Jewish Time Management

There are many commandments in the Torah that show the power of time. For instance, the Biblical penalty for lighting a fire on the Day of Rest, the Sabbath, is quite severe. Yet, if you light a fire ONE SECOND after Shabbat is over, you are not only not committing a sin, you are probably doing a mitzva, a commandment, called Havdala, or seperating the Sabbath from the weekday.

Wow, one second! The one who brought a Thanksgiving offering to God in the Temple had to eat the meat from that sacrifice within that day. If he left it over, it was considered a sin. Think of it: same action, wrong time, equals sin! The only difference is the time.

That is because time is a PHYSICAL property. In fact, it is the most important ingredient in any action. Without time, nothing moves or happens. The world becomes a still-photo, or sculpture. In other words, everything is dead without time moving it.

But that is only half the story. The real power comes when we realize that time, like all other physical properties, has unique characteristics. Not all minutes are created equal. Some have more potential for certain actions, while other times are more propitious for other actions. King Solomon was being quite literal when he said, "There is a time for everything and an hour for every pursuit under heaven."

The Biblical commentator, Seforno, stresses that God seeks us to achieve perfection in all we do. Excess is not perfection, neither is insufficiency. Time is the most important ingredient in perfection, to know how to use time to its utmost. When one brings a Thanksgiving offering, he colors the time with the potential for closeness to God. Failing to complete that process, waiting to finish consuming the sacrifice, destroys perfection and is a sin.

The Sabbath is a time that is unique in its power for spiritual renewal. Performing weekday labors on it and profaning the day constitute the destruction of potential for perfection, and are a great sin.

And the opposite is true. Using time spiritually, seizing the moment and integrating our lives with it lets us taste perfection again and again. The Jewish day, the Jewish week and the Jewish year are filled with minor and major occasions, showing us the color of time. By aligning our lives to that, we can harness the true secrets of effectiveness, spirituality and perfection.

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