Rabbi's Message: Volume 25, No. 6: Jan. 2008 - Shevat 5768


Volume 25, No. 6: Jan. 2008 - Shevat 5768

Subject: Rabbi's Message: Jan. 2008 - Shevat 5768: Winter

The annual metaphor plays out once again:
Spring birth; summer youth; autumn old age; and winter death.
As we live winter, I very much like to skip the metaphor and just enjoy winter. As I do, the metaphor brings to mind one of the great oxymorons, to save a life. The grand truth is that life is finite and our goal should be to extend life or to continue life for as long as possible. Saving a life is at best, a spiritual concept that begins after death.

Along the same lines, we have the oxymoron, "to save time." Time passes whether we like it or not. We can't stop it and without extraordinary means beyond Newtonian physics, we cant slow it down or speed it up. To waste time means to have time pass unproductively. By extension, to save time merely implies that somehow we cram more activity into the time we have.

Naturally, if one is in business trying to make a living, doing more in less time, increases profit margins. If we have a bunch of errands to do, sequencing them in a proper fashion allows us allows us to get them done more quickly, thereby leaving extra time for other activities.

The Gates of Prayer (the old reform prayer book) said that Shabbat is about being, not doing. Judaism sets Shabbat aside as a day to focus on being, but there are things that need doing on Shabbat (like eating, breathing, etc.). Similarly, weekdays are about doing, not being, but we have spiritual needs that require attention on weekdays.

How does one measure spiritual productivity? And when does spiritual productivity interfere with the requirements of a job to be physically productive? And how do we differentiate between wasted time and saved time?

I suggest to you that when people are at work, whether working for themselves or someone else, physical productivity is the metric. But as I ski down a mountainside, feeling the wind in my face, my feet on the ground and the dynamic forces of the activity flowing throughout my being, anybody who says that this type of activity is unproductive or wasted just doesn't get it (and while my example may be skiing, feel free to substitute the word: sailing, golf, running, yoga, ...).

Living is not about saving life or saving time. Life is about balancing the time we are granted between the physical aspects of our lives and the spiritual.


Joshua L. Segal

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