Friday, January 27th | 5 Shevat 5783

September 19, 2017 4:17 pm

How to Make Time for Judaism

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avatar by Shlomo Zalman Bregman


The shofar, made of a ram’s horn, is blown on Rosh Hashanah. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The sound of the shofar has awakened our slumbering souls. The words of the rabbi’s sermon have pierced our veil of spiritual complacency. Our individual and collective missions in this world have been brought into fine focus. We are finally ready to step up to the plate, accept the yoke of Heaven and dare to be truly great in the coming year. After a year of spiritual wandering, we are ready to serve Hashem.

It is the season for teshuva (repentance).

With the High Holiday season in full gear, many of us find ourselves feeling inspired and seeking to increase our involvement in Torah study, prayer, acts of kindness and other worthwhile religious pursuits.

Unfortunately, as genuinely inspired as we may feel during the High Holidays, many of us will soon become disillusioned and abandon our newfound passion for religious commitments. We might say: “Wait a minute — I already have enough Jewish commitments; there simply isn’t time in the day to add more. Better to stick with what I’m doing, instead of committing to something that I have no time for.”

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Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

This attractive argument takes a toll on each of us, appealing to our sense of pragmatism. Little by little, this “logic” works its magic until the desire to build on our spiritual accomplishments is extinguished. What a sad ending to a High Holiday season that started with so much promise.

But we can defy these powerful forces by examining a novel interpretation of a passage in the Talmud. Let’s take a look.

Throughout the Talmud, the Sages explain in fantastic detail many of the miracles that took place in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. In one particularly well-known passage (Yoma 21a; Bava Basra 99a), the Talmud and its commentators discuss the physical dimensions of the Holy of Holies — and the Ark of the Covenant that was placed inside of it. After some old-fashioned number crunching, the conclusion is reached that the Ark of the Covenant miraculously took up no space within the Holy of Holies.

What does this have to do with our High Holiday dilemma? And what are we supposed to learn from this miracle?

The answer is that in a place of holiness, there is always room for more holiness.

All of us are involved, albeit to differing degrees, in worthwhile Jewish pursuits. Whether we observe Shabbat, attend a weekly class or volunteer for Jewish organizations, every single one of us is involved in bringing sanctity into our daily lives and serving Hashem. Therefore, each of us is already a miniature Holy of Holies. The lesson we learn here is that no matter what level of Torah activity we are engaged in today, there is room to add even more holiness.

Many people sincerely want to keep Shabbat, or attend a nightly Talmud class, yet many of these same people feel that it will not fit into the “dimensions” of a lifestyle already crammed with other worthwhile pursuits.

Next time you find yourself thinking in this manner, don’t get hung up on the details. Just stop what you’re doing and perform that mitzvah. Many people have taken the leap of faith and added Torah commitments where there was seemingly no room for them, and our Creator has never disappointed them.

With respect to his commandments, Hashem has not asked the impossible of us. Our job is to fulfill His will; His job is to sort out all the other details. If the only way that an authentically Jewish lifestyle will fit into our hectic existence is by an open miracle — so that the holy pursuits “take up no space” — so be it. If we keep our end of the bargain, Hashem will most certainly keep His.

Hashem is now banging the gavel, calling for order in the heavenly court.

This year, let us answer the call.

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