Friday, November 13, 2009

Breisheet/Genesis: Chayei Sarah - Using our Time Wisely

Sarah's lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years... - Breisheet Chapter 23:1

This parsha begins with Sarah's death. As we see from the quote from the Torah - her life is broken into parts. There's a focus here on time.

We can divide our own lives into parts as well. Growing up, being a teenager, young adult, midlife and our older years. How have we been using our time?

We have two jobs in this world:
* To create yourself in the image of G-d.
* To make this world a dwelling place for G-d.

Everything we do should be focused on these goals. Every moment, day, week, month and year - should be examined to see if we've grown in learning Torah, doing mitzvot, helping our neighbors, and creating a world G-d would be proud to share with us.

We've all heard the expression - "killing time". Time is a precious gift, we don't know how much of it we've been allotted in this world. Why would we waste the time that we've been given?

If you have "free" moment - what are you going to do with it? Turn on the television or read a Jewish book? Give a dollar to tzedukah (charity) or buy a candy bar? Choices, big and small, face us every day - what are we going to choose?

Sarah used her time - every moment - focused on these two goals. She was a true partner with G-d. We see from her life that she knew what her job was here on earth. She knew that time matters - that we only get so much of it.

Take a moment to look at the way you spend your time during the day. Is most of it spent in front of the television? Listening to the radio? How much of it is dedicated to being a better Jew? Doing mitzvot? Learning new things?

Introduce 5 uninterrupted minutes into your day (every day) reading something Jewish that you're interested in. Not more - not less. You can even set a timer. Begin today - you will quickly see what a difference it will make.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Breisheet/Genesis: Parshat Vayeira

This is a great parsha for many different reasons. This is the parsha with the three angels, when Sarah was promised she would have Isaac, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and his salty wife, Lot and his daughters, the travels of Avraham and Sarah, the birth of Isaac, the sending away of Hagar and Ishmael and the binding of Isaac.

There is so much here to choose from.

I want to start with a side note: We start this chapter with G-d visiting Avraham. Everything is in the Torah for a reason. This is a one liner. "Hashem appeared to Avraham" - why was G-d appearing (not literally, G-d doesn't have a physical form) to Avraham? Because He was visiting the sick. This is important since if G-d takes the time out of His schedule to visit the sick, there's no doubt that we too must take time to visit the sick as well.

In Chapter 18:2-7 Three angels were sent to visit Avraham after his circumcision. The moment Avraham saw what he thought were men, he ran to greet them. This is a fellow who only three days earlier had a circumcision! Then Avraham hastened to Sarah and asked her to make cakes. Then he ran to prepare a calf to eat. All of these are hurried actions to feed the guests. Run, run, run.

What we can learn from this is that we should not let a mitzvah get cold. In the words of the Sages, "When a mitzvah comes into your hand, do not let it pass."

There are so many opportunities that pass our way that we don't take advantage of. We figure that we'll catch the chance when it comes by our way again. Whether it's keeping kosher or Shabbat, or being friendly to a brother or sister, greeting another with a smiling face, going to a Torah class, visiting someone who isn't feeling well, feeding guests, or just cleaning after ourselves so someone else doesn't have to, we cannot let these opportunities pass us by.

Rabbi Hillel said, "Do not say, 'When I have free time, I will study' - since you may never have free time." (Pirkei Avos/Ethics of the Fathers 2:4)

This is a very true statement. Free time always seems to get swallowed up by all sorts of mundane activities. We need to take the time to grab that mitzvah walking by.

[Some information is taken from Don't Look Down by Rabbi Michael Haber]