toothbrush motivation

Friday, 22 July, 2022 - 3:24 am

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

How would you feel if someone reacted to your challenging situation by telling you ‘keep plodding forward!!’

Initially I was a little disappointed to receive that blessing. Plodding forward? Plodding means moving along slowly. What kind of a blessing is that? To move along slowly?

Running, Jumping, Soaring, now that would be a blessing.

But, seeing that it was my very own brother that blessed me in this way, I knew that he had a deeper intention.

Google brings up the following for plodding: To move, progress, or develop at a slow but constant and deliberate pace.

Move. Progress. Constant. This is what he meant by plodding. In this context, my brother words ‘hit the spot’. As this was a theme I have been thinking about the entire week.

This weeks Parsha gives the instruction for the daily sacrifice in the Bet Hamikdash. One lamb in the morning. One lamb in the afternoon. Day in and day out. The same daily ritual has to be followed on a simple dreary Wednesday or on the holiest day of Yom Kippur (when multiple other sacrifices were also offered). The daily sacrifice was brought. ‘Rain or shine’.

During the lead up to the destruction of the Second Temple, this daily sacrifice was discontinued due to a siege that didn’t allow for lambs to be available in Jerusalem.

One of the reasons for fasting on the the 17th day of Tammuz, is that on that date, the daily constant sacrifice was interrupted.

(The Sages continued the tradition of ‘one in the morning’ and ‘one in the afternoon’ by instituting the morning prayers and the afternoon prayers. Shacharit and Mincha. Watch 'moment of wisdom' above to learn about Maariv the third daily (evening) prayer).

Things that are repeated daily can be viewed by some as ‘boring’. However, that would be overlooking the gift of that routine brings. For there is something very special about the constancy and consistency of never-changing repeated rituals.

Let us think about the patterns of behavior in everyday life. There are some activities we perform only when we are in a good mood. For example, when we feel buoyant, we like to be social and host guests for a meal. When we feel down-in-the-dumps we isolate ourselves preferring privacy.

Then there are things that we do regardless of what mood we are in.

Like brushing teeth or personal hygiene in general. Or a morning coffee which for many, is a daily ritual rarely to be missed. Checking for messages on email or other communication forms is for many people a consistent activity done daily.

The ‘regular’ daily things are sometimes boring. Monotonous. Even irritating at times. (Ask kids about brushing teeth. They will tell you how irksome it is).

But these habits are placeholders in our lives that keep us grounded and anchored.

When one is low-energy or in a bad mood, one may not be motivated to do exciting things. There is even a danger that a person may fall into a vortex of self-defeating behavior. Like staying in bed with your head under the covers.

The rituals that are embedded into the day will often be the savior. A person may not be in the mood to get out of bed, but the habit of checking the email may get him out of bed (hint hint: don’t take your phone to bed). Once out of bed he will muster up the strength to start his day. One may be too lethargic to go to work. The daily coffee may provide the perky spark needed to get one out of home and off to work.

For people in ‘recovery’ from addiction, setting a schedule for a phone call with their mentor is a powerful tool for ensuring that they don’t fall back into self-destructive behavior. If they get into the habit of calling their mentor, then even if they have begun to fall, they will be caught early enough.

It’s the same way with our connection to G-d via doing His mitzvahs.

One may not always wake up feeling connected to G-d like they do on Pesach or Yom Kippur. Sometimes one even feels downright disinterested in making the effort to connect to G-d.

The daily rituals that we embed into our schedule, Modeh Ani for example, laying Tefilin, saying the Shema, putting a coin into a Tzedaka box and other similar things, serve as a ‘placeholder’ and catalyst for getting ‘over the hump’ of indifference. Often all it takes, is saying ‘Thank You Hashem’ with ‘kavana’ - ‘meaningful intention’ and the energy of the connection with G-d comes rushing back into our life.

This is why the instruction on the daily sacrifice is so central to the Torah. Click here for more on this.

It's great to feel bouncy. If you are mostly a positive energy person you are blessed. But one cannot just rely on natural buoyant energy to be the only source of motivation.

Its critical to first and foremost have the consistency of ‘plodding along’.

Because if you keep taking one step after the other, you will get ‘there’ eventually.

When the consistent and daily sacrifice was discontinued, this is a reason to be sad and worried. It is one of the causes of our fast day.

(In the parallel of daily life, if one is not keeping up with the daily routine chores like taking care of their personal hygiene, this is a warning sign. If it continues for a while they may need professional help).

When you consistently ‘plod along’ you will find that G-d will bless you with special energetic moments as well. Moments of jumping and dancing.

Just as it was with the sacrifices. Besides for the daily unchanging sacrifices, there were additional much more elaborate sacrifices. For Shabbat and Chagim there were multiple special offerings. There were sacrifices for thanksgiving after lifecycle events like birth. When something extraordinary happened like being saved from a life-threatening situation there was an ‘extra-curricular’ sacrifice.

But at all times and on every day, there was the constant and consistent daily offering. One in the morning. One in the afternoon.

There is something else very special about dedicatedly sticking to G-d’s routine rituals. By faithfully maintaining the ‘boring’ and repetitious schedule just because G-d said so, one proclaims the strongest and deepest form of commitment.

Doing the exciting stuff is easy. There are many clients for that work. The unassuming but critical ongoing groundwork, which some see as drudgery, this is where true commitment becomes expressed.

(I would like to take this moment to give a shout out to all those ‘unsung heroes’ who do so much for their loved ones and friends on a consistent basis. They work tirelessly, yet often they are not properly recognized or thanked.

The following joke sums it up:

A man came home from work and found his three children outside, still in their pajamas, playing in the mud, with empty food boxes and wrappers strewn all around the front yard.

He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and more piles of clothes, looking for his wife. He was worried she might be ill, or that something serious had happened.

He found his wife still curled up in the bed in her pajamas, reading a novel. She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went.

He looked at her bewildered and asked, “What happened here today?”

She again smiled and answered, “You know every day when you come home from work and you ask me what in the world I do all day?”

“Yes,” was his incredulous reply.

She answered, “Well, today I didn’t do it.”

Take this as a reminder to thank those in your life who do so much for you, with so little fanfare).

Thank you brother for wishing me success in ‘plodding along’. I know what you meant. You conveyed to me the great blessing that only comes from investment of time, energy and effort. You reminded and encouraged me to keep up the consistent effort to do the right thing. Because as we both know, that is the ‘long but short’ way to success.

May we all be blessed that our determined and consistent efforts be crowned with success.

And may the blessing extend to the extraordinary. May Hashem give us the ability to run, jump and even soar higher and higher.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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