Rabbi Ilana Krygier Lapides: Pesach – The time to make the most of our time.

By Rabbi Ilana Krygier Lapides

Rabbi Ilana Krygier Lapides

(AJNews) – With the holiday of Passover (Pesach) upon us, I find myself marveling at how quickly time has been passing. I’m sure I’m not alone in that; Pesach evokes memories in so many of us – Seders we have had, matzoh brie recipes, the extensive preparations, and invariably, family members who may no longer be with us – and that always reminds us of how quickly life goes by.

Pesach is a holiday that is deeply interconnected with the concept of time. On a very basic level, Pesach takes place just as it’s becoming spring (although we Calgarians know that it also usually comes with one last dump of snow) which is why we say “Chag Aviv Sameach – Happy Spring Holiday!” Spring suggests themes of renewal and rebirth.

Pesach is also a holiday that commemorates a specific moment in time – our freedom from slavery in Egypt. The vivid rituals and customs of Pesach create a deep sense of continuity between the present and the past, which reinforces that our story is a living, breathing, ongoing narrative which continues to shape our identity.

When considering the concept of time in Judaism, the number 40, and its derivatives, pop up a lot. We were slaves in Egypt for 400 years, we wandered in the desert for 40 years, Moshe Rabeynu spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai, it rained during the great flood in Noah’s time for 40 days and 40 nights, Jonah warned the city of Nineveh that they would be destroyed in 40 days if they did not repent, it is at the age of 40 that we are permitted to study the mystical tradition of Kabbalah.  The examples go on and on.

In our tradition, the number 40 is most associated with a period of transition, transformation, or testing. Forty is a numeric reminder that growth and change take time and patience and that Hashem walks beside us as a holy presence through those difficult periods.

The number 40 comes up in other faiths and in the secular tradition, as well. In his book “Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals,” Oliver Burkeman argues that we only have a limited amount of time on earth – roughly 4000 weeks – and he suggests that we should make the most of the time we have.

What do we do with this information? Well, most often, we try as hard as we can to ignore it! Human nature causes us to forget that life is fleeting. We distract ourselves and convince ourselves that our time is infinite.

Burkeman asserts it’s time to stop and face the facts: Life is short. Time is of the essence, and chances are we won’t get to do the vast majority of things we want to do. He challenges us to accept it, get over it, and then decide: If life is short, what am I going to spend my time doing?

Perhaps one of the most thought-provoking insights of the book is about the advice billionaire Warren Buffet once told his pilot regarding his secret to success. Buffett apparently told the pilot to make a list of the twenty most important things in his life, the top twenty things that he wanted to spend his time on. Buffet told the pilot to take those twenty things and put them in order of most important to least. Upon completing this task, Buffett told the pilot to look at the bottom fifteen things on the list, and, counter-intuitively, to erase and avoid them completely.

Buffet explained that those bottom fifteen things are the temptations that will steal our time and energy and prevent us from focusing on the top five things we want to do; We simply can’t do it all, so our challenge is to focus on what is most important and leave the enticements of lesser important things behind us. Burkeman uses this story to argue that we should be mindful of the time we have left and use it wisely.

This concept of time management is particularly relevant around Pesach, as we change seasons and have to make decisions about who we spend our time with and what we spend our time doing.

The beauty and majesty of the Pesach symbols can bring us meaning and joy but can be buried underneath the work and responsibility surrounding the holiday. Our tradition urges us to seek out the joy. Our wish during the Chol HaMoed part of the holiday: “Moadim l’simcha — May your times be joyous!” reminds us that though we focus on symbols like salt-water tears, bitter herbs, and pyramid-block charoset, we must also make room to celebrate our freedom; to remember the renewal of spring, and honour the circle of life.

Pesach is a time for us to reflect on our history and our faith, but it is also a time to consider the present and the future. The story of our passage from slavery to freedom is a reminder that life is a journey, a caution to use our time wisely and focus on what truly matters, and a gentle nudge that we must make the most of the precious time that we have.

From my family to yours, a zissen une kusher Pesach, Chag Pesach Sameach!

Rabbi Ilana Krygier Lapides is the assistant Rabbi at the Beth Tzedec Congregation, the Jewish Community Chaplain through Jewish Family Service Calgary, and has a small independent Rabbinic practice at RockyMountainRabbi.com.




Be the first to comment on "Rabbi Ilana Krygier Lapides: Pesach – The time to make the most of our time."

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.