Recently I, as well as many other 11th graders all over the United States, received their driver’s licenses. One of the first or, rather, most important, skills in driving is learning how to accelerate or decelerate. Both must be done slowly and constantly; to bring your car to a stop for example, it is far more advisable to keep your foot slightly on the brake until the car comes to a near stop, instead of slamming it to the floor at the last moment. The same is true by a green light. Speed up gradually.
When the Jewish people left the devastated Mitzrayim after the ten great plagues and then experienced the pomp and splendor when receiving the Torah at Har Sinai, their eyes were exploding with awe, and their hearts filled with an overwhelming Emunah in Hashem. But as soon as the miracles concluded and the festivities died down, they commit the tragedy of Cheit HaEigel. Why? Because days after the unparalleled closeness with Hashem at Har Sinai subsided, they found themselves bereft of that connection, lacking an avenue to reaffirm that bond on a constant basis. Therefore, they quickly became unable to relate to Him except in the inappropriate manner of the Eigel.
So to prevent such an occasion in the future, He provided us a more concrete, consistent way to have a relationship: the Mishkan, and at its heart, the Korbanot discussed in this week’s Parashah. Through the Tamid Shel Boker and the Tamid Shel Bein HaArbaim, the daily morning and afternoon offerings, we can maintain that crucial link, day in and day out.
Today we face the same challenge, and though we unfortunately no longer merit to offer Korbanot, Tefillah Kineged Korbanot Tiknum, institutionalized Tefillah was introduced in its stead to accomplish that goal of maintaining a level of stability—three prayers a day. The Mishnah (Kiddushin 1:10) teaches “Kol SheYeshno BeMishnah Mikrah UViDerech Eretz Lo BiMheira Yechateh,” “One who is involved in Tanach, Torah SheBaal Peh, and Derech Eretz will not quickly fall to sin”. Our strength is in our stability. Not to say we should never have higher, holier days—we recognize Yamim Tovim as special events on our calendars—but most important is that we have that medium. The consistency of a daily, 5-minute period of time set aside for Torah study is as essential as that of a heartbeat, no palpitation to lapse lest it result in regrettable consequences.
The events of this past week in our communities, causing widespread and persistent power outages, tremendous damage to property, and, Rachmana LeTzlan, even loss of life, should provide a test case for this integral value. We are affected now, but in a week, a month, will we remember? Will the reverence generated by the wind, rain, fallen trees and surrounding chaos storm through our consciousness tomorrow, or languish in the dustbin of the forgotten past? As Rav Berel Wein likes to say, “The world has a short term memory.” We need to experience these awe-inspiring events and carry them forward, not allow them to taper away until we find ourselves as removed from Hashem as Bnei Yisrael by the Eigel. Let them penetrate and uplift our Tefillot, our post-Korban venue for forging our relationship with Hashem. It is not the big miracles that stick with us; it is the consistency.