Sunday, April 29, 2012

Wake Up Call

We're now in the times of Sefiras Ha'Omer; post-Pesach and pre-Shavuos. In the past, I've blogged about the always popular topic of "Sefirah Beards." This year I'm going to share a more personal revelation regarding another Sefirah related topic: Music.

Just to preface, I've been an A Capella-only during Sefirah guy for quite a few years now, ever since I learned about the customs of mourning observed during this time period. Recently, however, I had a literal wake up call that really got me thinking.

One morning, I lazily shut off the first of my several alarms required to get me on my feet to head to shul. I also snoozed the next two after that. The last one, which successfully had me up and going, kept repeating for a bit before I managed to find my cell phone and come to my senses.

Only then did I realize that my alarm was a snippet of a TV theme from a show that I happen to be a fan of. Flipping through my other pre-set alarms from earlier that morning, I noticed that they were also TV themes or songs I liked. In case you're already guessing, no, I'm not knocking watching TV (especially in moderation, as ASoG and I do online). What struck me was the fact that my morning alarm was MUSIC.

I remembered when I first returned from Israel, post Shana Aleph, and certainly during my years at YU following Shana Bet, how everything I used to do was very, for lack of a better term "b'kavanna." I used to think about my actions, even the most minute of them, and figure out how they related to my overall sense of religious identity and observance of Torah and mitzvos. I recalled how I specifically and very intentionally would change both my ring tone and my alarms/text sounds to non-musical selections during this time of year, as well as during the 3 Weeks. 

I'm ashamed to admit that I honestly can't recall what I did during the past 3 Weeks period from this past summer. However, since that recent morning,  I really "woke up" to how much my focus has changed since those times, freshly returned from Israel.

Don't get me wrong, I am not in any way advocating flip-out behaviors that many young men and women exhibit upon their return from the Holy Land. I am, as usual, pointing to certain grey areas that are worthwhile and beneficial. I don't advocate strictures or observances that impact negatively on others, but if there are little things that go the "extra mile" to remind you of what's really important, such as having a proper mindset during this time period of national mourning, then I think it's worth it. My wife will certainly not notice whether my alarms going on and off are musical or simply repeating beeps, alarm bells, or roosters crowing (she actually isn't such a fan of the last one, but it wakes me up). 

On a related note, it's about time I do something about needing multiple alarms to get me out of bed. I need to channel that inner lion in me to wake up with vigor and enthusiasm. 

A friend of mine once told me he heard Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl joke that he gets up every day like a lion... a tired lion is a lion, too!

Anyway, I'm sure we all have things we've become a little less conscious about, whether we went to Israel for one or two years - or not at all. In a time where we should be preparing to re-receive the Torah once again, it behooves all of us to do some self-examination and find these little (or not so little) things, become more aware of them, and live more conscious, thoughtful lives.

PS - School has been taking its toll of me as of late, hence the lack of regular postings. I can't promise that things will change, but I hope to be far less absent that I have been in recent weeks. Please bear with me, and I thank all the readers, both the new ones and the regulars, for continuing to visit during my absence.


  1. Great post. Very true point. (A point il make is reading the post I thought the point you were going to make would be about waking up to a theme song from a TV show. The morning sets your tone for the day, is a TV show really the first think you want to hear when you wake up? Just sayin...)

  2. I thought the bit about waking up like a lion (to do mitzvoth) was the first bit of the Shulchan Aruch. The first time I heard that, I couldn't help but remember that lions sleep, on average, for over half the day and are largely nocturnal.
    Maybe we should try to wake up like roosters instead?

    A bit more seriously, in response to what you said about your behavior post-Israel.
    I admire the kavannah you put into everything on your return, but you said yourself that your focus has changed. You're also in a different place and time - if you have changed, shouldn't the areas where you choose to direct your attention have changed as well?

  3. Prof - you make a good point. It's time I start using that free ringtone the Y-Studs gave me for donating toward their album!

    Sparrow - It is the first section of the Shulchan Aruch, I took for granted that readers would know the reference. Lions still pursue their prey with great zeal, and the matter is still more allegorical than literal at any rate.

    One of the reasons Ezra tried to establish the decree of requiring men to go to the mikvah or at least dump 9 kavim of water over their heads after being intimate with their wives was to prevent young Torah scholars from "hanging around their wives like roosters," who appararently have some sort of unlimited and uncontrollable libido.

    On a related note, I recently read in Irving Bunim's commentary on Pirkei Avos, "Ethics from Sinai" (p.36-7) that nature is a poor example to learn from in any case, and he provides several examples Chazal point to (such as ants being good workers, cats being discrete when they excrete) and then points out flaws in those very same animals that Chazal spoke about. His point was that without an overall Torah-guided perspective, any useful teaching point can be utilized in an other than ethical fashion.

    Anyway, back to your point.

    Yes, I have changed as has my focus in life in many ways. There was certainly a transition period from being in the idealic yeshiva setting to getting back to real life - including YU, college, America, etc. As one of my rabbeim always says, being in a yeshiva/seminary in Israel is a beneficial, self-explorative experience - but it isn't real life by a long shot. Everyone who spends time in Israel post high school needs to be able to adapt what they've gained and learned (Torah-wise and about themselves) to the rather imperfect and often frustrating world that we find outside the walls of the beis midrash.

    Of the things that I have adapted to life back here in America, I don't think this point of being less conscious of my actions, particularly nuances that have greater meaning to me than if they went ignored, is not one of them. I have always considered myself to be someone who is aware of the ramifications of my actions, even seemingly insignificant ones. Who honestly cares what noises emerge from my alarm in the morning - the point is that I wake up on time, right? Even so, as The Professor mentioned in his own valid point, for some (or hopefully most/all of us) it DOES make a difference.

    I don't want to live my life on autopilot, merely focusing on the "big things" that matter while ignoring the more "minor" details that, when added up, making a big difference as well. That was the point of this post. I noticed that I've become to "unobservant" of the little things that can make a difference. To clarify, by "unobservant" I mean attention-wise, not necessarily religiously, but they can obviously go together as well.

    Tania - thanks! It's good to be back and flexing those creative blogging muscles again.


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