Feb. 10, 2022

16 Slices of Pizza (Tetzaveh)

I find it so interesting that when a pie of pizza is cut into its regular 8 slices, I can eat maybe 2 or 3 slices. However, when that same pie of pizza is cut into 16 slices – as often done for birthday parties for 10-year old’s – I can eat… Well, let’s just say more!

This is a good analogy for life. There is an old saying, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.” Contrary to what one would think, the smaller the steps we take, the farther in life we will go. People who only take big steps will eventually get tired out and will most likely give up. Successful people, however, know the art of taking baby steps. They realize that this approach is by far the healthiest and most effective way of producing real results.

When you are about to eat a regular large slice of pizza, your brain tells you, “This is a relatively large portion of food. You will be full by eating just a couple of slices.” However, when you are about to eat those smaller slices of pizza, your brain does something slightly different. Instead of telling you that you will become full, it convinces you that your body is not taking in enough food. “C’mon, go for another! And another…” Lo and behold, you end up eating the entire pie, simply because each slice was cut into smaller portions!

Sometimes, we wake up in the morning and we become so overwhelmed with feelings of nervousness and anxiety, simply because we are thinking about all of the stressful items on the day’s agenda. And truthfully, there is a lot going on. There is shul, there is carpool, there is work, there is cleaning, there is learning, there is homework, there is a test, and there is a doctor’s appointment. And so on.

One of the things we can learn from the pizza analogy, is the importance of cutting up our day into smaller slices. Instead of focusing on the ENTIRE day and becoming stressed out doing so, try to focus on the first slice of the day, let’s say, Shacharis. Then, after Shacharis, focus on the next slice of the day, let’s say, carpool. And so on. Essentially, when we slice each day up like this into smaller pieces, the stressfulness of the day becomes that much more manageable. The overwhelmingness of the day becomes that much more digestible. The anxiousness of the day becomes that much more controllable.

In this week’s Parshah, Parshah Tetzaveh, the Torah begins with the commandment regarding the lighting of the Menorah in the Mishkan. The Torah says: ואתה תצוה - "And YOU shall command". Several of the commentaries grapple with the question as to why the word "and you" is necessary? Couldn’t the Torah have left it out? (See Ohr HaChaim)

I think the Torah is educating us with a great insight for our holy service of Hashem. There are people who serve Hashem and do the mitzvos. They learn, daven, and do chessed. However, they lack an important factor: their very selves, the ואתה, the "YOU" aspect of עבודת ה'. They lack the mindfulness and presence that is so crucial in our service of the Almighty. The seder of learning was completed. The words of davening were said. The chessed was done. But there is still one question: Where were YOU? Were YOU there? Were YOU present? Were YOU involved?

Hashem begins the directive to Moshe with the word ואתה – and YOU shall command. Don't just command the Jewish people. Make sure YOU command them. Make sure the notion of YOU is present and felt. People can sense when YOU are involved and when YOU are missing. So, a takeaway message: Take small steps. But make sure YOU are taking those steps. No one and nothing else can take them for you.

Have a holy Shabbos!