Elul Teaches Us to Value Time
What would you do if you saw a person puncturing his own life vein, drawing forth his own blood? You might say to him, “What is wrong with you? You are committing suicide!” What would you do if you saw a person approach someone else and puncture his life vein causing him to bleed out before you? We might cry out, “You are a murderer!”
What are we to say when we see a Jew wagging his tongue in wasted talk and conversation, let alone lashon hora, gevalt in der velt! Why don’t we have mercy on him and say, “You are killing yourself. You are committing suicide: “Ki heim chayeinu!” The words of Torah are our life and look what you are doing to your life!
Then you see a fellow learning, davening or listening to a Torah reading. His “good friend” walks over to him and disturbs him by wagging his tongue about “some important matters.” Shouldn’t we think to say, “What are you doing? Murderer! He is engaged in Torah. He is engaged in living! He is engaged in the power and pleasure of what it means to be a nishmas chaim, a ruach memalela (a living, speaking soul). And what are you doing to him? You are using the power of speech for nothing. You are wasting such a beautiful commodity–the power of speech. You are murdering him!”
“Relaxation means to use all your powers for proper needs.”
— Rav Mordechai Gifter, zt”l
Do we think in such terms? When we waste not minutes, but hours in empty talk do we ever stop to think? Gevalt in der velt! Do we ever Never! Many times we call it “relaxation.” A person works hard so he decides he is going to kill himself for three hours. A fool is what he is! Relaxation means to use all your powers for proper needs. Who ever heard of relaxation to stop living for three hours? That has to be a fool. That’s what we are. That’s what we are doing with ourselves, by wasting such valuable time.
“The most precious of all commodities is time. A minute lost is lost forever.”
— Rav Gifter
The Vilna Gaon made a calculation once before Rosh Hashanah. He went through the year and found that for 6 minutes in the year he had not been engaged in learning Torah. Torah does not necessarily mean that he was looking at the Gemora and trying to understand a deep sugya. All the interests of mitzvos and values for the Jew in life–that is Torah. Let us begin to learn from this how the Gaon thought of this commodity called time and how he spent his time. The most precious of all commodities is time. A minute lost is lost forever. You lose a million dollars; you will make it back. You lose diamonds, you will get others to replace them. You lose one minute, it is gone forever, never to come back. How careful must one be in counting every minute of life. That’s the way the Gaon lived.
Just make a calculation for yourself. There are 365 days in a year. Every day has 24 hours. Every hour has sixty minutes. Nu, count out how many minutes there are in a year. The Gaon saw that there were six minutes wasted. And for those six minutes he wept and did teshuvah.
Where do we stand when we hear such a thing? Do we know how many minutes we waste? Not in a year, not in a month, or in a week. Are we aware of how many minutes we waste in a day? Before we go to bed, we should think about how many minutes were wasted by us, for no purpose whatsoever. We didn’t expend them in a profitable manner. Do we have such a calculation? We live in a world where everything is automatic. We never stop to think of what time really is. Time is one of the creations of Hashem Yisborach, though He Himself is above time, far above time. Hashem Yisborach created a world and one of the commodities created in the creation is the commodity of time.
Hashem Yisborach wants time to be used for our benefit. Either we don’t know what time is all about, or we live today without any calculations. And I am not talking to you, gentlemen, I am talking to myself. I hope you don’t mind if you hear what I am telling myself. We live today without any value of what is a minute of time. If only every time we were engaged with something valueless we would stop immediately. We would realize by wasting time, I’m taking diamonds and throwing them into the sea. We don’t think of these things. If only we would realize the true value of time.
Rav Mordechai Gifter, zt”l, helps us prepare for the Yamei HaDin by offering shiurim in English and Yiddish on topics such as teshuvah, Selichos, the proper preparation for Rosh Hashanah and taking an inventory of where we have been and where we are going.
December 31, 2020
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February 12, 2018