Our Routine
A chassid in the galoshes trade once asked his rebbe to bless his faltering business. Seeking to calm the unduly worried chassid, the Rebbe said, “I have seen feet slipped into galoshes, but I have never seen a head into galoshes.” The Chassid gathered at once that he was overly invested in the unimportant.
Do you have a ‘to do’ list or a ‘to get done’ list? What are the things that we do and what are the things that we get done? The important things, we do. The unimportant things, we get done. Very few things in life are goals, most things are means that lead to a goal. The means, we get done. The goals, we do.
Our first task when we wake in the morning is to dress. We don’t get out of bed to dress, we get dressed to go out and do what we need to do. Dressing, is not something to do, it is something we get done. The next item on the agenda is breakfast. We don’t wake up to eat, we eat to gain strength in order to do what we got up to do. So is eating something to do or something to get done?
Next, we get in the car and drive, did we wake up to drive? No that too is something we get done in order to do what we need to do.
What did we wake up to do? Some will tell you they got out of bed to go to work, but for most that is not true. We might enjoy our work, but if we didn’t need to be there we would likely have taken the day off. The primary reason that we go to work is to earn money and pay our bills. It’s something we need to get done in order to do what we need to do.
Is buying a home the thing we need to do or is this too something we get done? Well, you need a home to live in it. If you wouldn’t need to live, you wouldn’t need a home. So living is the reason for your home. Having a home is something to get done, living is the thing to do.
But why do you live? Is it just for yourself or is there a deeper purpose? Why did G-d place you on earth? Was it just so you could live or is there something in it for G-d?
To Do
G-d made us so that we could serve Him. We live to serve G-d and that is the reason we get out of bed. That is what we do. Everything else, waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, driving to work, earning money, buying a home and living in it are all things we get done in order to do what we came to do. Use our allotted time to serve G-d.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy the things we get done or that we must pay them little heed. If you don’t pay attention to getting dressed your buttons will come out wrong. You didn’t wake up to button your shirt, but if you don’t pay attention to it, it won’t get done. And it must get done if you are to do what you woke up to do.
Play time and down time are not what we get up to do, but if we don’t do them well, they won’t serve their purpose. We play to expend energy and be more focused when we return to work. If we don’t enjoy our playtime and use it to its fullest, we will have failed to expend energy and the task won’t get done. If it doesn’t get done, we won’t be available to do what we came to do.
Accomplishing the things we need to get done requires attention and care. They aren’t negligible, they are important items on our daily agenda without which we cannot do what we need to do.
On the other hand, once we know what we are here to do, we can appreciate it and take it seriously. When we realize that it was to give charity or to pray or to chant Kiddush, that we woke up in the morning and that it was for this reason that we went through our day, we invest our head. We take our time, give it our fullest attention, value it and derive immense satisfaction from it.
To Get Done
We spend more time on the things we get done than on the things we do. This is the nature of things. Take shopping as an example. You get your wallet and car keys, drive to the store, park your car, enter the store, browse the aisles, try on your garments, make your purchase, return to the car, drive home, park and enter. The purpose of this entire exercise was to make a single purchase, but to my count there were seven things you had to get done before you could do what you came to do.
Take going to school as another example. You wake up, get dressed, eat, drive, park, lug your books, enter, greet friends, take your seat, endure roll call, sit through an hour’s lecture, collect your books, say good bye, drive home and you are finally done. The entire exercise took four hours, but it took only three minutes to learn the new piece of information that you came to learn.
The teacher waded through an hour long lecture full of information you already knew to set the stage for the new information. You spent the entire lecture, not to mention the time to get there and back, to learn a piece of knowledge that took three or four minutes to impart. That evening you will do homework designed to review and retain what you learned, but it all boils down to those three minutes.
Suppose you went shopping, but failed to make a purchase or went to school, but failed to learn anything, you would have spent your entire day getting stuff done, but you would have done nothing. Getting stuff done is critical to doing what you came to do. But getting everything done without doing what you came to do, is a total waste. In other words, doing the one thing you came to do, justifies the effort it takes to get to this moment.
When you realize that this one task or moment is the purpose of your entire day, you invest your head by doing it with gusto and joy. At that moment, the entire day clicks. It all has a point.
Removing Ashes
We now gain insight to a curious passage in the Torah. Before delineating the laws for sacrifices in the Temple, the Torah veers off and describes the ritual for removing excess ashes from the altar. Removing excess ash is important, but why does it precede the sacrificial rite?
The Torah teaches us that before offering a sacrifice, one must complete many predatory tasks. The ashes must be cleaned, the fires must be stoked, the offering must be tendered, and the knives must be laid out. These are all critical details without which a sacrifice cannot be offered.
The Torah tells us that the Kohen wore special garments while removing the ashes, but the priestly vestments were worn only when offering sacrifices. This one detail speaks volumes. None of these tasks are as important as the sacrifice itself. The sacrifice is the goal, these are just the means. They serve the goal and enable us to fulfill it. We wear special garments when we perform them, we don’t dismiss them just because they aren’t the primary goal. Yet, we also don’t treat them like we treat the primary goal. The garments worn by the priests when offering sacrifices weren’t worn for these tasks. These tasks needed to get done, the offering is what they came to do.
It is easy to mistake the many preparatory tasks for the goal because they take up so much of our time. We spend much more time on the means than on the goal. We wake up each morning with a long ‘to get done’ list whereas the ‘to do’ list is fairly short. The Torah reminds us to focus on our goal and never confuse the means with the end. The means are just things to get done. The end is what we are here to do.

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