Paul & Rhona Lefkowitz in 1943 before they changed their name to Landis. “This switch from Abram to Abraham may seem minor at first glance, but it is actually indicative...Read More
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The saying goes, “Time is money.” But given the choice, which is really more important, five minutes or five dollars?
Legend has it that on her deathbed, Queen Elizabeth said, “I’d give up all my fame and riches for just one more hour of life.”
It’s obvious that time is more precious than money. We have a limited amount of time on this earth. The older we get, the clearer that becomes. When we’re young, we may feel we’ll live forever, we drag our feet thinking we have all the time in the world, and we tell ourselves, “what’s the difference if I waste a decade…” As we get older, reality eventually catches up with us and we realize that life is short and we should not waste even a minute of it. So we spend the next 30 years frantically trying to make up for lost time and then in the last years of life we lament on how we were busy all that time doing the wrong things.
When we’re busy, we feel important. But what are we really accomplishing? Imagine a tombstone that reads: “He ran a lot of errands.” Isn’t there more to life than just being busy?
The title of this week’s Torah portion is “Chayei Sarah” – literally the “life of Sarah.” Strangely, our parsha does not discuss the life of Sarah, but rather describes her death and burial. The parsha continues this theme and ends with the death of Abraham. If this parsha is all about death, why is it entitled “life”?
Life is like a boat. Typically a boat is christened upon its maiden voyage. We have hopes and expectations that the boat will travel safely and successfully. But what happens many years later when the boat, beaten and weathered, comes back to dock? Where are the cameras, the crowds and the champagne?
Judaism says that is precisely the time for celebration. Because that is when we can evaluate and appreciate the success of the vessel. Which explains why the Torah uses the deaths of Sarah and Abraham to trumpet the great value of their lives.
As descendents of Abraham and Sarah, we have inherited their spiritual genes. Every moment of their lives was purposeful and meaningful. “Don’t waste a minute” doesn’t mean having a book in front of you 24 hours a day. (After all, we do sleep.) Rather, the Jewish idea of “relaxing” means to tune into another aspect of living. Relax, but don’t “space out.” Make all our actions purposeful and directed. When we sleep, it should be for the purpose of resting the body so that it will have the strength to do something truly meaningful. In this way, the sleep itself becomes meaningful.
Similarly, when visiting with a friend, don’t just spend the time chatting about news, sports and weather, instead brainstorm ways to assist the community, or talk about the weekly Torah portion. Or take a walk through nature. Even though you change gears, it’s not quitting. It’s growth.
Rabbi Shraga Simmons