Value of Routine

   A man walked into a restaurant and sat down at a table.  “What will you have?” asked the waiter.  The customer shook his head. “Not a thing, I’m not hungry.”  The waiter stared.  “Then why come in here?” The customer shrugged his shoulders.  “Well you see, this is my lunch hour.”


   Routine is a valuable tool for the Baal Teshuvah.  A person who grows up in an observant home is trained in Jewish practices and customs.  They are an integral part of his behavior.  In contrast, the Baal Teshuvah can often be identified by small nuances in manner.  Practices and customs learned as an adult are not as ingrained as when trained from birth.  Trying to learn, remember and make these practices a part of one’s life can be overwhelming.  The more practices one can make routine the more can be learned.  The mind can only keep track of so much.  Routine lets one carry less burden and grow more.  Once something is part of a person it is possible to move on to learn another thing without being overwhelmed. 


   For example, praying in a certain place at a certain time.  In that case it is easy to daven regularly because there is a routine.  When out of town it is harder to daven because it is outside the routine.  Pirket Avot utilizes this principle when it teaches that it is good to establish a set time of study.1     Establishing a personal tradition is like cutting a channel for running water.  It allows the easy performance of mitzvoth without struggling against inertia or the urgency of non spiritual matters. 


   On the other hand, when it comes to avoiding the danger of routine the Baal Teshuvah has an advantage.  The danger of routine is that practices are not done from the heart.  “These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.”2  It isn’t routine that is bad it is the attitude.  Since practices are newer for the Baal Teshuvah they can be performed with a fresher attitude.         


   Routine is a valuable tool when used correctly.  One wants to do mitzvoth with kavanah (concentration), but primarily one wants to be doing them.

1. Pirket Avot 1:15

2. Isaiah 29:13






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