Today is a special time. It’s July 4th, the 239th anniversary of our great nation. It’s a day to consider all we have accomplished in becoming what Michael Medved affectionately calls, the greatest nation on Gd’s green earth. In honor of this special time, I’d like to share with you a Dvar Torah about time I heard from Rabbi Anchelle Perl.
1st a couple of corny jokes about time:
Why shouldn’t you tell secrets when a clock is around? Because time will tell.
Why did the man put a clock under his desk? He wanted to work over-time.
Have you ever wished you could have more than 24 hours in a day? Well last Tuesday you got your wish. A rare phenomenon called a “leap second” occurred last Tuesday on June 30th when a second was added to the day—giving us a 61 second minute at the end of June.
Every now and then we insert a leap second because the rotation of the earth is slowing. Basically, our atomic clocks are better at keeping time than the Earth, so leap seconds are added occasionally to help them sync. So if you were short on time last week, you got an extra second. This year was the 26th time since 1972 that a leap second was added.
I was considering, in honor of this leap second, to buy a new watch—the Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon 5002p. This platinum watch is composed of 686 parts. It’s double- faced with celestial movements, 55 jewel movements and a 48 hour power reserve. It comes with a sapphire crystal and a black crocodile leather band. I was thinking of buying it but I changed my mind. 1st of all, it costs more than $1.5 million—a bit above my paygrade. The 2nd reason is that I was wrong in expecting that for such a bundle of money I would get a decent return on my investment—that the watch would actually offer me more time…say for example, 65 minutes per hour instead of the commonplace 60.
The watch itself laughs at us for despite however much one pays for it, time just moves forward. Its bejeweled little wheels refuse to slow down for even an mini instant as it tolls the identical seconds and minutes as the $9.95 Mickey Mouse watch I saw at the Dollar Store.
In a mystical comment the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 4a) teaches that there’s a specific moment each day when Gd “allows His midat hadin, His attribute of strict justice to surface” as He judges sinners harshly. The talent of Bilaam in our Torah portion was that he was able to discern the exact time in each day when this attribute would be active. Bilaam would then try to curse the Jewish People at that exact second calling forth Divine punishment upon them. Gd, however, foiled this scheme by not allowing His attribute of strict justice to come forth that day. In its place, He brought an extra measure of kindness and mercy into the world. The lesson we can learn from Bilaam is that if not for Gd’s intervention, even a second can make all the difference in the world.
Here’s the real question we must ask ourselves. If you knew Tuesday morning that you would actually have another second that day, what meaningful action or resolution would you have come up with for that leap second? It only takes one second to turn over a new leaf in life or make a resolution to live a more meaningful one. Don’t we all wish we had more time? There are so many projects we would like to embark upon, so many places we would like to see and things to do. There’s so little time.
Of course we would love to study more Torah, spend more quality time with our loved ones and pursue those hobbies and dreams we always wished for but have been postponing. But between the obligations of work and the chores at home there seems to be never an extra moment for these things.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that each one of us is allocated from above just the right amount of time we need to get our mission in life done. With some of this time we will be learning, teaching and helping others. With some of this time we will be working to make a living—which is also a Divine task when done with purpose and meaning. But none of us can justify our obsession with making a living by claiming that it leaves no time for us to learn or teach or to do something meaningful in life. This is a misappropriation of time—spending all the time allocated to us on one task at the expense of our principle purpose in this world. What do you think our real reason for being on this world is? Each of us—whatever profession we ending up with—is foremost a student and a teacher. We are here to learn and to teach.
Judaism’s view of time is simple. It works in no one’s favor. Unless imbued with meaning, left alone it has no opinion, no shape. And the popular adage, “Time is on our side,” FORGETABOUTIT! It’s a myth. Time does what time does best. It passes! And so it’s an obligation for each of us to elevate our time into something special.
Jewish law notes that the difference between chametz—leavened bread—and matzah on Passover is not the ingredients. They both contain flour and water. It’s not the method of baking for they both are baked in an oven. It’s all about time. In the difference of only a second—if 18 minutes passes since the flour was mixed with water, made into dough and then put into the oven—the matzah will turn into chametz. If it’s only 17 minutes and 59 seconds, it’s still matzah. The difference of only a second can make all the difference in the world.
Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneerson often said that the clock is really a silent preacher. It never utters a single word, yet when you look at it you realize that the hands of the clock—the hour hand, the minute hand, the second hand—are moving continuously and stop for no one. When we look at it, it should remind us to make better use of our time. If we allow a second to pass without utilizing it properly we’ve not merely lost what we could have accomplished, we’ve lost the gift of that very second.
Our tradition (Sefer Hachayim 10:1) teaches: Adam doeg al ebud damav v’eyno doeg al ebud yamav; damav eynam ozrim, yamav eynam chozrim, “A person worries about losing his money (damav), yet he is doesn’t worry about losing his days (yamav); his money won’t help him in the end, his days won’t return.”
Let us today—the beginning of the 3 weeks of introspection leading to the fast of Tisha B’Av—resolve to make more of our time by making every second count. We have more time saving technology today than ever before. What do we do with that time? For example, in times past the average person would have had to trudge to the library to find study texts. Now you can order them online or study them online for free. The internet offers so many opportunities to broaden our horizons with hundreds of thousands of free pages of Torah knowledge and so many audio classes. The time is here. The question is only how we will use it.
As I began with a couple of time related jokes, allow me to conclude with this story:
“How was your date,” Sarah asks her roommate.
“Terrible! He showed up in his 1955 Rolls Royce.”
“Wow, that’s a very expensive car. It’s timeless. What’s so bad about that?”
She replied, “Well he was the original owner!”
My friends, in these hazy lazy days of summer when we tend to have more leisure time on our hands, let’s think seriously about how to really make our minutes and seconds count. Amen!
Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis