Monday, July 12, 2010

Take Your Time

I tip my hat to Howie Beigelman who alerted me to the Davar Acher blog. Back in May, contributor Robyn posted these questions. They piqued my interest and I answered. Feel free to answer too.

What does Jewish Time mean to you?

When I hear that phrase the first thing that comes to mind is being late. I think many cultures have a phenomenon of starting things late and call it ______ Time.

I once saw Jackie Mason perform a fund raiser at Carnegie Hall and Carnegie Hall starts at exact time, yet the crowd was on Jewish time. So they started and Jackie teased people as they came in.

What traditional texts best frame or guide your view of Jewish time? What modern texts do this?

I think - and I saw this cited in Pardes Yosef - that "Breishit bara elokim" implies that G-d created time. The Breishit narrative is filled with time related quotes, time (like everything else) is created by and framed by speech - after various pronouncement it is called a day. (That reminds me of a joke: G-d says to the angels "I created this sphere that will rotate around the sun and be dark half the time and light half the time." The angels say, "That's great what are you going to do next?" And G-d says, "I think I'll call it a day."

One of my favorite questions is, "What was created on the seventh day?" The common answer is "nothing." And yet, by pulling back, Shabbat was actually created.

I think Heschel does a unique and amazing job of developing Shabbat as a time to appreciate time.

Also, one could spend forever answering Hillel's question, "If not now when?" and his related advice, "Don't say when I have free time I will study, because you may never find free time."

How does Personal Jewish Time play out in your life? How does Communal Jewish Time play out in your life?

I like the Gemorah in Avodah Zarah's schedule of G-d's day. At one point in His day He plays with the Leviathan. Rav Soloveichik said that the lesson here is to have a playful compartment built into our schedule.

In Jewish life deadlines are important (which is an interesting name for it when you think about it) - the idea that a second after a certain point time is up. This is the idea behind the statement in Avot that in a way one second in terms of active repentance and good deeds one second in this world trumps all of the world to come, because once you've crossed the line you've crossed the line.

What comes to mind when the concept of G-d's Time is introduced?

I think time is something that was created for us and is not real for G-d.

Do you have thoughts about Eternal Time?

Shabbat is a chance to experience a taste of eternal time.


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