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It's About Time
Timing is everything. So what better time than during this season of reflection, repentance and renewal to reconsider the scarcity of time that characterizes so many of our lives?
Indeed, so much in our tradition demands our attention to time. As the renowned Jewish thinker, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, wrote: "Jewish ritual may be characterized as the art of significant forms in time, as architecture of time. Most of its observances -- the Sabbath, the New Moon, the festivals, the Sabbatical and the Jubilee year -- depend on a certain hour of the day or season of the year.
"It is, for example, the evening, morning or afternoon that brings with it the call to prayer. The main themes of faith lie in the realm of time. We remember the day of the exodus from Egypt, the day when Israel stood at Sinai; and our Messianic hope is the expectation of a day, of the end of days."
As we approach the holiest day of the year, we note that the name itself -- Yom Kippur -- zooms in once again on that 24-hour cycle: the day of atonement. It is the essence of the day itself, our sages taught, that enables us to embark on a new path.
So why is it that the apparently seamless flow of the Jewish calendar contrasts so starkly with the chaotic construct of our Google calendars? Why is it that the endless variety of "Mom" calendars adorning our kitchen walls are so crammed with activities and "to do" lists for each member of the family that it's downright dizzying?
No matter what our age, it seems, we are overprogrammed.
As we engage in teshuvah, Yom Kippur seems like the perfect opportunity to vow to try to return to a slower pace -- to commit to finding ways to spend more quality time with our spouses, our children, our parents, our friends and our communities.
It's not realistic to think we're going to radically alter our frenzied schedules; nor do we necessarily want to give up on some of those long-term goals: learning something new, volunteering for a meaningful cause, even taking the time to take better care of ourselves.
But the constant battle cry to "find more time" has got to become more than that. It can't be an endless scavenger hunt, where the clues are so elusive that they're simply impossible to locate.
Perhaps part of the answer comes from Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), which we read on Sukkot, just five days after Yom Kippur:
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." Now all we need to do is figure out which purpose goes with which season, and start whittling down the calendar accordingly.
Here's wishing all of our readers an easy Yom Kippur fast. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.
And as we move to the sukkah -- a sure sign of simpler times -- may that life become a tad less hectic.