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Note to Self

02/25/2021 11:43:08 AM


I used to live on a street in New York City that had angled parking. It was obviously a wider street than most New York cross-streets, and these angled parking spots were hot commodities for those with sub-par parallel parking skills. On snowy days, snow plows would come through and clear the street, pushing a mound of snow behind the line of cars parked outside my apartment. This meant that at the end of the workday when people returned to collect their cars, there was a pile of snow behind their car that they’d have to clear before they could back out of the spot. On many occasions, car owners who didn’t invest in the four-wheel-drive feature would struggle to get their car to find traction to transverse these snow blockades. You would hear the revving of the engines as the cars’ tires slipped on the snow.

At first, I wouldn’t think much of it. After all, New York City is a noisy city and to survive you have to tune out the background noise. But as the minutes dragged on I began to feel sorry for the trapped souls. So, tugging on my boots and jacket, I’d head outside and offer to give a push. The first offer of help wasn’t the test of my patience. It was the third, fourth or even fifth trapped soul that encountered the gamble of whether I still would go out to lend more muscle to them as well.

In parshat Tetzaveh, we read about the articles of clothing that the priests would wear when they presided over the sacrificial rites. We read about the headdress that the High Priest would wear, and how it was inscribed with the words, “Holy to the Lord.” With such a caption, you can imagine that the inscription warns all who encounter the High Priest that he is holy and pure. But the inscription can also be a symbol for the High Priest himself; reminding him to act appropriately and serve diligently. Like the other mitzvah of tallit that reminds the wearer to observe all of God’s commandments, and the mitzvah of tefillin which reminds us to always direct our hearts and heads to the service of God, so too would the headdress be a symbol to remind the High Priest of his role doing God’s will.

What got me to put my boots and coat a third and fourth time were the internal reminders that I’ve made for myself. My kippah, my mezuzah, or any of the other ritual things around my room that remind me of my values and the type of person I strive to be. I’ve always felt that the true tests of character are not the things that I do enthusiastically, but rather the things I do despite not wanting to do them. Thus, these reminders are ways to shake me from my reluctance and keep me on the righteous path I strive to walk. Like the reminder that the High Priest wore, perhaps these items send a message to outside observers as well. However, their main function is for me. To help me remember and live up to the expectations that I know I can achieve. I pray we all have the privilege and opportunity to realize and actualize these very expectations and standards we place on ourselves, and that we surround ourselves with reminders that keep us on such a worthy path.


Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784