On Jewish Time: Reflections at the End of a Secular Year
Jeffrey Lasday spends his Jewish time serving as the Director of Federation's Alliance for Jewish Education.
“Judaism is a religion of time aiming at the sanctification of time.” – Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath
“If you could save (Jewish) time in a bottle what would be the first thing that you’d like to do?” -Paraphrase of Jim Croce lyrics, “Time In a Bottle”
“Try not. Do . . . or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
As we enter December, and the days grow shorter, and we head towards the end of one year and the start of another, our thoughts naturally turn to time.
We keep time. We try to stay abreast of time. We fight against the march of time.
Sometimes we are ahead of time; sometimes we are between times, though more often than not behind time.
Though there is never enough time, we too often talk about wasting time or killing time.
We speak about spending time, even though time is our most precious commodity.
We do things, from time to time, at the same time, in good time, for the time being, and in no time at all.
We understand that there is a difference between being in time and being out of time, (which itself is different from a time out) and that on time is not the opposite of time off.
Things are time honored, time bound, timeless and stand the test of time.
There are time cards, time warps, time zones, time limits and even Time magazine.
And then there is Jewish time.
Do you ever pause and think about Jewish time? I do.
As a Jewish educator, I find that I am in the Jewish time business. My job is to create more, find, invest in, and deepen Jewish time and make it more meaningful. So, Jewish time is something in which I think about a lot.
Now the Jewish time that I’m speaking about isn’t the “meeting is starting late, its starting on Jewish time” sort of Jewish time. Nor the perennial Jewish time question of about why the Jewish holidays are always early or late, but never on time. (Personally, I blame it on global warming’s effect on the Jewish space time continuum. Why else would this past year’s fall holidays take place in the summer and Chanukah occur on Thanksgiving. Coincidence? I think not!)
No, the Jewish time that I think about has more to do with that feeling you get inside of you. It’s a gut feeling in your kishkees that is made up of a mixture of when and where you are when you consciously think about being in a Jewish moment.
So, if like me you do ponder Jewish time, do you think more in terms of “where” or “when” is Jewish time?
Finding time to be Jewish
If you think of Jewish time in terms of places, locations which make you feel Jewish, then where do you find the time to be Jewish? Do you find your Jewish time locked up in a building waiting for you in a shul or temple or JCC or Holocaust Center or Federation building? Or do you find your Jewish time in Ortonville outside by a lake at camp? Or is it in a Mediterranean country 6,000 miles away? Or is it when you are surrounded by mobs of MOT*s at a Latke Vodka or Chanukah Candle Lighting in the D? Or when you are in the Meer Apartments delivering hamentashen to seniors? Or do you think of Jewish time as simply being found everywhere and you constantly find yourself surrounded by Jewish time where ever you go?
On the other hand, if you think of Jewish time as a more of a “when” than a “where,” then when is your Jewish time? Is it when you light your Shabbat candles? Is it a 24/1 (Shabbat) sort of thing or more of a 24/7? Or is it when you feel compelled to say a prayer of gratitude or desperation? Or is it when you bear witness to one of life’s miracles of birth, or two souls uniting under a canopy, or the death of a loved one, or an amazing sunrise or sunset? Is it when you snuggle in bed at night with your child reading a PJ Library story of Jewish life? Or is it when you hear a news story about Israel or a famous MOT (Member of the Tribe)? Or is it when you bring food and clothing to a shelter or volunteer to help someone less fortunate than you? Or is it when you study a Jewish text or Jewish subject and are able to engage with Jewish thinkers from another age in another time or ponder the meaning of life? Or is it when you give tzedakah and write that check to a charity or Federation (nudge, nudge)?
How much of your week, your month, your upcoming year will be spent in Jewish time? When (or should I ask where) is your Jewish time? An inquiring mind wants to know.