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Among the Jews who left Egypt, there were many artisans with special skills. When it was time to build the Tabernacle, they all came forward. The goldsmiths and silversmiths, the weavers and spinners, the builders and carpenters, the blacksmiths and chemists all volunteered their services.
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Home » B'Ha'alotcha

B’ha’alotcha: Timeless Moments

Submitted by on May 27, 2007 – 4:48 amNo Comment | 2,965 views

Never Again

“Time is money,” or so goes the common refrain intended to underscore the importance of every moment. You wouldn’t discard a dollar so why waste a moment? The point is well taken, but the comparison is not equitable. Time is not money, it is much more than money. A lost penny can be replaced. A lost moment is irreplaceable.

The other day, at Synagogue, a friend checked his watch and proclaimed, “Oy, its late!.” After a brief pause he remarked ruefully, “and its getting later by the minute.” How right he is. The sands of time are not sympathetic to our needs or desires. They are relentless.

One of my favorite teachers would begin every lecture with the same announcement, “Time is precious.” He would repeat this statement like a mantra till the general din subsided and the lecture could commence. He never asked us to be quiet, he simply reminded us that time offers no second chances. The minutes we wasted now, would never reappear. They were forever lost to the waste bins of history.

He could have reprimanded us for our lack of respect and responsibility, but I would probably have forgotten that rebuke in ten minutes flat. His message about time remained with me. That message turned out to be timeless.

With Every Breath

The Psalmist wrote, “Every breath shall praise G-d.” (1) This verse carries two messages. With every breath, we must praise G-d and every breath is a praise to G-d. Both translations are correct. We must devote every moment to the praise and worship of G-d, we must fill every moment with divine meaning, because every breath we draw is a testament to G-d; to his incredible, creative ability.
Every time the complex biological system we call the human body, expands its lungs and draws a breath, contracts its lungs and exhales, we witness a miracle. Every time we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide we witness the creator in action. How complex and awesome is his creation! G-d must have had a serious purpose in mind to justify undertaking such a complex operation only to provide me with fresh air.
Such complex synthesis, such inspiring beauty cannot have been deliberately created so that we would waste it. Every moment of life is meaningful. Every breath we draw is an opportunity to raise our conduct to a higher level and our discourse to a more exalted plane. wasting this opportunity is not only an irreplaceable waste of our own time, but a colossal waste of G-d’s effort.
With every breath we must praise G-d for every breath is so inspiring a gift as to itself constitute an ode to G-d. G-d intended for us to use these breaths to praise and these moments of life to compliment him. In other words, to serve a divine purpose. When we use these moments to serve ourselves, our interests and pithy desires, G-d’s effort goes for naught.

Enrichment

I once heard an acquaintance try to disengage from an expensive long distance cell phone conversation by jesting, “Every moment I talk to you drops me into greater poverty.” Indeed, every moment filled with divine purpose is enriching. Every underutilized moment impoverishes.timeless moments

G-d transcends the limitations of time. He is not bound by the present; his past and future are wrapped up in a single warp of time. To G-d, time is not measured. Every moment is timeless.

When we devote a moment to the service of G-d we too attain a moment of timelessness. That moment remains before G-d forever. No one can take it from us. No one can take it from G-d. It becomes irreversible, incontrovertible. It never fades. It can’t – its timeless. Even if we stray from G-d he will always view us through the prism of this timeless moment.

So now consider that a wasted moment is not only a discarded moment, of which there are many, but a discarded eternity, a loss of timelessness. Of course there will always be another moment and the next moment can also become timeless. But even if you amass a million eternities, the loss of a single eternity is still tragic.

Consider life as a succession of trains that depart the station at every moment. If you missed the first train you can take the next train, but because the march of life is unrelenting, you will never catch up with that first train. It will forever remain beyond your reach, you will never glimpse it again. You missed it because you came one moment too late. Destiny intended that train for you, but you deprived yourself.

Kindling Eternal Lights

Of the seven candles on the temple’s candelabra only six were kindled every day. The seventh candle burned miraculously day and night. (2) The question poses itself, why was it necessary for the priest to light the six candles when G-d could have kindled them just as he did the seventh? On the other hand, if the priest was meant to kindle the lights, why did the seventh light burn miraculously?

The priest was instructed to light the candles every day because G-d wanted us to understand that every day is unique. No two moments are alike, no two days are alike. We cannot afford to be complacent despite the abundance of  moments that await us. Every moment is unique and tomorrow cannot possibly replace today.

The daily kindling reminds us that every day carries a unique assignment; an opportunity to draw new divine radiance into our world. Yesterday’s kindling cannot provide today’s illumination just as tomorrow illumination cannot be provided by today’s kindling.

This message however was transmitted only through six of the seven candles. The seventh candle carried a separate message.

The seventh candle reminded us that every moment is not only unique but also eternal. This is why the priest found one candle of yesterday’s lights still ablaze. A moment does not end when it passes. A good deed does not expire when it is concluded. Just as the seventh candle burned well beyond its time so does a moment with G-d. A good deed is timeless; it lasts forever.

Footnotes

  1. Psalms 150: 6. The literal translation of this verse is, “every soul shall praise G-d.” Our sages (Devarim Rabbah, 2: 37) utilized the common syntax between the Hebrew word for soul and breath and translated it to mean, every breath shall praise G-d. See also Ibn Ezra on Psalm 50: 6.
  2. Sifri on Deuteronomy 8: 2. See also Nachmanidies on exodus 27: 20-21. It must be noted that the seventh candle did not burn eternally. It burned for twenty-four hours. The other candles only burned through the night. The seventh candle continued to burn through the following day. When the priest entered in the evening to light the candles he found the seventh candle still ablaze. He lit the torch from the burning seventh candle and with that, kindled the other six candles. By the time he reached the seventh candle, it too extinguished and he was able to rekindle it. This follows the opinion of Tosafot in Bab. Talmud, Shabbat, 22b. See Rashi (R. Shlomo Yitzchaki, Troyes France, 1040-1105) ibid. for another opinion. See also Rashi and Sifsei Chachamim on Leviticus 24: 3.