Avid baseball fans are excited that the baseball season is finally under way. Religious fans may wonder if Hashem is a baseball fan, whom would He rank as His all-time favorite player. I suggest that an answer may be derived from a halacha which expresses itself often in Torah life, as well as from a Hasidic explanation of the name of the first month, Nissan.
Let us begin with a discussion of the halacha. Last Shabbat, we encountered a dilemma as to which of the three Torah portions is to be read first on the confluence of Parshat Tazria/Parshat HaHodesh/and Rosh Hodesh Nissan. Intuitively, one would think that Parshat HaHodesh should be read first due to our excitement of the arrival of spring and the month in which we celebrate Pesach. Even the excitement of Rosh Hodesh would seem to outweigh our reading of Parshat Tazria and should be read first. Yet, it is the parshat hashavua which is read first, followed by Rosh Hodesh, and only then did we read Parshat HaHodesh. Why do we order these readings in such a counter-intuitive manner?
This order stems from the oft-cited rule of Tadir ushe’eino tadir tadir kodem. Whenever we are confronted with a choice of which mitzvah to perform first, we perform the one which is performed more often. For example, men wrap themselves in the tallit before donning their tefillin, since tallit is worn every day and tefillin is not worn on Shabbat and Yom Tov. Similarly, since the parshat hashavua is read weekly, it enjoys priority over the Rosh Hodesh reading. The Rosh Hodesh reading, in turn, takes precedence over Parshat HaHodesh since it is a monthly event.
Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l, whose first Azkarah is approaching, explained the rule as emerging from importance of regularity and consistency. That which is done more consistently has greater value in the eyes of God. A mashal illustrates this point. Imagine a father who spends almost all of his time away from home, but in the few times a year he sees his children it is an overwhelming event due to the outpouring of gifts he bestows. Compare this man to a father who brings much more modest gifts to his family but is available on a daily basis for his children. Everyone would agree that the second father is a dramatically superior father than the first. Consistency beats flamboyance by all standards and measures. Thus, the mitzvah performed more often is more beloved in Hashem’s eyes, even though the mitzvah performed less often might appear to be more exciting and enticing.
Now for the Hasidic thought. Those who are proficient in Hebrew understand the difference between a shokeid and a shakdan. Someone who is shokeid at a task is working hard to complete the job. A shakdan, however, is someone who is routinely and consistently diligent. Similarly, someone who is studying is lomeid, but someone who regularly studies is a lamdan (see Bava Metzia 33a for a similar distinction between roveitz and ravtzan). Rav Yisrael of Rizhin explains that Hashem is described, in some versions of the Kippur Tefillot, as a Salhan and Maholan of am Yisrael. This means that Hashem is not merely solei’ah and moheil (forgiving), but routinely and consistently forgiving.
Similarly, Hodesh Nissan reflects the root word neis, miracle. Hashem is not one who simply performs miracles occasionally, but Nissan, One Who performs miracles for us on a regular and consistent basis. The miracles of Pesah, Ramban (at the conclusion of his comments to Parshat Bo) explains, should spur us to recognize the constant miracles that envelop our lives. We indeed express this point in each and every amida in which we thank Hashem for His daily miracles—al misecha shebechol yom imanu.
Thus, the rule of tadir and the month of Nissan teach us the supreme value of regularity and consistency. Therefore, if Hashem is a baseball fan there is no doubt that His all-time favorite player is Baltimore Oriole Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., who holds the record for 2,632 consecutive games played. For over 16 years, Cal Ripken Jr. played in every single game without exception, an extraordinary feat. If Hashem values baseball, then this is the type of player Hashem loves most.
Each one of us can achieve Most Valuable Player status in Hashem’s eyes if we diligently perform Hashem’s commands on a regular and consistent basis. Hodesh Nissan is an excellent opportunity for us to resolve to become the halachic equivalent of Cal Ripken Jr., with unswerving commitment to serving Hashem at all times and all places. May we all merit 120 excellent years of serving Hashem.
By Rabbi Haim Jachter
Rabbi Haim Jachter is the rabbi of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck.