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Concentrated Time

Friday, 17 May, 2019 - 9:15 am

 Jewish people often bless each other with “arichut yamim,” meaning longevity. Translated literally, this blessing means length of days. Instead of saying, ‘Have a long life!’ we say, ‘Have lengthy days!’

What is the meaning of this odd wording?

At the Shavuot meal in 1940 the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn) explained what success in time means. It means that every day is long – because the moments of each day are regarded as precious and are utilized to their fullest.

So, when we bless each other with ‘lengthy days’ we mean it literally. Not only should you live a long life, but every day should be long – full of meaning, purpose and productivity.

But, how does one accomplish this? How can I ensure that each moment is utilized to its fullest potential?

***

Perhaps a question in this week’s parsha can help us understand.

In Parshat Emor we learn about the various Chagim, Festivals. Three of them are called the Shalosh Regalim – the Three Pilgrimage Festivals, namely Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. During the times of the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) Jews were required to celebrate these festivals in the holy city of Jerusalem.

However, when we look at the festivals we find that Pesach and Sukkot are 7-day holidays, whereas Shavuot is a 1-day festival (another day is added to all of them in the Diaspora).

Pesach celebrates the Exodus from Egypt, Sukkot celebrates G-d’s protection when we lived in the wilderness and Shavuot celebrates the Giving of the Torah.

Why is Shavuot relegated to only one day of celebration? Isn’t the day of Revelation at Sinai the moment we became a people? Isn’t it deserving of equal celebration?!

One Chassidic explanation is that Shavuot lasts only one day because Shavuot is the annual reliving of the revelation that took place when the Torah was given on Mount Sinai. This experience of G-d’s infinite essence transcends the limitations of time; we therefore do not require a full week to assimilate it into the complete array of our emotions. Other festivals are a lower grade revelation, which require more effort to digest.

This is a powerful statement. However, as we personally experience Shavuot, how can we capture its energy in just one (or two) days?

***

In the above-mentioned talk, the Previous Rebbe referred to the famed thirteenth-century scholar, Rabbi Shlomo ben Avraham ibn Aderet, known by the acronym of the Rashba.

Rabbi Shlomo was a celebrated physician in Barcelona, communal leader, renowned philosopher, head of a yeshiva and had a sizeable family. Perhaps, most importantly, he is remembered for his voluminous responsa on Jewish law and extensive commentaries on the Talmud, only some of which have survived to this day. Every day he would teach three different Torah classes, respond to numerous questions arriving from world Jewry and put in a full day’s work as a doctor. In addition, he never missed his daily stroll. Obviously, he also spent considerable time on his own spiritual pursuits of prayer and learning.

How did he have time for all of that?

The Rashba personified the concept of “success in time.” “Success in time,” is not a time-management technique. Rather, it is the total devotion to any given task at hand. During the time that he was teaching, nothing else existed. During the time that he saw patients, nothing else existed. In fact, during his daily walk, nothing else existed.

Being completely invested in the call of the hour ensured that he maximized his potential.

***

On Pesach and Shavuot, we are celebrating G-d’s miracles. It’s not focused on the essence of G-d. Therefore, it may take time to work through it.

On Shavuot, however, we are completely focused and connected with the essence of G-d. Through His Torah, we are one with Him.

Concentrated energy equals concentrated time.

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