Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Message of the Mussaf

As technology and society has progressed in the 21st century there seems to be an ever growing sense that every situation and every moment can be replicated, recreated or made up for.  First it was the introduction of Dolly the cloned sheep. This technology opened up a new niche market: cloning your pets. The idea behind cloning is that biological material can be replicated. A few years ago, scientists claimed that with the help of a state of the art particle accelerator they were able to replicate the moment immediately after the Big Bang. If that very early moment of the universe’s existence can be recreated, then presumably everything else can be replicated as well. Science has taken us on a journey that indicates that no moment is so unique that it cannot be replicated in a laboratory.
This attitude has spilled over into society and popular culture. Miss a test or forget to do your homework? Don’t worry, there will be a makeup. Lost sleep last night? Don’t worry, you can always make it up. Deadlines are constantly being extended because people just cannot fathom that something can actually pass by without being made up later.  
A rejection of this attitude can be found in the Torah’s description of the special Musaf sacrifice offered on Shabbat. The Torah tells us:

Olat Shabbat B’Shabbato:

The Sacrifice of each Shabbat must be offered on that Shabbat. The Midrash explains that I might have thought that all Shabbatot are the same. If I miss bringing the sacrifice this week, then I’ll just bring two next week. Comes the verse to tell us Olat Shabbat BeShabbato- there are no makeups. As the Siftei Chachamim explains, every Shabbat is a unique gift. It may seem like we are doing the same things each week, but in fact any given Shabbat can never be replicated. Although we no longer offer sacrifices today, this Midrashic idea finds expression in the halachot of the Mussaf prayer that we recite every Shabbat. The Halacha is that if you miss one of the prayer services, you can make it up by saying two Amidas the next time (ie if you miss Shacharit, you can say two Minchas, etc). This is called Tashlumin, based on the concept that existed by certain korbanot. However, the Halacha is that there is no Tashlumin for Mussaf. Once Shabbat ends, there is no makeup. Not Sunday, not the next Shabbat. I missed out and I have to live with that fact.

Judaism believes strongly in second chances: for instance, the example of teshuva. But the Korban Mussaf in this morning’s Parsha reminds us that contrary to the belief of some, there are things in life that cannot be replicated, cannot be made up, and if you miss them you’re out of luck. This is especially true with the moments of our lives. Time can never be made up (even for drivers who speed the last half of their trip to make better time.) We can’t go back in time. (alas, we have yet to discover the flux capacitor that enables at  1.21 gigawatts). Each moment is unique, each Shabbat is unique.  Let us recall the message of the Mussaf: some things in life cannot be replicated; they must be appreciated and savored while we have the opportunity.

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