“One does not perform mitzvot in bundles.”
If all the Daf Yomi readings were as short as the last few, I might have time to read more fiction. Today’s Daf Yomi discussion continues from the previous day on the interruption of a meal. A group of friends are dining together and leave the table for some purpose – perhaps to check on an early spring garden.
Rabbi Yehuda would allow the group of diners to forgo the prayer over wine when they return to the table only if they left someone behind. Yesterday, that person was someone older who was just too tired to step away with the group or perhaps someone who wanted a moment alone at the table. The majority opinion, which is characterized as lenient, would allow the group that returned to the table to forgo the blessing over wine regardless of whether someone was left behind.
We have been discussing for days a very long meal that traced the passage of day into night. Rabbi Yehuda would require two blessings to be recited when the meal stretches into Shabbat and a clear delineation between the two. We learned previously that he would interrupt the meal by having everything cleared away and a new blessing recited before the table was reset. Rabbi Yosei would let everyone stay seated as one meal merged into another.
Rabbi Yosei’s solution was to allow the meal to continue and when finished, one could recite with two cups of wine first the grace after meals, followed by the kiddush. The voice of the Gemara questions the necessity of setting out two cups and asks why someone could not simply use one cup of wine to say both blessings. We are told that this is because “one does not perform mitzvot in bundles.” In other words, one should not fast track mitzvot and try to conquer them all in one go, because “he gives the impression that they are a burdensome obligation that he wants to complete as fast as possible.”
We all know what it is like to feel overwhelmed with tasks that we must get done. We rush through them while stressed with how much we have to do and without the requisite attention. And inevitably, when I am rushing through tasks, I knock something over or spill something or walk into something and injure myself. And now, in addition to the tasks, I have something to clean or bandage or repair.
Over and over again, we are told in the pages of the Talmud that intention matters. And the sister to intention is attention. To perform tasks quickly and without mindfulness, is to not be in the moment. I often go somewhere else as my mind wanders when I am rushing through tasks and then bang, bump, crack, splash, fizzle – something has shattered.
To say the Kiddush where you are – in synagogue at the end of a service, in a restaurant, at a friend’s house, at your dining room table, in a field during a picnic – is to be fully present. To say each word in Hebrew – Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam – it to connect with the deep Jewish tradition of blessings. I always feel connected when I say the kiddush to the generations of my ancestors who lit candles on shabbat and said those same words each Friday evening. And blessings, no matter where or how they are performed, should never be performed with a sense of burden, but rather with true delight.
In honor of today’s Daf Yomi reading, here is a link to Cantor Azi Schwartz singing Kurt Weill’s Kiddush: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqtRf0z5SCw