July 13, 2024
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July 13, 2024
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Tzav: The Prince and the Prayer

Vayikra: 7: 11-20

Once there lived a young prince named Harold who was rather accident prone. His father, King Ronald, was worried for his son’s safety and assigned his trusted viceroy, Ralph, to keep him safe.

Truth be told, Harold wasn’t actually accident prone. In reality, he was almost accident prone. By that I mean that he was never really in any serious danger. He was just involved in more close calls than any young man should be in the course of the average day.

One day Harold was riding his trusty steed, Thunderbolt, down a country lane with the ever-cautious Ralph trailing not far behind with a first-aid kit, an emergency medical technician, and the phone number of a good neurosurgeon in the memory of his cell phone. As Harold turned a corner at a slow gallop, a small garter snake slithered out from behind a rock and startled Thunderbolt. The horse stopped short and let out a loud whinny.

Before anything could happen, Ralph trotted up, leaped from his horse and shooed away the somewhat-dreaded snake.

“I say, that was certainly a close call,” Harold said.

“Yes, I suppose,” Ralph agreed, a bit out of breath.

“That snake could have bitten me and caused a life-threatening reaction.”

“Not really, my liege,” Ralph replied politely. “It was merely a small garter snake. It couldn’t hurt a fly, let alone a brave prince such as yourself.”

“Yes, but it could have spooked Thunderbolt and I could have been thrown to the ground, to be trampled under the hooves of my own horse. How ironic.”

“Prince Harold, Thunderbolt would never have thrown you. He is the best-trained horse in all the land. He would have allowed the snake to bite him and unflinchingly suffered the consequences before he would have allowed any harm to befall you.”

“Still, it was a close call.”

“I suppose,” Ralph agreed.

Prince Harold rode back to the castle with his entourage and regaled the court with his harrowing experience and how Ralph had bravely risked his own life to repel the snake. Ralph smiled politely and said nothing.

After dinner, Prince Harold gathered his friends and read a paragraph from Tehillim, the Psalms, to thank G-d for his good fortune. To be exact, he read psalm 100, Mizmor leTodah, A Psalm of Thanksgiving. It was what was recited in the time of the Beit Hamikdash when a person survived a particularly dangerous situation and brought a Korban Todah, a sacrifice of thanksgiving, to celebrate his or her deliverance. Ralph watched from outside the room as Prince Harold fervently recited the prayer.

The next day, Prince Harold went on a nature walk with a group of his courtiers. Naturally, Ralph came along with mosquito netting, sunblock, a compass, a survival guide, and an epinephrine pen, in case of a royal allergic reaction.

All was going well. Ralph could foresee no source of danger anywhere on the horizon, and the prince and his friends seemed to be having a good time. There were no predators in these tranquil woods, the land was flat and devoid of any threatening terrain, and short of a meteor falling from the sky, Harold could not possibly muster up a crisis.

It was then that Prince Harold picked the mushroom.

“I say, would anyone care to share a taste of this wonderful fungus with me? It looks downright delicious.”

“Noooooooooo!” Ralph hollered as he ran forward. He politely but firmly scooped the mushroom from the prince’s hand and threw it to the ground.

“What did you do that for?” Harold asked.

“My liege, many mushrooms that grow in the field are poisonous. I confiscated this particular specimen to save you from hurting yourself.”

“Ralph, you have done it again!” Prince Harold declared. “Three cheers for Ralph!”

“Huzzah huzzah, huzzah!” the royal courtiers cheered.

Ralph smiled politely but stepped away from the group of young men. He was beginning to tire of the prince’s utter carelessness.

That night, at King Ronald’s table, Prince Harold once again regaled the king’s entourage with the tale of his near brush with death and his rescue by the hand of Ralph.

“If I had eaten that mushroom, I could have died,” Prince Harold declared.

“Actually, there was very little chance of that,” Ralph said.

“What do you mean? You told me the mushroom was poisonous,” the prince said.

“No, I said it might be poisonous,” Ralph interjected. “Actually, I checked my survival guide, and it turns out that mushroom wasn’t dangerous at all. As a matter of fact, it is in the soup that we are eating right now.”

“Kudos, Ralph, kudos,” the king said, chuckling under his breath.

“Still, it could have been lethal, nonetheless,” Harold stammered, and without further ado, he went off to recite the Mizmor leTodah again. But before he left the room Harold announced, “Tomorrow we go skeet shooting.”

Ralph followed Prince Harold to the room where he recited his Tehillim. He waited until Harold completed his fervent recitation of psalm 100.

Ki tov Hashem leolam chasdo

Veyad dor ldor emunato

For Hashem is good, His kindness endures forever

And from generation to generation is His faithfulness

“You know, Prince, I truly appreciate your need to thank G-d every day for His wondrous rescue of your life,” Ralph said.

“Thank you, Ralph,” Prince Harold said. “ Not everyone understands how important it is to acknowledge the daily surprises He grants us. If not for these frequent miracles that I have experienced, I’m not sure I would have the proper opportunity to thank Him.”

“Well, you know, you don’t need to be rescued from an almost burning building, or pulled out of the way of a very slowly falling tree, or even protected from a charging tortoise in order to appreciate G-d’s daily miracles and to thank Him.”

“You don’t?”

“Why no. Just living every day is a miracle. I think that’s why the Mizmor leTodah is part of our daily morning prayers. There’s something spectacular to thank G-d for every day.”

“Do you really think so?” Prince Harold asked, his eyes full of wonder.

“Why yes, I do,” Ralph said, putting his arm around the young prince. “I would stake my reputation on it.”

And so, Prince Harold began reciting the Psalm of Thanksgiving daily in his morning prayers, and the near mishaps that had befallen him previously could no longer be found in the royal archives.

That is except the time the royal bunny rabbit bit him on the finger. For that truly was a bit disconcerting.

By Larry Stiefel

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