Every morning for the past few weeks, each of us in my house creates a schedule for our day. Certain things are locked in, such as Zoom classes, walking the dog, and eating lunch. Other activities are up to the individual: when will we exercise? What are we doing to occupy our minds that does not involve a screen? Making these schedules has been very helpful for structuring our days and for our mental health.
We live in times of great chaos, of many, many questions without answers. One thing we can control is how we react to that chaos; we can impose a degree of order on it. We’re used to doing this kind of thing: the nights (two, in the Diaspora!) that loom large for us next week are all about order. We even call each of them “the evening of the order” — in Hebrew, leyl ha-Seder. The Rabbis understood that the idea of conveying the importance of being a people chosen by God, of being redeemed from slavery, and of receiving the Torah could be an overwhelming agenda. They therefore put a very careful order together — a seder — through which we teach these fundamental principles to our children and ourselves. Without this order, imagine how chaotic a Seder could become (and we’ve all been to some real doozies, haven’t we?)
We are used to the imposing of order. It doesn’t just happen on Pesach. Each day, instead of simply pouring out our hearts in thanks, praise and requests to God, we follow a prescribed order of tefilot. What do we call the book from which those prayers come? A “book of order” — a siddur. If we did not have this book with its prayers in this order, we might accidentally leave something out.
This week’s parasha of Tzav ends with a description of the carefully staged ritual that formally opened the mishkan. Aharon and his sons were lined up in front of the people, washed, dressed in all their kohen regalia, then anointed with oil. A special order of korbanot followed. Aharon and his sons, the Torah is careful to tell us, did just as Moshe asked. Rashi adds that this is to their credit – lehagid shevachan shelo hitu yamin u-smol, “they did not deviate one bit” from what they were told to do. They carefully followed the order of events Moshe gave them.
We cannot control the world and its chaos, but we can control our reaction to it. We can control how we break up our days, which in turn helps us control our emotional and spiritual state. A very wise friend of mine this week told me that “fear is a choice.” Both the Seder and the siddur give us models of how to control what we choose. May we all choose well and find an order that works for each of us.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Kasher ve-Sameach