How can we prevent this from happening? I can think of two possible solutions. Last week I attended my son’s Chumash seudah, a celebration of five- and six-year old boys as they received their first Chumash. It was the fifth Chumash seudah that we merited to attend in this yeshiva. Over a span of 12 years, five sons sang the same songs and performed the same performance. One might think it would be a boring experience since I knew the lines and songs by heart. Yet, the opposite was true. It was a beautiful, inspirational, emotional experience. Why was this repetitive experience so emotionally intense when I cannot feel the same rush of emotions when engaging in a new relationship with my esrog on the first day of Sukkos?
When this son was born after five beautiful children, despite having been through the experience of becoming a father on five previous occasions, I felt the intense appreciation of the new life Hashem had created. Upon his arrival in this world, all are declared his lifelong plan and graduated him all the way to bar mitzvah, marriage, and even grandchildren–“K’shem she’nichnas l’bris, ken yikanes l’Torah, chupah, u’maasim tovim”–just as this child was brought to bris milah, so too he should become bar mitzvah, marry, and have children of his own. Only seconds after receiving a name, we are mapping out his road plan!
I believe that part of the secret to success is in the events just described. First, capture the feeling of experiencing something special and unique. It is for this reason that we recite the blessing of shehechiyanu upon the birth of a son and at the entry of each Yom Tov, because this time is not just a repetition of past experiences, but this one is special and unique. Just like the experience of each new life, each child’s Chumash seudah is special even if we have already experienced the birth of a child or a Chumash seudah. So, too, should each mitzva and each day be special in its own unique way. The trick is to invoke the special feelings while you are involved the rote and repetitive experiences of everyday. Upon recovery from intestinal problems, a friend related that he said the blessing of asher yatzar with tremendous emotion, thanking his Healer for allowing him to do what was previously a non-meaningful experience. We must attempt to view each experience as special and unique, while we are engaged in it. Many mitzvos have special tefilos to say before we do them in order to remind us of the purpose of the act and their lasting impact upon us.
The second thought is that milestones–or graduations–often don’t signify an end as much as a celebration of beginning a new, more meaningful period. The birth of a baby marks the beginning of a full life, and the standard blessing is in anticipation of the celebration of many more special times together. When a boy receives his Chumash and proudly recites the first pasuk, he begins to wade into the vast sea of Torah, and we pray that he flourishes in his learning and grows to become a great talmid chochom. Similarly, when we do a mitzvah, we should plan how the future could be different based upon the thoughts gained from the present act.
We must experience the present with thought to live tomorrow with meaning. Before making a bracha or doing a mitzvah, we are supposed to stop for a moment to contemplate the enormity of what we are about to do and how that act, no matter how commonplace, can bring us closer to Hashem. An act without thought and a future is finite. Actions performed by rote and used as springboards for growth leave us virtually unchanged; acts preformed with meaning and intent result in constant growth, goal-oriented behavior, and the development of inner strength to battle life’s challenges.
Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev once saw a disciple remove his tefillin quickly before running out of shul early. Reb Levi Yitzchok ran after him and asked where he was going. The student replied that it was market day and he had to go earn a living. Reb Levi Yitzchok answered that he knew that one must earn a living… but if he was rushing so quickly without thinking, how did he know if he was going in the correct direction? As many of us celebrate graduations and milestones, we must take the time to think and make sure that we are headed in the right direction. May every day be a graduation to something better and more