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    Is Time
    a Storm
    in Which
    We Are
    All Lost?
    Always Late
    Sarah was always late to work no matter
    how much she tried to be on time, or how
    many times her boss scolded her. She just
    could not wake up on time. Her boss said
    she would fire her if it did not stop. Sarah
    decided to seek the advice of her doctor.
    He prescribed her some medication and
    told her to take one pill before going to
    sleep. She did and she woke up before
    the alarm clock sounded and headed into
    work feeling well-rested. Sarah told her
    boss about the doctor’s prescription and
    how well it worked.
    Her boss said, “That is great, Sarah, but
    where were you yesterday?”
    Choosing the World & the Jews
    It is a strange Midrash, found in this
    week’s Torah portion, Bo. At the surface,
    it seems baffling, but upon deeper reflection, it contains an extraordinary meditation on how we live our lives.
    The Jewish calendar has twelve lunar
    months. The first day of each month is
    known as Rosh Chodesh (the head of
    the month); the first day of the year (the
    first day of the first month of the year) is
    known as Rosh Hashanah (the head of
    the year.)
    Says the Midrash:
    שמות רבה טו -, יא: דָּבָר אַחֵר -, הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם. –
    הֲדָא הוּא דִּכְתִיב -(תהלים לג, יב) -אַשְׁרֵי הַגּוֹי אֲשֶׁר
    – ה’ אֱלֹהָיו, מִשֶּׁבָּחַר – הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא – בְּעוֹלָמוֹ,
    קָבַע בּוֹ – רָאשֵׁי חֳדָשִׁים וְשָׁנִים, – וּכְשֶׁבָּחַר
    בְּיַעֲקֹב וּבָנָיו – קָבַע בֹוּ רֹאש -ׁ חֳדָשִׁים שֶׁל גְּאֻלָּה.
    When G-d chose His world, He established ‘heads of months’ and ‘heads of
    years.’ When G-d chose Jacob and his
    children, the Jewish people, He established the ‘head of the month of redemption’ (the first day of the month of Nissan,
    the month of the Exodus).
    What does this Midrash mean? What
    does it mean “when G-d chose his
    world?” Why does the Midrash not say,
    “when G-d created His world?”
    And what does choosing a world have to
    do with the establishment of the head of a
    month and the heads of a year? And what
    does the Midrash mean when it says that
    “when G-d chose Jacob and his children,
    He established the Head of the month of
    Delineating time into months and years is
    based on the astronomical lunar and solar
    orbits. The moon completes its orbit after
    one month. The sun completes its orbit
    after a year. What does any of this have
    to do with G-d “choosing His world,” or
    “choosing Jacob and his children?”
    An Address to High School Girls
    On January 16, 1964 (2 Shevat, 5724),
    the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994)
    addressed a group of teenage girls, the
    graduating class of a NY Jewish girls’
    high school, Beis Rivkah. He offered
    them a most marvelous insight into this
    Midrash. This profound perspective can
    teach us volumes about how to view a
    one-liner in Midrash, and how to speak
    to the hearts of teenage girls.
    (This coming Shabbos marks the 70th
    anniversary of the leadership of the
    Lubavitcher Rebbe, who succeeded his
    father-in-law as the leader of Chabad 70
    years ago, on the 10th of Shevat 1951.
    The following insight is characteristic of
    the profundity and richness of his Torah
    Three Types of Time
    Aristotle said that time was the greatest
    teacher who killed all his students. There
    is no “teacher” like time. What we learn
    through time and aging is unparalleled
    by any class or teacher. The experience
    of life is the greatest teacher. The saying
    goes: When a man with money meets a
    man with experience, the man with experience ends up with the money; the man
    with the money ends up with an experience.
    And yet the clock stops for nobody.
    “Suspect each moment, for it is a thief,
    tiptoeing away with more than it brings,”
    John Updike said. You may be sleeping,
    sipping a coffee, surfing the web, or getting angry at Trump or Biden, the clock
    is ticking away. How do we deal with the
    merciless reality of time?
    There are three ways, suggests the Midrash. There are three experiences of
    time: depressing time, meaningful time,
    and redemptive time. You choose in
    which time-zone you will breathe.
    Depressing Time
    For some, time is just an endless flow,
    a shapeless blob, a random stream that
    never ceases. A day comes and a day
    goes, and then another day comes and
    goes. Each day is the same as the day before, and they all add up to nothing.
    Sometimes you watch people who allow their days and years to pass without
    goals. Every day is an invitation to squander yet another 24 hours until it too will
    bite the dust. If the boredom gets to you,
    you find ways to escape and dull the void.
    This is an empty and depressing time:
    time devoid of any theme. Time as it is
    on its own, without human initiative and
    creativity. Shapeless and formless. One
    set of 24 hours is indistinguishable from
    another set of 24 hours.
    Productive Time
    Comes the Midrash and says, “When
    G-d chose His world, He established
    ‘heads of months’ and ‘heads of years.’”
    For the world to become a chosen place,
    a desirable habitat, a place worth living
    in, a place that G-d not only created but
    chose, we must grant the endless flow of
    time the dignity of purpose. Every day
    ought to have a productive objective,
    every month—a meaningful goal, every
    year—a dynamic rhythm. The world G-d
    chose and desired was one in which humanity learns to confer meaning on time,
    to utilize it for constructive and beneficial
    endeavors. A meaningful life is a life in
    which every day is filled with meaningful choices and experiences, utilized to
    promote goodness and justice.
    So “When G-d chose His world, He established ‘heads of months’ and ‘heads of
    years.’” For time to be utilized purposefully, every month must have a “head,”
    which gives the month its tone and direction. Every year must have a “head,”
    Rosh Hashanah, the time to put into focus
    the year that passed and the year ahead.
    For time to be used productively, it must
    be delineated. You must take note of a
    sunrise and sunset, of a new month and a
    new year. Each presents you with a specific energy and calling.
    Redemptive Time
    You can live a productive life, mark your
    days with worthy objectives. Your life
    has rhythm. You have a morning, a night,
    a lunch break, a weekend, and a vacation.
    But you are still confined within the realm
    of a mortal, finite and frail universe. As
    wise men have said, Men talk of killing
    time, while time quietly kills them. Time
    is a storm in which we are all lost. Time
    is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it,
    but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but
    you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you
    can never get it back
    Within the restricted structure of our bodies, life span, and circumstances, we can
    compose a ballad from our time. Yet, we
    can’t free ourselves from the prison of
    mortality. Even when I work hard and
    use my time well, it is still cruel to me. It
    ages me. At any moment something can
    happen which will shake up and destroy
    my entire structure and rhythm.
    Here is where the Midrash opens us up
    to another dimension of time, and this is
    where the Jewish story is introduced into
    history. “When G-d chose Jacob and his
    children He established the head of the
    month of Redemption.” G-d gave us the
    ability to liberate and redeem ourselves
    from the natural, mortal, and finite reality.
    He allowed us to align our posture with
    infinity; not just to be productive with our
    time, but to confer upon each moment
    transcendence, to grant it the resonance
    of eternity, to liberate it and ourselves
    from the shackles of mortality.
    You can be productive with your time.
    You can use it to shovel the snow, mow
    the lawn, fix the garage, read a good
    book, shop in Costco, enhance your computer speed, sell a building, cook a gourmet meal, and help society. This is worthwhile. But you are capable of more: You
    can make each moment Divine, elevating it to the realm of the sacred, where
    each moment, hour, day, week, month,
    and year become
    infused with Gdliness and are
    thus transformed
    into eternity. You
    can allow your
    time to become
    a conduit for the
    timeless and everlasting.
    “When G-d chose
    Jacob and his
    children He established the head
    of the month of
    This is the month of Nissan, the month
    when we were set free of Egyptian bondage and were empowered to free ourselves from every form of bondage. Torah and Mitzvos make our time not only
    productive but Divine.
    When you align your time rhythm with
    the Divine, realizing that every moment
    of time is an opportunity to connect with
    the infinite light vibrating through your
    body and the cosmos; when you use your
    time to study G-d’s Torah, to connect to
    G-d, to perform a mitzvah, and to live
    in the Divine consciousness of oneness,
    your time is not only productive, but it is
    redemptive, uninhibited by the shackles
    of nature finitude. You redeem and transform your time—by aligning it with the
    divine blueprint for life.
    The Choice
    When the sun rises, and I declare “Shema
    Yisroel” to align my posture with Divine
    oneness—the moment of sunrise is now
    etched in eternity. When the sun of Friday
    is about to set and I kindle the Shabbos
    lights, it is a moment transformed into
    transcendent peacefulness. When I take a
    moment to do a favor for another person,
    for tuning into the love of the universe,
    for studying Torah or praying, I elevate
    the moment into transcendence.
    Each of us must choose in which “time
    zone” we will live. Do I live in a “depressing time,” letting my days and nights pass
    without meaning? Do I elevate my days
    into worthwhile experiences? Or, in my
    ultimate calling, do I turn each day into
    a redemptive experience, into a conduit
    for infinity?
    How We Study Science and Physics
    The Rebbe said one more thing to these
    girls about their academic studies. Some
    of us study the sciences and see them
    merely as interesting data, raw facts.
    However, much of humanity has come
    to appreciate that when we study biology,
    physics, history, or math it must be with a
    productive and meaningful purpose—to
    make the world a better place, to enhance
    life on our planet, and to promote justice
    and compassion.
    Yet, our ultimate calling is to see all of
    our studies, all branches of wisdom, as
    an instrument to transform our world and
    our lives into an abode for the Divine infinite reality, to infuse all aspects of our
    lives with true and timeless meaning,
    with everlasting love and holiness, by
    revealing that ultimately, we are all one,
    and everything is part of that oneness.