“When the Tzemach Tzeddek was 9 years old, the Alter Rebbe said to him: I received from my teacher [the Maggid of Mezritch] who received from his teacher [the Baal Shem Tov] in the name of his known teacher [i.e. Achiya HaShiloni] that from the second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur, one should say every single day during the day 3 chapters of Tehillim. And on Yom Kippur 36 chapters of Tehillim: 9 before Kol Nidrei, 9 before going to sleep, 9 after Mussaf, 9 after Neilah. And someone who didn’t begin on the second day of Rosh Chodesh should begin on the day that he is currently on and the remainder he should catch up.”
One of the things focused upon in this blog concerns the idea of “living with the times”, a very important teaching regarding how we are to live each day. There is so much Torah to learn and so much to do, that we often don’t know where to begin and what to do when.
Not only is this concept an important one, but it is an essential one. There are many people who make light of various Torah commandments (or even learning) feeling that one can do with them as one wishes when one wishes. Torah is not something that one does as one wishes to, when one likes to do what one wants. Rather it is about doing what must be done when it needs to be done.
Ask yourself the following questions. Think of the answers before reading on:
Is it a Mitzvah to fast?
Is it a Mitzvah to eat?
Is it a Mitzvah to eat Matzah?
It is a Mitzvah to shake the Lulav and Esrog?
Is it a Mitzvah to be happy?
Is it a Mitzvah to blow the Shofar?
Is it a Mitzvah to read the Torah?
Is it a Mitzvah to divorce? (There is a full tractate discussing this Mitzvah!)
Is it a Mitzvah to go to Mikvah (for man or woman)?
Is it a Mitzvah for a man to wear Tefillin?
Is it a Mitzvah to have Mezuzot on all our doorposts?
Is it a sin to eat pork?
The above are merely samples. Did you find yourself answering yes to all – perhaps being a little agitated with the divorce question?!
Let’s look at each in turn:
Did you know that fasting on certain days of the year is a very serious sin?!
Did you know that even though eating for one’s health is a huge Mitzvah, if done on Yom Kippur the punishment is Kares (spiritual excision?!) Eating in this case is probably one of the biggest sins in the entire Torah!
Did you know that while eating Matzah on Pesach is a Mitzvah, eating it on Yom Kippur carries the same punishment as above? In fact eating Matzah on Erev Pesach is forbidden as well – and that can be just minutes before nightfall!
And while having a Seder on Pesach itself may be a great Mitzvah, having the Seder (eating the Matzah and drinking the wine etc.) on any other day of the year may not only be a pure waste of time – for everybody involved, but may bring about the saying of certain blessings in vain!
Did you know that shaking a Lulav and Esrog on Sukkot performs mysteries in the world most of us can never even see with our eyes – although blessing results, whereas shaking these fruits and twigs on any other day of the year may be the cause of another person wishing to “lock us up?!”
Did you know that dancing around in happiness on Tisha Be’Av may well be a sin?!
Did you know that blowing a Shofar on Rosh HaShanah is a Mitzvah, but doing so any other day of the year is not much better than blowing a trumpet?!
Did you know that learning Torah on Tisha Be’Av and on the day before Tisha Be’Av is actually forbidden?!
Did you know that while the Torah commands the Mitzvah of divorce and even has an entire tractate about it, getting divorced is certainly something the Torah is actually against?! Yet… if the partners of a marriage are truly unable to work things out, it can be far better for the couple to divorce?!
Did you know that a single woman should preferably not go to a Mikvah, and that even a man who goes every single day may not go on Tisha Be’Av or Yom Kippur?
Did you know that wearing Tefillin during the day may accomplish wonderful things, whereas wearing them at night is forbidden?!
Did you know that having Kosher Mezuzot on all doors is so important that we repeat this Mitzvah at least twice a day when we read the Shema… yet, it is forbidden to put a Mezuzah on the doorpost of one’s toilet!
Did you know that while eating pork is certainly prohibited… if one’s life is in such danger that one could die without food, and the only food available is a slice of bacon… one could eat it? This is a Mitzvah in order that we can continue to live so that we can continue to do further Mitzvot!
While the Torah is filled with Mitzvahs, each must be done in it’s time! When Mitzvot are done in the correct time, blessing results. When done in the wrong time, not only may blessing not result, but more than this, one may well find oneself committing the worst of all possible sins!
Since the theme of doing everything in its time is a fitting one, it is also fitting that we spend our time involved in Torah learning – learning those things most relevant to the time we find ourselves in.
If so, being that we are now in the period of time of repentance – Teshuva – from the beginning of the month of Elul until Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement, it is most fitting to add in something most relevant to this time period as well.
The Tzemach Tzeddek, quoting the Alter Rebbe, quoting the Maggid, quoting the Baal Shem Tov, quoting his teacher (the teacher of Elijah the prophet!) tells us that during this period we must increase in our Tehillim. And while the custom is to complete the book of Tehillim (Psalms) each month according to the days of the month, during these next 40 days, we are to say just 3 extra Tehillim each day. On Yom Kippur we must recite the remainder as outlined in this teaching.
By the way… did you know that there is even a time for Tehillim to be said? Tehillim are said during the day – not at night (except for those occasions when they are being said specifically for a person in need at that point in time. They (like any other part of the written Torah) are not to be read if one is simply saying them for the sake of reading them in a general manner. Night is a time of judgment, and Psalms elicit mercy. It is not appropriate to mix these two. Night ends officially at the midnight time as defined in Halachah (and not 12:00am every night.) From this point onwards, until nightfall, it is a Mitzvah to say Tehillim any time. Ideally, in fact, saying Tehillim as close as possible to the beginning of the midnight time is the best time!
“Everything has its season, and there is a time for everything under the heaven.” (Ecclesiasties 3:1) – The words of the wisest of all men – King Solomon.
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