From the time of the earliest human settlements until the industrial revolution, an ox with a yoke was as common a sight as a cup of ale. It was the ox and yoke that enabled people to grow produce, eat and survive.

The yoke carries great significance in Judaism as well, and not just for those with Plaids. Taking upon oneself the 'Yoke of Heaven' (קבלת עול מלכות שמים) is an ideal mentioned countless times across the Torah. It connotes a firm and resolute dedication to what's right and just, as an ox follows the yoke.

Ok. Cool. So... anyone want a yoke placed on their heads? Not a great selling point! Indeed. There's much more to every seemingly simple phrase or idea in the Torah, and the 'Yoke of Heaven' is no different.

Once we're on the topic of an ox and yoke, something which the passage of time has made obsolete, let's talk about time itself for a moment.

Time works wonders - precisely by passing by. And it's not just the baseball mitt that gets better with use as time passes. Take the very expression 'the good old days'. 'Ahh, do you remember the 80's? Weren't they great?'

Why is it such a given that the old days were good? Why are those words a self understood, universal axiom which we assume everyone can relate too?

Because with the passage of time, only the most powerful, meaningful and profound faculties of the human psyche remain clear in our memories, while most other psychological and emotional faculties fade. One such faculty that becomes profoundly stronger and felt only as time passes is called 'will' (רצון).

A person is comprised of many elements. In addition to the physical functions within the wonder that is the human body, there are the intellectual abilities, emotional, creative, and communicative powers, speech, memory, love and so much more. Some of these are very personal (e.g. love) while some are not (e.g. speech).

We also possess a faculty called 'will'. Will is not felt in any specific part of the body, and is a kind of override button. It's a vague, detached power which a human being possesses which enables him or her to continue pursuing something even when all passion, feeling and even understanding of the goal has faded.

But will is an expression of the essence of one’s soul. It is so profound and so deep that it is hard to manifest in a tangible feeling. Yet it's very much there. Our will is often only apparent in what we want for our children (education is the big theme in this week's Torah portion). Someone who might not usually place much value in Jewish practice may, inexplicably, find it of extreme importance that their children receive a Jewish education. Why? Because it's their will.

While at the outset our deep power of will might barely be felt, with things such as frustration, instant gratification, and other short-term feelings being much more noticed, it becomes much more apparent and consciously sensed over time. It's the satisfaction one might feel after unswervingly, slowly building a family or business while others were partying.

Let's circle back to the ox and yoke. While we're often conscious of strong temporary desires and feelings, our deepest will - what we really want - can remain in the background, barely noticed for years.

This is why Judaism places such an emphasis on taking upon oneself the 'Yoke of Heaven' (קבלת עול מלכות שמים). It isn't to force us to do something we don't want to. Quite the contrary. It's to make sure that we take into consideration what's truly meaningful and important to us. It ensures that when we turn around twenty or thirty years later, we will be able to smile with profound satisfaction in knowing that what was truly nearest and dearest to us played center stage all along.

Rabbi Avrohom