We are now officially "after the chag" - tomorrow the kids go back to school, and I return to work. I return with great enthusiasm; I love routine. The discipline of routine, despite its daily grind, notwithstanding the occasional dreary monotony, affords us the quiet and discipline to get things done, to advance.
Some people thrive upon periodic excitement, the enthusiasm and fire that comes with an extraordinary moment, a surprise or special event; others flourish in the enjoyment of the daily order. In truth, we need both: our chagim and special days, festive and solemn, are true highlights that urge us and afford the tools to rise above the ordinary, to expereince inspiration, to celebrate and mourn, to remember and connect with events larger than us. But the routine has its own power, its own beauty and achievement.
My Rosh Yeshiva loved to quote the following Midrash, not found in classic midrashic collections:
Ben Zoma says: We have found a more inclusive verse, and it is, "Shema Yisrael."
Ben Nanas says: We have found a more inclusive verse, and it is, "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Shimon Ben Pazi says: We have found a more inclusive verse and it is, "The first lamb you shall sacrifice in the morning and the second lamb you shall sacrifice in the evening" (Shemot 29:39).
Rabbi Ploni stood up and said: The halakha is in accordance with Ben Pazi...
"Shema Yisrael", "Love your neighbour as thyself" are all huge teachings of love of God and love of man. But Ben Pazi teaches that the daily service of God - the morning sacrifice and the afternoon sacrifice, always the same; the daily brachot, birkhat hamazon, tzitzit, tefillin, morning, afternoon and evening prayers, the discipline of kashrut - all these unchanging daily religious routines have a deep and penetrating power. They represent a deep stability and consistency that form the backbone of our religion.