Behold! A people who arises like an awesome lion and raises itself like a lion… (Bamidbar 23:24)
When Balak the King of Moab engaged Bilaam, the wicked gentile prophet, to curse the Jewish people, he expected success in stopping the onslaught of Hashem’s conquering army by invoking the use of the mouth versus the prayers and Torah of the Jews. Bilaam made it clear that it would be difficult for him to use any curses unless Hashem allowed him to do so. Balak insisted that Bilaam come, and Bilaam’s greed prompted him to accommodate the requests of the Moabite monarch.
Rashi explains the comparison of the Jewish people to a lion. “When they get up from their sleep in the morning, they exert themselves like an awesome lion … to grab the commandments, to wear a tallit, to recite Shema, and to put on tefillin.” A Jew begins his day with an aggressive approach to grab as many mitzvot as possible as early in the day as possible. One of the most important ways to achieve success in service to Hashem is to be careful in the morning to dedicate the entire start of one’s day to that goal.
We see throughout the Torah that the “first” is given special priority. Bikurim — the first fruits — are brought as a gift to the Beit Hamikdash. The firstborn male of a human being as well as the firstborn of select animals are also considered holy property. When one shears the wool of his flock, the first shearing is contributed to a Kohen.
The reason for this status is that by human nature a person has a special affection towards “firsts.” Also, the first is a foundation for all that follows. Therefore, it is difficult to part with this beloved property, so it takes extra effort to overcome one’s natural possessiveness. When one performs these mitzvot, one demonstrates a special loving devotion to Hashem.
Rabbi Shimshon Pincus, zt”l, said that the thing most dear to a person is his own life. Therefore, he said, one should also dedicate the first part of every day to exclusive service to Hashem. Morning should be totally involved in Torah and mitzvot. In fact, Hashem invigorates a person every morning with new energy to do the job. The world itself also “wakes up” to a fresh start, inviting man to get up and get going. The rising sun, the fresh air and the dew on the ground inspire new faith that today promises to be a day of positive accomplishment.
The world at large wakes up somewhat hungry, a little thirsty, and anxious to reconnect with news and information sources. Most people also would like to spend some time chatting with a friend before entering the hectic cycle of daily life. The Jew, on the other hand, starts with blessings of praise to Hashem, with tefillah and tzedakah and a Torah learning session every single day.
Eating is forbidden until certain mitzvot are done. A Jew’s day begins with the fulfillment of the verse, “As for the sacrifice of the first fruits, you shall offer them to Hashem…” (Vayikra 2:12). One offers oneself as a sacrifice of one’s desires and needs as an offering to Hashem. This beginning sets a tone of success for the entire day!
It has been written in the name of Harav Chaim Volozhin, zt”l, that if one awakes and accepts upon oneself the yoke of Torah wholeheartedly, this will remove distraction and obstacles from his path. In fact, if one starts with dedication to the goal, Hashem will provide assistance to accomplishment of that end.
A good start brings a good conclusion. Try it! Today!