Travel always provides lots of opportunities for practicing the middot—standing in a TSA security line is ideal for developing patience; staying strapped into a narrow seat on a crowded plane is perfect for equanimity; and there are boundless opportunities for humility. On my latest trip I had a chance to learn about the middah of generosity.
An older man is driving down the freeway and his car phone rings. When he answers, he hears his wife's voice urgently warning him, "Herman, I just heard on the news that there's a car going the wrong way on route 290. Please be careful!" "Tell me about it!" says Herman. "It's not just one car. It's hundreds of them!!!"
As it is said, And you shall love Hashem your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. . . .
And with all your might means with all your wealth. Another interpretation: With all your might means with every measure that he measures out for you, thank him much. —m.Berakhot 9:5
I’m laid back, or so I’ve been told. Years ago I gave a message that seemed particularly compelling to me and I thought I delivered with unusual excitement and passion. Afterwards someone came up to me and said, “I really like your teaching; your style is so laid back!” So, the middah of zerizut presents a particular challenge: not just doing the right thing but doing it with zeal.
Most civilizations have been cultures of the eye. Judaism, with its belief in the invisible God who transcends the universe, and its prohibition against visual representations of God, is supremely a civilization of the ear. . . . Hence, the key verb in Judaism is Shema, “listen.” To give dramatic force to the idea that God is heard, not seen, we cover our eyes with our hand as we say these words. (Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in the Koren Siddur)
The Hebrew word for “true”, emet, occurs six times in the concluding portion of the Shema section of shacharit. In fact, it is the first word spoken after the third paragraph of the Shema (Numbers 15). The central placement of the word in the concluding portion of the Shema gives us a glimpse into our sages’ deepest values about our relationship with God. While there is no doubt that truth is embedded in all of the davening, the Shema itself is a very specific kind of statement about God and our relationship with him. The Truth expressed in the words of the Shema must be reiterated so as to embed its message into the mind and heart of the one davening.
On going to bed one says from ’Hear, oh
When he wakes he says: 'My G-d, the soul which You have placed in me is pure. You have fashioned it in me, You did breathe it into me, and You preserve it within me and You will one day take it from me and restore it to me in the time to come. So long as the soul is within me I give thanks unto You, O L-rd, my G-d, and the G-d of my fathers, Sovereign of all worlds, L-rd of all souls. Blessed are You, O L-rd, who restores souls to dead corpses.' When he hears the cock crowing he should say: 'Blessed is He who has given to the cock understanding to distinguish between day and night.' When he opens his eyes he should say: 'Blessed is He who opens the eyes of the blind. When he stretches himself and sits up he should say: Blessed is He who looses the bound.' When he dresses he should say: 'Blessed is He who clothes the naked.' When he draws himself up he should say: 'Blessed is He who raises the bowed.' When he steps on to the ground he should say: 'Blessed is He who spread the earth on the waters.' When he commences to walk he should say: 'Blessed is He who makes firm the steps of man.' When he ties his shoes he should say: 'Blessed is He who has supplied all my wants.' When he fastens his girdle, he should say: 'Blessed is He who girds