“No one ever has enough time.” “Time flies.” “Time is money.” “Time is a wasting.” “Time is an illusion.” “Time is precious.” “Time heals all wounds.” “We chase time, but we never catch it.” “Time waits for no man.” “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” These are just some of the quotations we associate with time.
The first mitzvah given to the Jewish people was that of “Hachodesh hazeh … ” This Torah selection is typically read in anticipation of Pesach. The Seforno writes that the message was conveyed as follows: “From now on, the months will be yours to do with them as you wish.” Rav Avraham Pam quotes the Seforno, and comments: “This is incredibly wondrous news—the opportunity to use time as one pleases. This is the essence of freedom … and fortunate is the person who knows how to use time properly.”
Rav Pam noted that, when it comes to money, people spend considerable time thinking how to save it and where to invest it. He pointed out that time is more valuable than money. After all, on a person’s last day of life, wouldn’t he pay anything for just a little more time? Since time is so valuable, shouldn’t people spend just as much time thinking about how to invest it and use it wisely?
As the children of Israel found themselves on the threshold of “freedom,” God gave them His message. “This month is for you, the beginning of months. Now, your time is yours. Decide how to spend it wisely.” They were no longer slaves on someone else’s schedule. Their time was now their own.
Perhaps, this is the lesson of freedom that can be applied in our day. We no longer have to work the fields all day long, as the Jewish slaves had to do long ago in Egypt. Today, we are free people. We are free, specifically, in that we now have much more time for ourselves. However, do we use it wisely? Are we truly free?
Psalm 115 laments that, for some, gold and silver have become the idols which they worship. Those of us who become enslaved to the pursuit of money may give up on our relationships, our families and our well-being. We may obsess on making ends meet, growing our portfolios and having more money than our neighbors. Such individuals are not free either.
Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz reminds us that the Talmud (Sukkah 29a) compares the Jewish people to the moon which waxes and wanes. There were periods throughout our history when we were fortunate to enjoy periods of glory. There were also other periods where we saw declines.
Hashem directed Klal Yisroel to look at the moon and realize that their newfound freedom and power may not last forever. Our strength as a people needs to be much more than the power we temporarily possess and the financial success that we may achieve. “Enjoy the blessings I have given you,” says Hashem. “However, at the same time, realize that you will need to live meaningful lives; lives devoted to the eternal principles of our Torah. Make good use of your time and resources.”
When we think of freedom in our lives, many of us think of taking a vacation or going into retirement. This sort of freedom involves being free of the “daily grind” or removing ourselves from “the rat race.” However, freedom does not simply mean that we now gratify ourselves by watching television all day long or having a beer whenever we feel like it.
The question, then, becomes: are we going to squander our time on unimportant leisurely pursuits or are we going to invest our time wisely and pursue higher, spiritual matters? Will we use it to better connect with Hashem? Let’s not wait until retirement age and beyond to answer that question wisely.
As we head towards Pesach, let us appreciate the unprecedented freedom we now enjoy in modern times. As we observe Parshat Hachodesh, let us reflect on how to use that freedom and our newfound time opportunities in a most meaningful manner. May Hashem bless us with the requisite wisdom, so that we make the best use of our time.
Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg is a forensic, clinical psychologist and a member of the American Psychology-Law Society. He is the coordinator of Bikur Cholim/Chesed at Congregation Torah Ohr in Boca Raton, Florida. He can be reached at [email protected]