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The Gift of Time

There is the joke about a fellow who comes across the verse in Psalms that declares "in Your (G-d's) eyes 1,000 years is like one day." So he thinks, if His day is like our 1,000 years, then His penny must be like our million dollars. He prays to G-d saying "All I ask from You is a penny." A moment later he hears a Heavenly voice reply "I'll take care of that tomorrow." 

Earlier this week I took my daughter to her orthodontist appointment. Knowing that I would have about an hour's wait, I came armed with daily study material and my blackberry so that I would make efficient (with the blackberry - yeah right!) use of my waiting time. Looking around the waiting room I observed that there were different types of people. Some came prepared with magazines or books, others chatted on their phones, and some were content to just sit there doing nothing. It brought to mind a teaching that I read a day before in a book called Hayom Yom - which has a thought for each day. 

"Time must be guarded. It is urgent to "accept the yoke of Torah." Every bit of time, every day that passes, is not just a day but a life's concern. Days go by; as the Talmud says, "A day enters and a day departs, a week enters etc.,... a month etc.,... a year etc.,..." quoting the Alter Rebbe: A summer day and a winter night are a year."

Time plays such a central role in our daily lives. We are constantly invoking time. We ask "what time is it?." We declare, "I just don't have time." While time is essentially free, we still always hear the phrase "time is money." A friend of mine who was a prominent businessman used to tell me that when he called his lawyer and the lawyer would ask "how are you" he would reply "on your time or mine." Yet there is another expression that we use, "killing time." That is actually very accurate. Time is a precious gift and when we do not utilize it properly we are indeed "killing time."

One of the beautiful things about our ritual obligations is that most of them are connected to time. There is a limited time frame in which to say the Shema in the morning and at night. There are the times for prayer. Time for Shabbat and holidays. We are bound by sunset and nightfall, dawn and sunrise. A glance at our online calendar (www.chabadneworleans.com/calendar) will show a list of Halachic times (earliest time for tefillin, latest time for Shema etc.) that define many of our ritual obligations. This drives home the importance of utilizing the gift of time.

When people learn to utilize time, they discover that there is alot more of it to use for the things in life for which they never had time. The famed 13th century sage, Rashba (Shlomo Ibn Aderet) headed a great school of Talmudic study in which he lectured daily. He was also a busy financier. Yet he attested to the fact that took a lengthy walk every day. It was all about proper utilization of time.

The bottom line is that time is a gift and an ally, when utilized well. It becomes an enemy when we do not. The Zohar says that every single day has its task that needs to be completed by each of us. Let us not let time down.

Feeling a Little Chile in Here

Like many of you, I have followed the Chilean miners' saga with interest. There are many angles to this story. The most important element is that they are out safely. For me, one of the more compelling angles has been the expressions of faith on the part of the rescued miners and the Chilean people. Here is one quote from a news story.

 

"As the dramatic rescue of the 33 Chilean miners trapped more than 2,000 feet underground wound to a happy, indeed miraculous ending, one of the great and emblematic lines of the saga was delivered by a miner who sent a letter up on Tuesday, the day before he made the journey to the surface. "There are actually 34 of us," 19-year-old Jimmy Sanchez wrote, "G-d never left us down here." 

 

Taking a cue from the Baal Shemtov's teaching to learn a lesson in serving Hashem from everything that one encouters in life, I hope that we North American Jews take note and inspiration from the unabashed declared faith of the Chilean miners. How many of us cringe when we hear the "G" word? How often do we engage in mental gymnastics to avoid attributing anything to Divine Providence in our lives and the world around us?

 

So I hear you saying, "c'mon Mendel, why do we need to mix current events and religion? Why can't the story just be a story?

 

For that I turn to this weeks Torah portion. In the fourth Aliyah (connected to Wednesday - the day of the rescue), the Torah - Genesis 14:10 states: "Now the valley of Siddim was [composed of] many clay pits, and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled and they fell there, and the survivors fled to a mountain." And Rashi comments: "many clay pits: There were many pits there from which they mined earth for the clay for building. The Midrashic explanation, is that the clay was kneaded in them [i.e., in the pits], and a miracle was wrought for the king of Sodom that he escaped from there, because some of the nations did not believe that Abraham had been saved from Ur Casdim, from the fiery furnace, but since this one escaped from the clay, they believed in Abraham retroactively."

 

So the Torah, in an uncanny description of a similar situation, teaches that we should derive faith and inspiration from the miraculous rescue of the king of Sodom. How much more so in the case of the miners from Chile. Enough said!

 

In just a few weeks New Orleans will be hosting the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations on North America. There will be thousands of Jewish people from around the nation participating. We have an opportunity to "put our best foot forward" in representing our New Orleans Jewish community. The federation needs hundreds of volunteers to help facilitate this monumental event. By volunteering you will also have the chance to participate in some of the programs and sessions of the GA. Please visit this website to see what is needed and sign up to help represent the greatest Jewish community in the country. You can also access this at www.jewishnola.com.

 

We extend our condolences to the Title family upon the loss Mrs. Beulah Title. We extend our condolences to Dr. Ben Sachs upon the passing of his mother, Mrs. Ruth Sachs. May G-d comfort you all amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

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