March 15, 2021

Pesachim 114

As part of the Gemara’s explanation (Pesachim 114a) for the position of Beit Hillel (see Mishna Pesachim 10:2) that text of the Kiddush which we recite on Seder night should precede the blessing of the festival with the blessing on the wine, we are told that this is due to the principle of תדיר ושאינו תדיר – meaning that when we have two mitzvot, with one being a more frequently practiced mitzvah than the other, then תדיר קודם – the more frequent mitzvah takes precedence.
Significantly, this principle that ‘the more frequent… takes precedence’ is mentioned in numerous places in the Talmud, and it is the basis for performing mitzvot in a particular order for a broad range of Jewish practices. For example, whenever I put on my tallit and tefillin, I put the tallit on first because it is a more frequent mitzvah (that I perform 7 days a week and on Chagim), versus the mitzvah of tefillah (which I perform 6 days a week and not on Chagim).
However, beyond its utility in determining the order of the performance of certain mitzvot, ever since I first encountered this Talmudic principle of ‘the more frequent… takes precedence’, I have been deeply moved by its sentiments – and this is because I believe that it communicates a deep lesson to us all about the concept of loyalty. Simply put, in an age when we are often most distracted by the sparkling new, the principle of ‘the more frequent… takes precedence’ teaches us that we should prioritise, and show respect and loyalty to, the most frequent and thus the least new in our life.
To use but one example, a fleeting friend can come into your life and place demands on your time which compromise the quality time that you give to your family. In that moment you might tell yourself that this friendship is special, and that you can ‘always’ spend time with family. Yet, in more cases than not, many people will regret overlooking those who were their תדיר – their frequent – over the שאינו תדיר – the fleeting friendship.
Unfortunately, all of us are too often drawn by the new and the rare, and we forget to value the frequent and the present. Still, when that frequent and present becomes neither frequent or present, we quickly come to realise that perhaps we did not value what was – for such a period of time – so close to hand.
In terms of Covid, the past year has not made me miss the rare – the שאינו תדיר – the special days out. Of course, they would be nice, and I look forward to enjoying them. Still, what Covid has made me miss is the normal – the things that, until last year, were the תדיר – the frequent.
As of now, things are not quite back to normal. Still, what I do hope is that we continue to value and appreciate what were the תדיר’s in our lives – the hugs of relatives, and the meals with friends – which until this year may have been frequent, but which this year – in their absence – has taught us to value even more.
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