Each day we must renew our kesher, our connection with the Divine.

Every day of our lives has to be a new song. We need to renew our dedication to G-d's will every single day- each day is a fresh new avodah, a renewed service.

The shacharis, morning prayer service, is potentially a profoundly beautiful spiritual way to begin the day. If we really make the words in the siddur, the prayer book, an expression of our heart we will hold that perspective as we live our lives- a perspective of kedusha, holiness which will last for many hours to come. This has to be as real for us as it can be.

It is no coincidence that the word yom - day is similar to the word yam - ocean. We start each day 'al sfat hayam' - on the shore of the ocean. Sfat is related to the word safa - lip, and hints at the co'ach hadibur- the power of speech.

The yom is the ocean of the day- it's the reality we face on a daily basis and the 'place' we do our holy work. The vav in 'yom' expresses the connection between above and below, and hints at the dimension of time in this ocean. This daily reality is also called yam metzulot - an ocean of depths. It's sink or swim, friends! That's our choice. We can be pulled down by the yetzer hara, the evil impulse, or we can be masters of the day, with our will and effort and with G-d's help. The ocean can divide for us like yam suf the Red Sea or we can be washed around, out of control like the drowning Egyptians.

According to the Rashba, an important commentator, the initial washing of hands at the beginning of the day is a hacshara- a preparation for our daily avodah- a preparation for service. We're actually saying the blessing because of this hacshara, this preparation. It is so fitting that we wash our hands, the agents of our physical action in this world. It is no coincidence that the great round bowl of water which provided water for the washing of hands and feet in the Templeis also called a yam. When we wash, water flows from a high place to a low place. It seems to me that this indicates the flow of divine wisdom- through us- from the upper world to the lower world, at the same time purifying us and preparing us.

There is a concept of immersion with a sheretz in the hand- immersing with an unclean item in the hand. This invalidates the entire immersion. We finish no more pure than when we started. We're holding onto something, something negative, something which makes us impure. That's important- we're holding onto it, not vice versa, though it may feel that way. We have to drop the sheretz before we can immerse.

Ideally we should drop the sheretz the night before! Each night, before we go to bed, we have a perfect time to deal with anything which might intervene between our dedication to G-d and our hearts. Think of a seed: it needs to break apart in the ground before it can germinate. The Tanya speaks of this need to open the heart by breaking it- by seeing ourselves as utterly lowly... but not for long! Too much of this, and we can get rather depressed. We need to crush ourselves just enough to achieve the desired effect of humility. Then we move on, without delay. We also must forgive others. Those grudges we have against others are serious impediments to our spirituality.

If we're mad at our spouses, neighbours or acquaintances or anyone in our lives, we're holding a sheretz in the hand. I'm serious.

We must forgive them, and by doing so remove the block which prevents us from loving them fully, and thereby attaining peace and achdus, unity, in Israel. This block will also prevent us from connecting to God fully. We can fool ourselves, but we can't fool our deepest soul. At night we must drop our baggage. At night we must become a broken-down seed in the ground. Then we sleep, dormant, just as a seed in the earth in winter. In the morning, with the new light, the seed can germinate and grow quickly into a new tree. Now we sing our new song, grow mightily and produce the best fruit we can so that we may plant a new seed for another day.

Copyright © 2002 Gila Atwood

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