June 19, 2020

Shabbat 9


Today’s daf (Shabbat 9b) begins with a Mishna (Chapter 1 Mishna 2) which brings us back to the core theme of the first Chapter of Massechet Shabbat, ie. the actions that we may or may not do on Erev Shabbat.

However, even prior to getting to Erev Shabbat-specific actions, this particular Mishna lists certain actions that should not be done just prior to the time for Mincha which thereby apply not only on Erev Shabbat but also throughout the week as well. And why should these actions be avoided just prior to the time for Mincha? Out of concern that by getting involved in these actions we will become distracted and lose the window in time to pray Mincha at its correct time.

In terms of the list, it includes actions such as starting a meal, bathing, involving ourselves in a Torah tribunal, having a haircut and visiting a tannery (or any other place where one can get easily distracted). However, while these specific actions were decreed by our Sages, each person should certainly reflect on their own behaviour and if they think that they are easily distracted by a particular activity, they should avoid initiating such an activity until they have prayed.

However, this principle is not even limited to Mincha. All too often – and this is all the moreso nowadays where so many of our schedules have been disrupted – a person can plan to start the day with prayer, but things then (seemingly) get in their way and they only remember that they’ve forgotten about prayer much later in the day.

Given this, I’d like to share a lovely (anonymous) poem that has held pride of place in our home for many years which I hope speaks to you as much as it speaks to me:

I got up early one morning
and rushed right into the day;
I had so much to accomplish
that I didn’t have time to pray.
Problems just tumbled about me,
and heavier came each task.
“Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered.
He answered, “You didn’t ask.”
I wanted to see joy and beauty,
but the day toiled on, gray and bleak;
I wondered why God didn’t show me.
He said, “But you didn’t seek.”
I tried to come into God’s presence;
I used all my keys at the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
“My child, you didn’t knock.”
I woke up early this morning,
and paused before entering the day;
I had so much to accomplish
that I had to take time to pray.

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