Rabbi Yaakov said, one who is walking along the road and is studying [Torah], and then interrupts his studies and says, 'How beautiful is this tree! How beautiful is this plowed field!', the Scripture considers it as if he is liable for his life. -- M. Avot 3:9
This is a somewhat unusual mishna. After all, aren’t we supposed to say berachot over various features of nature? Were not both the Torah and nature given to us? The classical interpretation of this mishna is that we are being told that the most awesome work of God is the Torah itself. Unlike a regular tree of the field, the Torah is an eytz chayyim—a tree of life. It can be argued that this mishna is yet another expression of the sages’ view that Torah learning is the supreme act of Jewish devotion to God. However, I would further argue that there is another lesson being taught to us here as well.
An ancient Indian sage was teaching his disciples the art of archery. He put a wooden bird as the target and asked them to aim at the eye of the bird. The first disciple was asked to describe what he saw. He said, "I see the trees, the branches, the leaves, the sky, the bird and its eye." The sage asked this disciple to wait. Then he asked the second disciple the same question and he replied, "I only see the eye of the bird." The sage said, "Very good, then shoot." The arrow went straight and hit the eye of the bird.
Father in heaven! What is a man without Thee! What is all that he knows, vast accumulation though it be, but a chipped fragment if he does not know Thee! What is all his striving, could it even encompass a world, but a half-finished work if he does not know Thee: Thee the One, who art one thing and who art all! --Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing, Soren Kierkegaard
One of my favorite movies is an Alfred Hitchcock film titled, “The Trouble With Harry.” This film was his only comedy (though humor played a role in some of his other films and his television show). As one might expect, it was a dark comedy. Two of the characters in the film are a small town doctor and a dead man named Harry who is in some ways the main character of the film. This small town doctor encounters Harry in a field a few times throughout the film by tripping over him. It is only during his final encounter that the doctor is actually polite enough to excuse himself. You see, the doctor never realizes he’s tripping over a dead body each and every time because he’s reading a book while walking each and every time! The doctor is concentrating so much on his book that he can’t even notice such a startling feature of his environment, namely, this dead man.
"Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." --Devarim 6:4-9
"And how can you achieve such concentration? By recognizing that everything you do is important to God, and is one vital piece of the larger picture of your life." — Menachem Mendel Schneerson
"Peace can also be reached through concentration upon that which is dearest to the heart." — Patanjali
"Discipline and concentration are a matter of being interested." — Tom Kite
"By practicing concentration the mind can be made stable. A stable mind helps in taking right decisions and achieving the desired result." — Rig Veda
"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’ "— Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Obstacles are things a person sees when he takes his eyes off his goal." — E. Joseph Cossman
"All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas, layin’ in the sun talkin’ ‘bout the things they Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda Done… But all those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas all ran away and hid from One Little Did." — Shel Silverstein
Use these questions to evaluate your day: