What Time is Davening?

Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Parshas Bo

Everyone has been asking, “so Rabbi – what time can I daven in the morning? It seems to get light so late! There are a numbers of answers to this question. If you are one of 47% of all Americans and you own a Palm Pilot, within seconds you can acsess the exact moment of Alos HaShachar, the earliest Shma,  the earliest talis, lechatchila, b’dieved, scientifically correct astronomical information at the point of your stylus –

Or you can put your computer back in your pocket and do what the Shulchan Aruch recommends: “When can you begin davening? When you can see your brother…”

“When can you begin davening? When you can see your brother…” There is something magical about these words. How can you turn to G-d when all you can see is the backlit screen of your Palm Pilot? How can you stand before G-d and ask Him to get you through the day when you can’t see the world around you? How can you ask G-d to see you, if you can’t see your brother?

G-d brought a plague of darkness upon the Egyptian people. So what happened?  When the rivers turned into blood – there was nothing to drink. When frogs, locusts and grasshoppers attacked Egypt , there was nothing to eat. What happened when the lights went out in Egypt ? What couldn’t they do?

“There was darkness across all the land of Egypt – and no man saw his brother!” That was the plague. They couldn’t even see their own brothers. A plague worse than hunger and worse than thirst; was the inability to see past ones own needs and thoughts.

We’ve all been there. Someone begins to tell you their opinion or their problem and all systems shut down. When you respond you are talking to the wall.

The laws of Kashrus teach us an important lesson. Everyone asks, when kashering a fork should you use a milchig pot, a fleishig pot, or a treif pot? The answer is that it makes no difference. Being that the fork is “busy” exuding treif – it can’t absorb anything! While exuding it is impossible to absorb! What a lesson – not only forks – but people. When someone is so busy making their point – they go deaf, and they become blind! Communications breakdown. Walls go up between parents and children, between spouses, between friends, between Jews – this was what happened to the Egyptians during the makas choshech. No one could see their brothers.

From time to time all of us get caught up in our own thoughts.  This is natural and very human. The problem begins when we are so caught up in our own thoughts that that they form a brick wall around us we don’t even hear the thoughts of our brother.

Someone recently told me that they went to speak to their childs principle. They described it as one of the most uncomfortable meetings they had ever sat in. He said it was as if the principle had read Dale Carnegies book “How to win friends” and decided to do the opposite.

It is our obligation to dispel darkness. This can be done by making room for someone else in your life and giving them unconditional attention and listening time. Pure listening, without even thinking about how to respond, is a very difficult task. I find when I really listen for fifteen minutes or a half an hour I need a break. It is an act of love. Sometime during the day, every day, when you are in a conversation and you realize that you are talking to someone who needs to be listened to, do a spiritual exercise. Listen. You will bring light into someone’s life and into the world.

When my brother, spouse, child or fellow Jew becomes the center of the world and I can get out of my own little box - I can start davening.

“In all the houses of Israel there was light.” The ibn Ezra comments that actual light emanated from the houses of Israel . In the Jewish homes there was attention, there was love, there was caring, there was listening  … and therefore there was light. May we all be blessed with light in our homes and in our lives.

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