The Gift of Time
Six days you can work, but the seventh day must be holy to you, a sabbath
of strict rest to God. (Shemos 35:2)
The time just flies by. On one hand, it is hard to believe that we have
reached the end of Sefer Shemos, again. On the other hand, it seems
like we started it ages ago. Where has all the time gone to?
Timing is important as well. Two weeks ago, my family and I were on
our way to spend Shabbos in Beit Shemesh, scheduled to take a taxi there at
3 pm on Friday afternoon. My son complained to me that we were leaving
too early, but I explained that, when it comes to Erev Shabbos on the Tel
Aviv-Jerusalem highway, the later you wait, the more risky it becomes.
It is a long highway with few turn offs and alternative routes. It has
on a few occasions when an accident has occurred on the highway
that has blocked traffic for so long that religious drivers, on their way
were forced to pull over and park their cars on the side of the highway for
Shabbos, and walk to the closest community to spend it there. Telzstone has
often been that closest community, receiving some very distraught last
It also happened to be a stormy Erev Shabbos as well, a deadly combination
when you factor in drivers in a hurry to get home for Shabbos. I’m
one of those people who like to be early and safe, rather than late and
but not everyone thinks the same way, and this makes for some very
Unfortunately, this ended up being the case that Friday as well, because
a van crashed into a small car, causing a fatal accident, R”L. We didn’t
know this yet at the time, as we waited for our taxi and tried to track him
down. Fifteen minutes passed, 30 minutes passed, and still no taxi.
Finally,at 4 pm he told us that he was close, but stuck on the highway,
police had completely shut down both sides of the highway.
By 4:25, we began making plans to stay home, even though we really
didn’t have much to use for Shabbos. We resigned ourselves to the fact that
all that preparation to leave had been for naught, and had been considering
our options, which had not been many when the phone rang again. Apparently,
they had just cleared the traffic, and our driver wanted to know if we
still wanted to go. It was 4:30, a 25 minute drive to where we had to go,
5:12 pm was candle-lighting.
By 4:35 we were in the taxi and on our way, and thank God, the highway
was perfectly clear the entire way. We arrived in Beit Shemesh at about
5:10, and everything worked out fine, thank God. We even made dovening
on time, and the rest of Shabbos was wonderful, except that I couldn’t help
feel bad for the family of the person who had been killed right before
and all those who had been injured.
As always, with situations like that, there were lessons to learn. However,
my son had to admit to the wisdom of leaving early, and how easily
situations can turn around and become problematic when just five minutes
ago, everything was fine. In fact, if we had left the house even just 15
earlier, as I had wanted to, we would have missed the entire traffic jam,
because my nephew, who had come from Jerusalem by bus around that
time, had just missed the entire episode.
Time is an indominatable factor in Jewish life, much more so than in
gentile life. Time runs out for everyone, eventually, but it seems to be
forgiving in the non-Jewish world than in the Jewish world. Should a
not be ready to eat by nightfall on a Friday night, he simply keeps
and eats later. This might aggravate some of his dinner guests, but
over it, and he’ll survive.
However, if a Jews keep preparing past the entrance of Shabbos, he gets
excision, and if we was warned by two witnesses who subsequently saw
him break Shabbos, then he gets stoning to death. He may only cook for 30
seconds after nightfall, but that is enough for the Bais Din to give him
Indeed, there are many occasions when timing is a matter of life and
death, either physically, or spiritually. Eat chometz a few seconds too
before Pesach, or a few seconds too early after Pesach, and that means
cut off from the Jewish people. Yes, it literally comes down to seconds
during the Jewish year, and all through Jewish life, for that matter.
This was one of the very first lessons the Jewish people learned on the
way out of Mitzrayim, and this week’s special parshah, Parashas HaChodesh,
and this week’s parshios, represent a confluence of two separate
sources speaking about a single concept. And, in true Purim fashion, which
we have just left on our way to the freedom of Pesach, we will see that,
contrary to popular thought, it is our very obedience to the rules of
time that actually free us from this world.
For instance, there is the idea of Shabbos, with which Parashas Vayakhel
begins. If one keeps it, by ceasing to perform specific creative
sundown on Friday afternoon until nightfall Motzei Shabbos the next day,
then he is able to enjoy the timelessness of Shabbos day. However, if he
does not distinguish between the six profane days of the week, and the
of Shabbos, then he remains trapped within time which can only be, at
best, the weekend.
About 20 years ago, a study was performed, and reported in the Globe
and Mail (Toronto), to see the effects of the weekend in different
According to the study, of all the people surveyed, Orthodox Jews had the
lowest blood pressure after the weekend, even though they only rested for
one day, and even “consumed a very fatty and overcooked food during that
time,” which we call “cholent.” The least rested group: those who enjoyed
the two-day weekend by simply having a blast.
The report said that the results were surprising, and after analysis,
that the difference may be the way Orthodox Jews abstain from being
involved in the physical world, like the rest of the six days of the week,
the one day. It even recommended that other cultures try the same approach
to the weekend, if they wanted to be able to reduce the stress in their
Pekudai is the recounting of the contributions made to the Mishkan, and
all that was produced as part of its construction. The Mishkan ran by the
Jewish clock, especially since two of the main sacrifices offered there
the Tamid, the Continual Offering, two identical, ongoing sacrifices that
time limits by which they could be offered. As a result, they represented
continuity of time and of the Jewish people.
Then, of course, there is Parashas HaChodesh, the first mitzvah given to
the Jewish people in Egypt, the mitzvah to sanctify the new moon each
month. The gentile world also has a monthly calendar, but it is really a
calendar divided up into 12 months, unlike the Jewish monthly calendar,
which happens to have 12 months which add up to a year (except in a leap
year, when an entire extra month is added, without which Pesach could end
up, eventually, in the winter).
What is the practical difference between the two approaches?
The difference is the moon itself.
I happen to doven at Neitz—sunrise—each morning. As a result, when I
go to shul, it is still dark outside, as in night dark, and therefore
moon is still out, and still quite bright, up in the sky, which where I
quite large. Hence, as tired as I may be at that time, and as confused
the day of the month I might be at that moment, the second I see the moon
in that sky, and its present size at that point in its orbit, I am
reminded of what part of the month we are presently holding. At a moment’s
notice, I am able to find my place within the Jewish year.
This is why the first mitzvah taught to the Jewish people in Egypt was
Kiddush HaChodesh, the sanctification of the new moon. It was not just
way. Believe it or not, it was the key to leaving Mitzrayim itself, which
represented the opposite concept, as embodied in the golden calf. For, as
any jeweler will tell you, gold represents eternity, and as a Kabbalist
you, a calf, a symbol of Egypt, represents unbridled youth. Therefore,
Mitzrayim represented the human desire to be eternally youthful and
only to oneself.
Kiddush HaChodesh, which ties the Jew to time, is one of the ways that
God says, “Take responsibility for yourself, be responsible to Me, and
we can use time to rectify Creation, and you can rise above its physical
limitations. By using time meaningfully, you will harness its ability to
bring out of you power that you never knew you had.”
The Hebrew word says it all: zman. When three men or more say
Birchas HaMazon together after a meal, they make a zimun, which means
“invitation.” The Hebrew word for money is mezuman, because it is ready
to be used immediately. Hence, the word for time really refers to a state
readiness, that is, a readiness for the opportunity that a moment in life
just happen to bring, so that it can be used meaningfully, and not lost
Believe me, if money were to fall from the sky between 2 and 3 pm today,
you’d be there with a large basket ready to catch as much as possible.
So, why not act the same way with moments in life?
Which brings us to the meaning of matzah. Ever see it being made? A
frantic experience, no? A team of professional matzah bakers work furiously
and very quickly to make sure that the dough does not become chometz, a
symbol of squandered moments of life. Chometz is a kosher opportunity
gone wrong, because too much time was taken to perform the mitzvah.
Indeed, contrary to popular belief, we don’t eat matzah on Pesach because
the Jewish people did not have time to bake break when leaving
Egypt; that would only have taken 18 minutes, and they certainly had that
much time before leaving. Rather, circumstances were created to make sure
that they did not bake chometz, so that matzah would result, so that the
Jewish people leaving Egypt, and all their descendants, could learn one of
the most valuable lessons of life: how to meaningfully manage time.
Ironically, the modern business world has become one of the best examples
of this idea (and for me personally, my own father, whose management
of time I have always admired). How much money is spent just to find better
ways to manage and keep track of time, so that it can be well used? The
CEO is a maven of mavens when it comes to using his time, which is
why he is able to accomplish so much in so little time … when it comes to
My Rosh HaYeshivah, Rabbi Noach Weinberg, zt”l, who passed away
about a month ago did many amazing things in his lifetime, because he did
the most amazing thing by pursuing Torah like others pursue money, not an
easy thing to do. For, the drawing power of the latter is its promise of
and power, which the body craves, and the former promises closeness to
God in the World-to-Come, which the body doesn’t even relate to.
At the R”Y’s levayah, of the many praises mentioned, one stands out in
my mind the most, and that is the way the R”Y, while still young, used to
keep an actual record of how he spent every five minutes, all day long,
every day, to make sure that it had not been wasted. He fulfilled,
the words of the wisest man, who said:
If you want it like money and seek it like buried treasures, then you will
understand fear of God and Da’as Elokim you will find. (Mishlei 2:4-5)
For years I watched the Rosh HaYeshivah come and go as he traveled
the world to fundraise so that he could spawn a movement that has affected
hundreds of thousands of Jews, and brought so many of them back to Torah.
Yet, I rarely ever saw the R”Y in state of exhaustion, or set back, though
there were so many reasons why he could have been.
I particularly remember the Yemai Norayim, that special time of year
when the R”Y joined us for dovening, when he would stand at the front of
the Bais Midrash, swaying the entire time as if his entire life was spent
pursuing God, which it was, and doing His will. When he snapped his fingers
during the quiet of the Shemonah Esrai, it was no distraction. Rather, as
it brought the R”Y new life to give to God, it woke the rest of us up as
allowing us to feed off the energy that seemed to flow from the R”Y the
However, the R”Y was human like the rest of us, and the cancer that
ravaged his body took a great toll on his physical presence. However, I
overheard, it did not take a toll on the R”Y’s spirit. From what I
the R”Y was in command until the very end, and most important of all, he
was b’simchah until the last moment.
Classic Rav Noach Weinberg, zt”l.
Use time to your spiritual advantage, and it will free from physical
Text Copyright © 2009 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.