In 2008, Michael Phelps won the admiration of the world when he took home eight goldmedals at a single Olympic games. After winning his eighth medal, Phelps said to a reporter,“Records are always made to be broken…anybody can do anything that they set their mind to.” Iremember when I was watching him, I couldn’t help but think about all the practice andpreparation he must have done in order to perform this incredible feat. If he had simply woken upone day and decided to swim in the Olympics, he never would have walked home that day witheight gold medals.
Michael Phelps achieved greatness because he invested the requisite time beforehand. Thesame lesson applies to our everyday lives; in order to be successful, we must plan and prepare forcircumstances appropriately. While financial planners prepare us monetarily for the differentstages of our lives, physicians help us prepare for our physical and health-related challenges. So,too, teachers help us prepare students for their vocation and life after school.Spiritual preparation, like the preparations above, is a very difficult task, and it is one thatis central to the upcoming holiday of
. Many commentators feel that the forty nine daysbetween the servitude in Egypt and the giving of the Torah indicate that our climb out of thedepths of physicality – leaving behind the forty nine levels of Egyptian impurity – must occur asingle rung at a time, day by day.The
begins with an offering of the year’s first barley, but on the concluding day of the
an offering of two loaves of bread made from wheat is given. Barley representsanimal food, while wheat represents a choice grain that has been kneaded and baked into bread,demonstrating the human ability to rise above our animalistic nature and achieve a high spirituallevel.
In fact, the actual date of
never appears in the Torah. It is described only by thedays preceding it:
“You shall count for yourselves seven complete weeks from the morrow of theholiday [
], from the day that you brought the
as a wave offering, until the day after theseventh week shall you count fifty days.” (
23:15). Why doesn’t the Torah make anymention of the fact that the fiftieth day of the Omer is the day Hashem gave
the Torah?Perhaps the answer is that
does not just happen to fall fifty days after
is the culmination of a fifty day preparation process that begins on
. We wanteach day of the
to teach us to make every single day count. We need to think about how wecan become better human beings – how we can prepare ourselves – so that we achieve thespiritual destination that the
has in mind for us.The
expresses a similar idea in his commentary on
: Why, he asks,does the Torah not begin with the
rather than the creation of the world? In response, hewrites that the progression of figures – from Avraham to Yitzchak to Yaakov and so on – are allpresented to teach us how to develop our
Rather than starting with laws, the Torah tells usthat
Derech Eretz Kadma La’Torah –
comes before the Torah. The
is,therefore, a time and a process that leads to the perfection our
before we ultimatelyaccept the Torah.
A publication of
Boys High School
We often struggle to have Kavanah during our Davening, but what does it mean to have Kavanah to begin with? A story told by Rav Twerski about the Tzadik of Sanz gives us some insight on the idea: “Once, when the Tzadik of Sanz was on his way to Shul, he abruptly stopped and returned home. He then promptly set out for Shul again. To his bewildered followers, the Tzadik said, ‘I realized that when I left, I did not have in mind that I was setting out do a Mitzvah, and so, I lacked the proper Kavanah.Therefore, I had to go back and leave for Shul again with the proper Kavanah.’” We’re not expected to return home because we lacked Kavanah; however, especially during these most emotional days for the Jewish people – from Yom Hashoah, the day commemorating six million murdered Jews, to Yom Hazikaron, the day we remember those that have fallen defending Israel, to Yom Ha’atzmaut, a day rejoicing the establishment of a Jewish sovereign nation – we should make an effort to increase our focus and concentration during Tefillah and thank Hashem for all of the wondrous miracles that He has performed and continues to perform for us every day.
The Process of Spiritual Growth
Mr. Joey Small