This is the transcript of the video I posted to YouTube during the fast day. I’ve included it here for anyone who either missed the video or found it too difficult to watch.
Thanks for joining me.
I’m recording this video on Thursday, January 5, 2012.
On the Jewish calendar the date is 10 Tevet 5772. This is a fast day.
Why a Fast Day?
So last night I was thinking, “Why is tomorrow a fast day?”
Of course, I thought about the calamities that befell the Jewish people during the month of Tevet.
- 8th of Tevet – the Jewish sages were ordered to translate the Torah into Greek.
- 9th of Tevet -The sages Ezra the Scribe and Nehemiah both died.
- 10th of Tevet – Nebuchadnetzer began the siege of Jerusalem. Of course, the siege was successful and the city and the Beit HaMikdash were eventually destroyed.
But then I thought, “Wait a minute. Those are the events that led our Sages to decree a fast day. But that’s not why I will fast tomorrow.”
What do I mean? I think it is important to make a distinction between why the fast was decreed and why it is still observed.
I am fasting today because the Beit HaMikdash has not been restored.
It Doesn’t Have to be a Fast Day
We read in the book of Zechariah 8:19 “Thus says Hashem, Lord of Hosts, the fast of the 4th (month), the fast of the 5th (month), the fast of the 7th (month), the fast of the 10th (month) will be for the House of Yehuda rejoicing, joy, and holidays. Love truth and peace.”
The 10th month is Tevet, so that’s today’s fast.
So the prophet is telling you that there will come a time when these fast days will be turned around and become days of rejoicing.
But so long as the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem has not been rebuilt, today is a fast day.
The Gemara (Yoma 9b) tells us that the 2nd Beit HaMikdash was destroyed due to sinat chinam – baseless hatred.
Until we can overcome this problem of sinat chinam, the Temple will not be restored.
So, what can I do?
Two Types of Commandments
One way to look at the commandments is to divide them into two categories.
The first category is called bein adam l’Makom – commandments between a person and God. This would include such things as eating kosher food and observing Shabbat.
The second category is called bein adam l’chaveiro – commandments between one person and another – interpersonal relationships.
In general, it is easier to observe the commandments between me and God than to observe the commandments between me and other people. Let’s face it, people don’t always do we want and they can make life messy.
Adorning Every Commandment
There is a popular concept here in Israel known as mehadrin. For example, we just finished celebrating Chanukah. Everybody lights an additional candle night after night. Doing that is what the Gemara calls hamehadrin min hamehadrin (the best of the best).
Let’s look at the word mehadrin.
The root idea in that word is this: ה ד ר
The meaning of that root is crown or adorn.
When I do a commandment in the best possible way, I adorn that mitzvah or commandment.
That’s easy with some commandments. I can spend more money and ensure that I purchase a top quality ritual object for those bein adam l’Makom commandments.
But what about the bein adam l’chaveiro? How do I adorn them?
In other words how do I have a mehadrin relationship with my wife? Or my next door neighbor? Or my customer?
Probably the most basic idea is to treat each person the way you would want to be treated. When you greet someone, smile at them. Speak calmly. When you can, give them a helping hand.
A Plan to Improve
How do you start improving your relationships to make them all mehadrin?
If you are married, then ideally the most important person in your life should be your spouse. That is the person that you should treat the best in the world. And that is the relationship that should be worked on first.
But we know how difficult it can be to make changes in that relationship or with anyone that you are closely related to.
Here’s perhaps a better idea. Let’s say you work with the public. Resolve that for the next 30 days, the first customer that you deal with each day, you will give them mehadrin service. You will smile at them. You will not raise your voice. You will address them by name. You will say “please” and “thank you.”
Just the first customer each day. Just for the next 30 days.
Once you’ve done that and made that a habit, then see where it makes sense to expand your mehadrin service.
Then step-by-step, all of your relationships can become mehadrin.
Thanks for watching.
I’m Rabbi Shlomo Skinner.