Wednesday, March 13, 2013

every moment counts

I can’t remember how it came up, but this past Shabbos my wife mentioned something about the Midrash that tells the story of R’ Akiva’s audience falling asleep in the middle of his derasha.  R’ Akiva woke them up with a question: Why is it that Esther ruled over 127 provinces?  Because Sarah Imeinu lived 127 years.  Meforshim explain that R’ Akiva was making the point that if every year of Sarah’s life added a country to Esther’s kingdom, by that token every month added a province, every day a city, every minute a street, etc.  Avraham and Sarah were “ba’im ba’yamim,” they were able to bring every day of their lives to the table and show accomplishment.  Their avodah was like daf yomi – never miss a day, never miss a daf.  Esther was able to reap the rewards of that consistency.  Think of what would have been lost if Sarah would have wasted even a few minutes of precious time!  So falling asleep in the middle of a derasha and missing even a few moments of Torah is not a good idea.

I don’t think it’s coincidence that R’ Akiva is the one to make this point.  The Yismach Moshe (in P’ Beshalach and P’ VaYakhel) writes that R’ Akiva glorified Torah sheb’ksav (this is probably a shock to those of you who learn R’ Tzadok and are used to R’ Akiva being portrayed as the personification of Torah sheb’al peh).  The gemara (Menachos 29) tells us that R’ Akiva was able to darshen even the tagim on the tops of letters– every mark in Torah sheb’ksav, evey drop of ink on the parchment, R’ Akiva squeezed meaning out of.   Everything in halacha has its roots in the written word.  The irony of that gemara is that Moshe Rabeinu, the deliverer of Torah sheb’ksav to us, witnesses the genius of R’ Akiva and is comforted only by the fact that R’ Akiva is reduced finally to acknowledging something as a halacha l’Moshe m’Sinai, a law that has no textual basis.  Moshe Rabeinu was jealous because R’ Akiva was beating him at his own game – torah sheb’ksav!  We all know that a sefer Torah that is missing even a single letter is pasul.  You can’t write a sentence here, a sentence there, jump around, leave blanks, etc. – a sefer must be written letter by letter, word by word, from beginning to end.  Sarah Imeinu was a living sefer Torah.  A lost moment in her life would be just like a tag missing on top of a letter.  Who better than R’ Akiva, a man capable of darshening every dot, to warn us of the catastrophic danger of such a circumstance?

This is all past history, however, as the avodah of Nisan and Pesach is completely different.  Pesach is about dilug, jumping.  So you missed Brachos and Shabbos and already have missed a few blatt of Eiruvin – so what?  Jump in!  Klal Yisrael is at the lowest of low points of ruchniyus, the spiritual life has been squeezed out of them by Mitzrayim – so what?  In a second they are pulled to the heights of geulah. 

Parshas haChodesh is really a very strange name for the maftir of this past Shabbos, as there are maybe 2 or 3 pesukim that talk about the mitzvah of declaring rosh chodesh and the entire rest of the parsha focused on the laws of korban pesach.  Why don’t we call it parshas hapesach?  Why do we even mix in the laws of rosh chodesh here?  Shem m’Shmuel answers that the Torah is introducing a shift in perspective.  When your avodah is “ba ba’yamim,” to make every day and every moment count, it means time is your master; every moment demands attention.   The message of parshas hachodesh is aderaba, you are the master over time.  “Hachodesh hazeh lachem” – time is yours.  That is not to say you should go ahead and waste it – time is a valuable resource!  But it’s not an irreplaceable commodity.  You *can* make up for lost time.  If not for that ability to leap forward over missed deadlines and lost opportunities, to start afresh from this moment, a korban pesach and a chag hapesach would be impossible.

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