IT'S ABOUT TIME

By RABBI SHLOMO PRICE

It's with joy mixed with sorrow that I begin this sicha. The joy, of course, is the chance to perhaps make an impact on somebody out there in Cyberspace land. I'm also excited about typing my first sicha on "Word 97". I'm used to an old computer that people have dubbed a "dinosaur".

The sorrow, however, is the fact that, being summer vacation, the boys have left Neveh, and that's why I have more time to work on a new sicha.

Some of the things that I'm going to say here you may have heard already, either from me or somewhere else, but you already know how important review is to help these concepts penetrate our brains and hearts. This is especially true when the evil inclination is trying with all of his might to keep us from incorporating them into our daily life. I will begin with a story, that I read in the introduction of "Visions of Greatness" Vol. II, by Rabbi Yosef Weiss. He says over a parable from Rav Simcha Zissel Ziv, zt'l, the Alter of Kelm, a talmid of Rav Yisroel Salanter, zt'l.

There were two boys from the same town who learned in a Yeshiva far away from their hometown. Their names were Chaim and Shimon. Once Chaim had to make the long journey back home for a few days. Shimon asked Chaim if he could deliver a very important letter to his (Shimon's) parents. Naturally, Chaim agreed. On the day that Chaim was leaving, Shimon gave the letter to Chaim and urged him not to forget to deliver the letter. Chaim reassured Shimon that he wouldn't forget. Fifteen minutes later, Shimon returned to remind Chaim again. And so the day continued with Shimon reminding Chaim at fifteen-minute intervals. He even accompanied Chaim to the train station and as the train pulled out, he screamed, " Chaim, please don't forget the letter!"

When Chaim got off the train at his hometown, he saw a tremendous upheaval. A fire had broken out and everyone was trying to put it out. He realized that he should get home as soon as he can to help out. Just then he remembered Shimon's plea. He duly went to Shimon's house at the first possible opportunity and delivered the letter

How was it that Chaim remembered to deliver the letter amidst all the confusion? Because Shimon, with his constant reminders, had embedded it in Chaim's mind and heart.

So too many times we hear stories or sichot and they have an impact on us. We even make a commitment to better ourselves. But then, the fire of confusion, that the evil inclination represents, makes us forget our goal. We must, like Shimon, constantly review these thoughts, and then maybe we'll remember our goal.

We must also act upon the inspiration immediately or else it will wear off. (See the end of the "Sefiras Haomer Sicha" where I bring a story with Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach that illustrates this point).

We must also not underestimate the power of a single moment of inspiration. In "Inspiration and Insight" Vol. I, from Rav Yehudah Zev Segal, the Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, (translated by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman) on p. 286 -7, he brings an amazing insight from the Gemoro Sanhedrin 96b (and Gittin 57b-the Gemoro we learn on Tisha b' Av).

The Gemoro relates how Nevuzaradan, the Babylonian general conquered Yerushalaim in the time of the First Destruction. He saw blood seething on the floor of the Beis Hamikdash. The Jews had to confess that this was the blood of the prophet Zechariah the Kohen, who was slain for foretelling the impending destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh. Nevuzaradan wanted to appease Zechariah so he ordered the slaughter of scholars school children, and finally young Kohanim. It was more than 94,000 in all, but still the blood did not stop seething. Then Nevuzaradan threatened to massacre all the Jews and then the blood stopped seething.

Nevuzaradan then had a tremendous inspiration of remorse, "If the Jews, who killed but one man, were so severely punished, what will be my fate?" He left and ultimately converted to Judaism. Rav Segal points out that we should realize on whom this inspiration had such an impact. We are dealing with a bloodthirsty and cruel gentile who has killed tens of thousands of people. Cruel behavior breeds a cruel nature.(See Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh, Devorim 13:18-I hope to allude to this Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh in my next sichah about Rosh Hashana).

He was also expecting a hero's welcome on his return home. Yet this murderer and conqueror decided instead to convert to the very religion of the people that he just killed.

The source of this turnabout was a single moment of reflection, a single moment of yiras haonesh- fear of retribution. After seeing that the Jews were held accountable for the murder that they had committed, it suddenly dawned upon him that he would be held responsible for all those that he had killed. As Rav Segal so beautifully concludes,

"The truth of that realization penetrated his ruthless vile nature and caused him to ignore whatever honor was awaiting him back home. Fear of retribution lead him to sincere remorse and, ultimately, to embrace the teachings of the true G-d. Can there be a greater transformation? Such is the power of hisorerus-inspiration."
I recently had an inspiration that helped me understand a famous teaching of the Mesilas Yeshorim-Path of the Just, by Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato, zt'l. He writes in his introduction that in order to truly understand fear of Heaven one must follow Shlomo Hamelech's (King Solomon's) advice, who says in Mishlei- Proverbs 2:4-5,
"If you seek it like silver and like hidden treasures you search for it, then you will understand fear of Hashem..."
Well, I saw in, lehavdil, the Reader's Digest, Feb. 98 an article about gold entitled, "I've Found Gold!", about the California gold rush of the 1800's. He writes that when somebody walked along the street shouting that he had found gold it had a tremendous impact. "Doctors, judges, clerks and soldiers raced for the gold fields. Stores shut, newspapers closed and ships were deserted by their crews. 'The fever set in and gold was on the brain,' said one miner"

All I can say is that if this is the way they acted over a remote possibility of getting some gold, then certainly we must do the same for a definite certainty of obtaining fear of Heaven. In fact in old time Europe this is what happened in Ellul- the month before Rosh Hashana. Workers would close up shop and spend more time preparing for the Days of Awe.

We must also realize the obligation that we have, to take time out and reflect.

Rav Yehuda Zev Segal, zt'l, the Manchester Rosh Hayeshiva, has a beautiful sicha on this point in his book, "Inspiration and Insight' Vol. I p.229-31.

He brings the Siach Yitzchok who explains what we say in viduy-confession "For the sin that we have sinned before you without knowledge-bli daas." He says that this refers to wrongful practices for which there is no specific prohibition but which man's intellect dictates as sinful. Man is held responsible for such practices and needs to seek atonement for them.

Rav Segal then brings the Sefer Chasidim (153) that says, "We find in the Torah that whoever is capable of deducing a given matter is punished for not having acted accordingly, though there is no command regarding it."

The Sefer Chasidim brings some proofs to this. One of them is the story of Billam and his donkey Bamidbar-Numbers 22.

Billam was setting out toward Balak in order curse the Jews. Hashem sent an angel with a sword to block his path. Billam could not see the angel, only his donkey could. Seeing the angel, caused the donkey to veer of the path three times and he even squeezed Billam's foot in a narrow path, and once he just settled down on the ground. Each of these three times, Billam hit the donkey. After the third time, Hashem brought about the miracle that the donkey spoke and rebuked Billam and he was not able to respond. At that time, Hashem permitted Billam to see the angel. The angel asked Billam why he hit his donkey (22:32). Billam replied (22:34) "I have sinned for I did not know that you were standing opposite me on the road..."

The Sefer Chasidim asks : What was the rebuke of the angel? Is it wrong for someone to hit his donkey for veering off the path especially if it's squeezing his foot against the wall? Also what did Billam mean by saying that he had sinned for he did not know that the angel was standing opposite him? On the contrary, the fact that he didn't see the angel is the very reason why he had not sinned, since he had no idea why his donkey was behaving so erratically.

The Sefer Chasidim explains that Billam's sin was that he should have realized that the donkey's wayward behavior was a Heavenly signal that Hashem was upset with him for his wrongful intentions in going to meet Balak.

Rav Segal concludes, "A person who permits himself to coast merrily along the path of life, never reflecting on his personal life or events of note, is guilty of sinful behavior. It is a Jew's obligation to think, to be ever mindful, of the lessons and Heavenly messages that can be derived from a given happening."

It's about time that I speak about time. I will start off with [the English translation of] a Sephardi poem that is sung by brisim. Rabbi Paysach Krohn brings it down in the Footsteps Of The Maggid, p. 64.

SON OF MAN WHY DO YOU FRET OVER MONEY,
AND DO NOT FRET OVER DAYS?
MONEY DOES NOT HELP,
DAYS DO NOT RETURN.
PURSUE TORAH AND MITZVOS,
FOR THEY ENDURE FOREVER.
Rabbi Krohn then brings a story from Rav Yaakov Salomon of Brooklyn to teach us the value of time.

The Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Vodaath is a great tzadik known as Rav Avraham Pam. There was an elderly man in Rav Pam's shul that got sick and had to be hospitalized. Being a Kohen, Rav Pam doesn't visit hospitals out of fear of violating the prohibition of a Kohen being in the same building as a dead person. Instead he wrote the man a letter wishing him a refuah shleima- a speedy recovery. It was a short letter that took the Rosh Hayeshivah just a few minutes to write. The man could not believe that a simple man like himself merited a letter from the famous Rosh Hayeshivah. He kept the letter under his pillow and, beaming with pride, showed it to all his visitors.

A few months later the man passed away. One of the eulogizers pointed out that the man obviously was important, because the Rosh Hayeshivah himself took the time to write him a letter.

Later that week Rav Pam (who, being a Kohen, could not attend the funeral) heard what was said, and that the man treasured the letter.

Rav Pam then said, "This whole incident is frightening to me. Consider what a` person can accomplish in just a few moments. It took me just two minutes to write that letter, yet in the hospital it gave the recipient such cheer and comfort. Furthermore, at the funeral it gave his family and friends consolation. Do we realize what can be accomplished in just two minutes? How often do all of us have two minutes of free time? If we don't make the most of those periods, they pass by in emptiness. What frightens me is that Hashem can take this letter and say to me, 'You did something so wonderful in such a short amount of time. What are you doing with all the other two-minute spans of free time that you have?' "

Rabbi Krohn adds, "Indeed,! What about a call? A postcard? A friendly hello? Are there not people we know-even relatives- who would be thrilled and touched just to know that we thought enough about them to inquire about their well-being ?"

My wife reminded me of another Rabbi Krohn story along these lines.

In The Maggid Speaks, p. 186-87 he relates how Rav Zelig Reuven Bengis, (1864-1953), rav of the Eidah Hachareidis community in Jerusalem, was an exceptional masmid (diligent-never wasted time).

He learned every moment he could and he even finished Shas - the whole Talmud every year. He would make a party on that occasion. One year, a few weeks after he made a siyum he made another one. The people wondered how he could finish Shas so quickly. He explained that this was a different cycle of learning Shas which took a lot longer than a year to finish. He explained, "As a rav, I'm often called to participate in simchas-happy occasions such as weddings, bar mitzvahs and circumcisions. Quite often there is a delay; an important guest is late, a relative has not arrived yet, and so on. Instead of wasting precious time, I decided seventeen years ago that I would begin a special cycle of Shas during these waiting periods. The other day I was at a simcha and finished this separate cycle. Therefore I am celebrating with this siyum.

I was a witness to the tremendous value of even 50 seconds. This happened in 1968. I would not have remembered all the particulars, but somebody got it off the Internet for me.

I am talking about, lehavdil, the famous (or infamous) "Heidi game" an N.F.L. football game that was voted the most memorable moment in N.F.L. history. As written in The Detroit Free Press, Oct. 2, 97.

"The infamous "Heidi" game between the N.Y. Jets and Oakland Raiders was voted the most memorable regular-season moment in N.F.L. history in a recent poll of members of the media...to mark the 10,000th game that will be played Sunday afternoon.

Of all the regular-season games played since the league was founded in 1920, the one that stood out to the media panel was the game between the Jets and Raiders on Nov. 17, 1968. With 50 seconds remaining, and the Jets leading, 32-29, NBC stopped telecasting the game and switched to the children's film "Heidi". The Raiders scored two touchdowns during those final 50 seconds for a 43-32 victory."

I said I was a witness not because I was watching the game, rather because I tuned in early not to miss even one minute of Heidi. I remember how NBC got a deluge of hate mail for what they did.

There is a common saying that "Time is money". Unfortunately this is belittling the value of time. Rather, "Time is life".

In fact, there is a book with the title, "Time is Life", by Rabbi Avi Shulman. He writes on p. 60-61,

"Money, as important as it is, is a poor equation to time. Money can be earned, saved, given, multiplied, inherited, bequested, invested, and hoarded. Time can't. time can only be used-either wisely or unwisely.
Time is the very fabric of life, the canvas on which all other activities are painted, the plot of land on which we either build and develop our structure, which can be a simple house, an office complex, a shopping center, a farm, or left just wasted.
The parent who spends time with his child, the person who shares his or her day with an infirm stranger, the friend who spends time in sincere concern about a neighbor's welfare, the carefully said prayer, the hour(s) filled with learning Torah are all testimony on our behalf that time is so much more than just "money"... time is really life!"
Rabbi Shulman compares time to other assets in his Preface p. IX,
"In truth, a person's home can be destroyed or his business ruined, yet he can rebuild or replace these assets. Time is the only asset that diminishes constantly, and can't be replaced, rebuilt, added to, traded or purchased.."
On p. 13 he says,
"The value of your time is in direct relationship to the importance of what you can or actually do with it."
Based on this understanding that time is so much more than money-it's life, a certain Super Bowl tradition bothered me immensely. Here in Israel, the game is televised in the middle of the night. Guys rent a room together in a hotel to watch the game. This way they don't spend so much money. Yet a vast amount of their time is consumed. I'm not talking about the few hours they actually spend on watching the game. Rather, I'm talking about all the hours recuperating from it. As the game is in the middle of the night, they don't sleep. Consequently, the whole next day of learning or working is shot. The guys say they are addicted and must watch the game.

I want to ask these "addicts" one thing. What if would cost $500 (of your hard earned money) a person to watch the game, would you still give in to your addiction?

Well, the time expended, as we have explained, is worth so much more. In fact, it's priceless (no pun intended).

I will now bring a few points about the value of time and life based on some sichot from Rav Chaim Shmuelewitz.

Rav Chaim has a sicha entitled "Osher Hachayim"-"The Joy Of Life" Parshas Vaeira, 5731

He brings the Chazal that there were three people who were Pharoh's advisers when he wanted counsel on what to do with the Jews. Billam advised to throw the males in the sea, Iyov (Job) was quiet, and Yisro ran away. Bilam was punished (by Hashem) that he was killed by the sword, Iyov (for not protesting) was punished with constant, immense and unbearable suffering. Now logic would dictate that Hashem would give a worse punishment to Billam, yet it would seem that the constant suffering of Iyov was worse.

The posuk in Eicha (Lamentations) 3:39 says, "Mah yisonen adam chai..."-"Why should a (live) person complain..." Rashi in Kidushin 80b explains, (Hashem is saying) " Why should a person complain with all that happens to him after the favor that I have done for him that I have given him life."

Rav Chaim says this can be compared to someone who won a very big lottery, and at the same time that he found out this great news, a barrel shatters. Will he feel any pain when he experiences the great joy of winning the lottery? Of course not, the great joy swallows up and nullifies any bad that comes with daily living.

So too, the vast joy of "life" and being alive should overshadow all the daily occurrences even the suffering of Iyov.

Dovid Hamelech (King David) also writes in Tehilim 118 :18 "Yaso yisrani Kah vílamoves lo nesononi"- "Hashem has made me suffer but has not brought me unto death." He was saying that even- though he suffered, but since he has "life" then he doesn't feel the suffering.

So now we see that the punishment of Billam-death was immeasurably much greater than Iyov. Because Iyov, despite his suffering, had life, whereas by Billam this great joy was taken away from him.

Rav Chaim has another sicha called "Immortalizing the Fleeting Moment" (in the English p. 111...-in the Hebrew Parshas Bo 5731).

He brings the Gemoro Avoda Zoro 17a which relates how Rav Elazar ben Durdia did a tremendous teshuvah-repentance because of a chance remark of a woman with whom he was engaged in sin.(See "How To Listen a Sicha" where I elaborate on this Gemoro).

Her words made such an impact on him that he sat down on a mountain and cried until his soul left him. A Heavenly voice proclaimed that Rav Elazar has entered Olam Habo -the World to Come. When Rebbi heard this, he began crying and remarked, "There are some who acquire their share of Olom Habo in just a moment."

Why did Rebbi cry? Shouldn't he have been overjoyed that Rav Elazar raised himself from such lowly circumstances to be granted immediate entrance to Olom Habo?

Rav Chaim answers that Rebbi did not cry for Rav Elazar's sake, but rather for all of humanity. When he was told the story of Rav Elazar, he realized that each one of us also experiences a moment of such import that is capable of changing one's entire life. Yet only one out of a thousand in fact utilize this moment. If every person does indeed have such a moment in his life, why do so few make use of it? This is why Rebbi cried.

I will conclude with a thought (and a great story-as Rabbi Krohn would say). It could be that I should have mentioned this at the beginning of the sicha. There is a problem that many of us have when we read and hear stories of the lofty heights of the great Tzadikim. How can we relate to them? We'll never reach their levels so why bother even trying?

Rabbi Pliskin asks this question in the Preface of his wonderful book "Love Your Neighbor," p.15.

He answers with a lesson that he had heard from one of his teachers, "When you reach the stars, you might not catch any, but at least your hands won't get stuck in the mud." If we try to implement the lessons mentioned here, we might not reach perfection but at least we'll become better people and go higher on our level.

I always point out that when we hear the Gemoro in Kesubos 67b that "A person should rather have himself thrown into a fiery furnace, than put his fellow man to shame in public," (see Love Your Neighbor p.111-13) we may not see ourselves actually doing it. However, we may learn from this that if one should give up his life, then certainly we can give up certain things not to embarrass people in public. For example, your team is playing an important basketball game and your friend misses the last shot which could have given your team the victory. Your whole gut is yearning to rank the guy out. But you can "let yourself be thrown in the fiery furnace" by keeping your mouth shut as hard as it is. (As I saw in the Reader's Digest, "Never miss the opportunity to keep your mouth shut.")

Likewise, someone took your piece of chicken, etc., control yourself and rebuke him softly not in public.

To apply this point to our sicha, even though we may not finish shas in our spare five minutes here and there like Rav Bengis did, we can at least not waste it and accomplish something. Whether it's learning a sefer, reading a biography of a great Tzadik, a sicha that you downloaded from the Internet, inspiring stories, writing a letter or reflecting about life. How many opportunities do we have driving or riding to and from work that we can listen to tapes on Jewish History, Torah, or Mussar etc.?

I now will end off with the great story that I promised you.

The wonderful series of inspiring stories called, "Visions of Greatness", by Rabbi Yosef Weiss has recently come out with Vol IV. Many thanks to Dovi Hirth for sending it to me.

On p. 70 he has a story called, "Inspirational Echo"

It is about a fellow who is listening to a mussar tape of Rav Don Segal while riding in his car. He was on a one lane highway so he only looked on the road of his lane. He didn't need to look on the oncoming traffic lane. Meanwhile, a jeep that was behind him wanted to pass him. In order to accomplish that, the jeep picked up speed and went partially into the oncoming traffic lane until he was alongside this fellow. The fellow didn't notice the jeep, but he did notice that he was driving a bit too close to the right hand side of the road. He was about to turn his wheel to the left (where the jeep was) when he heard a beep. He turned his head around and saw the jeep, and allowed the jeep to go ahead of him. His heart was pounding and he was breathless at the thought of the collision that he so narrowly averted.

His mind was reviewing the whole scenario, when he realized that the beep didn't sound like a regular beep. Then who beeped him? Then he glanced at his tape deck, and a sudden thought entered his mind. He rewound the tape a bit and pushed the "play" button again. Sure enough moments later he heard a beep- the same beep that had saved him from a major collision.

Ten years earlier, when Rav Segal was giving his lecture, a car drove by and made such a loud beep that it was picked up by the recorder. No doubt that the people who were listening to the speech at that time thought it a nuisance. But ultimately, Hashem had been orchestrating events so a Jew-ten years later- would be spared.

My Hashem help us, especially in the summer when we have so much "spare" time, to use the time accordingly. Have a great summer.

List of Rabbi Price's sichot
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