Right now (although by the time you read this it would have been Sunday afternoon), I should be mired in preparation for a multi- defendant enterprise corruption trial which is scheduled to begin tomorrow morning. Yet the more I try to delve into transcripts of the hundreds of recorded telephone conversations and thousand of documents, the more I am distracted over some perplexing phenomena. Perhaps I am just procrastinating or maybe I’m in denial that the trial will actually start, but it troubles me that the more stressed out I become while attending to my daily mundane pursuits, the more spiritually disconnected I become.
Isn’t this counterintuitive? Shouldn’t it be the exact opposite? Aren’t we at our spiritual zenith during challenging or difficult periods in life? Isn’t that when, more than any other time, we achieve focus and clarity by crying out with fervor and sincerity to connect with Hashem? Why then, when it comes to the daily hustle and bustle, it seems that we’re just “too busy” to daven or learn
? Funny, but we don’t seem to have that problem with kashrus. When was the last time you said to yourself, “Gee, I’m too swamped to eat kosher. I better eat some treif.” I know what you’re thinking. Hey Kirschner, that’s not the same thing. Eating treif would require you to do something when you’re already too busy doing something else. It’s an entirely different matter to omit davening or learning because you’re too busy to stop doing what you’re doing. Somehow though, being armed with this knowledge doesn’t seem to prevent us from repeatedly falling into this abyss. At first glance, the obvious answer is that such is the very cunning work of the yeitzer hora. Fair enough, but simply recognizing that, by itself, doesn’t necessarily mean we will escape its grip. Frankly, if it were that easy, we would have little difficulty overcoming many of our challenges just by understanding that it is the work of the yeitzer hora.
Unlike many things in life, where a lack of clarity precludes us from sifting through the fog of the yeitzer hora, it really shouldn’t be that tough here. If anything, the busier and heavier our daily secular pursuits become, the need to spiritually connect with the Borei Olam becomes clearer. This is true if for no other reason than from a selfish desire to throw up our hands and beg Him to relieve us from our burdens. We seem to have little, if any, difficulty doing it for Shabbos. Why then is it so difficult to take the time out to daven, find a minyan or learn even for a few minutes each day to fulfill the mitzvah of kvias itim – setting aside a fixed time for daily Torah study?
Sure, the yeitzer hora relentlessly attempts to convince us that it is a mitzvah to miss a mincha or a maariv because we need the parnussa to pay yeshiva tuition. He tells us, “Don’t worry, while performing one mitzvah, you’re exempt from performing another mitzvah. It’s okay if you miss your shiur or cancel your chavrusa (learning partner) because you’re very tired, you worked very hard and you need your rest to be fresh for work tomorrow. You have to pay the bills, don’t you? You have to work hard for that promotion which will bring your more money with which to perform more mitzvos.”
It’s all quite perplexing. We can actually feel ourselves becoming disconnected the more we buy into that gibberish. Even if we overcome it and go to minyan or daf yomi, we do so by ruminating over that which still needs to be accomplished. And that’s if we’re awake!
Some years ago, I observed a well-respected rabbi in shul take out his pocket date book and make a few notes (that was before the PDA) after completing his shemonah esrei. After davening, I commented to him that it surprised me to see even rabbis have things pop into their head during davening. He responded, “Of course, that’s the best time for the yeitzer hora to disrupt us.” Then he shared with me a very effective tactic. Speak to Hashem and tell Him your thoughts during the day when you’re in the middle of your mundane pursuits. It doesn’t take much time, you can connect with Hashem in mere moments and best of all, by the time the yeitzer hora figures it out, you’ll be done. That, in turn, will provide the impetus to make minyan, attend shuir and learn with your chavrusa.
Now, if only I can figure out a way to “connect” with the judge tomorrow and beg him to adjourn that trial.
Originally Published on Dec 6, 2006