessman’s assets. All those asserts – including that fabled desk – were carted off to the repossessor’s warehouse.

That desk sat in that warehouse of broken dreams where time and neglect covered it in layers of grime.

That grime made that desk look like trash so it was put out for the next day’s garbage pickup.

A passing shoemaker saw this desk in the garbage and realized that he could make use of it. That shoemaker took the desk home where the desk’s drawers housed shoemaker’s tools and its gargoyles displayed shoelaces.

Sometime later, that desk’s craftsman entered that shoemaker’s store where he noticed the desk. He recognized the drawers and the gargoyles and realized that this was the desk that he had lovingly crafted.

That craftsman bought that neglected desk from the shoemaker, brought it home and put time and effort into bringing that desk back to its original grandeur.

It is a story about a desk.

It is a story about life.

And, specific to this article, it is a story about daveing.

Like that desk, our davening is beautiful. And like the beauty of that desk, the beauty of our davening can be obscured. It is not grime that obscures our davening’s beauty but the “unexciting” habituation of saying the same tefillos, day after day and week after week (Parables of the Chafetz Chaim).

Such inspiration-dulling habituation is seen in many other areas as well. Look, for example, at how we view natural wonders and the miracles of the ecosystem, our bodies and the survival of our people.

Natural wonders – like the Swiss Alps – are inspiring but people who see the Alps on a daily basis aren’t usually inspired by their beauty.

Our ecosystem, our bodies and the survival of our people are all miracles. Those miracles, though, don’t feel miraculous because of habituation.

The habituation that dulls the capacity of wonders and miracles to inspire also dulls the capacities of holy items and holy places. Indeed, we are cautioned: “regular exposure to holy items causes people to lose their ability to draw inspiration from those holy items.”[1]

We need to counter such spirituality-deadening habituation. And it is that need that explains an exhortation specific our daily tamid sacrifice.

That exhortation is that we sacrifice that tamid “the way it was brought on Har Sinai.”[2] By no other sacrifice – other than this daily tamid sacrifice – are we exhorted that it be brought “the way it was brought on Har Sinai.”[3]

Why this unusual requirement – only by this sacrifice?

Perhaps because it is hard to feel inspired by a sacrifice that we bring each and every day.

We, therefore, put extra effort into trying to infuse this sacrifice with the enthusiasm that accompanied this sacrifice’s debut on Har Sinai.

Such concerns may explain a possuk in the Le-Dovid tefilla that we say during the month of Elul. In that possuk, we ask Hashem “to dwell in Hashem’s house… and to visit his sanctuary.”[4]

Our initial request, to dwell in Hashem’s house seems so correct and so uplifting. We then temper that request by suggesting that we should only “visit Hashem’s sanctuary.” Why are we tempering that uplifting initial request? Why not “dwell in Hashem’s house?”

That tempering may be motivated by concerns that habitual “dwelling” will make Hashem’s house less inspiring. We, therefore, daven that we maintain the inspiration of someone who is just visiting the sanctuary.”[5]

Such inspiration-dulling habituation affects our shuls even more than it affects our beis hamikdash. So many of us are cavalier about shul sanctity – partly because spending mornings, afternoons and evenings in shul obscures shul sanctity behind layers of habituation.

We must counter that habituation by, once again, being “first time visitors” in our shuls. And what better time than Rosh Hashana, the time of new beginnings, to create such feelings of first-time visitation? What better time than Rosh Hashana to uncover the beauty that lies beneath habituation?

We should dwell in Hashem’s house.

We should also remember that we are just visiting that house.

Rabbi Weber is rav and founder of Ohr Tzvi Montebello-Monsey. He gives local and zoom shiurim, is a rav to the young men and women at Yeshivas Kochvei Ohr and Ateres Bais Yaakov and is Rabbi Emeritus of Toronto’s Clanton Park Synagogue. Please visit his website, ohrtzvi.org, to sign up for his weekly email message or for information on his live or zoom shiurim.

[1] Moreh Nevuchim, 3:47

[2] Bamidbar, 28:7

[3] Bamidbar, 28:7

[4] Tehillim 27:4

[5] Higyonei Halacha 2, page 11