Ask not (‘tis forbidden knowledge), what our destined term of years,
Mine and yours; nor scan the tables of your Babylonish seers.
Better far to bear the future, my Leuconoe, like the past,
Whether Jove has many winters yet to give, or this our last;
This, that makes the Tyrrhere billows spent their strength against the shore.
Strain your wine and prove your wisdom; life is short; should hope be more?
In the moment of our talking, envious of time has ebb’d away.
Seize the time [carpe diem]; trust tomorrow e’en as little as you may.
Horace’s Odes 1:11
Im ein ani, mi li? If I’m not for myself who am I?
U’kh’she’ani l’atzmi, mah ani? And if I’m only for myself, what am I?
V’im lo akhshav, aymatai? And if not now, when?
Hillel, Pirkey Avot 1:14
Haz’man y’kar ham’tziot, she’i efshar Time is the most precious commodity
l’knot b’domim. and impossible to purchase.
Rabbi Yaacov Emden, Lechem Shamayim
I can’t wait forever
Even though you want me to
I can’t wait forever
To know if you’ll be true
“Time Won’t Let Me,” by Tom King and Chet Kelly (The Outsiders)
Time has come today
Young hearts can go their way
Can’t put it off another day
I don’t care what others say
They say we don’t listen anyway
Time has come today, hey.
“Time Has Come Today,” by Willie and Joe Chambers (The Chambers Brothers)
In Jewish literature, both ancient and modern, there is extensive commentary and discussion about what the Jewish concept of time is. Is time linear? Meaning, time starts at some point and continues on, moving away from that point of origin. This conceptualization is utilized in quite a number of apologetic rabbinic commentaries to explain why the openly revealed miracles recounted throughout the Torah and in much of the other books of the T’NaKH are not witnessed today. These rabbis explain that what has taken place is a yeridot hadorot, a process where each subsequent generation being further from Meimad Har Sinai, the giving of the Torah, is in terms of holiness and spirituality weaker than the preceding generation as time moves further and further from that point. Those commentaries elaborate further that due to this “weakness,” in our time people wouldn’t have the ability to even survive such open revelation. Accordingly, such thinking leads those who adhere to it to reject new information including modern scientific scholarship that would cast doubt on some of their most preciously held dogmas. Instead, this concept enables holding fast to the understandings of past eras that are deemed more authentic due to their venerable standing.
However, there is an alternative concept of time, which also has deep roots in tradition that offers a fascinating and radically different understanding of time. In much of Kabbalistic and Chasidic literature, time is understood to be a cyclic process. Like the earth rotating on its axis exposes the whole surface of the earth to the energy of the sun, time rotates, but more like an expanding spiral; and as it spirals/revolves, time comes into contact with various kavim, or channels, that emanate specific, powerful energies into our world. According to this view, our Jewish Pesach and the festivals of renewal of other religions don’t occur in the spring because spring is a time of natural renewal, but spring occurs when it does because of the “Pesach energy” that is now flowing into our world through that specific kav that time is now lined up with. Of course this idea is unscientific and is not based upon actual reality. Those who came up with this concept had no scientific understanding of how this world works and would not have known that in the Southern Hemisphere the seasons are reversed.
Despite its lack of reality, the later concept of time can offer us a point of meditation and preparation for our upcoming High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
The Jewish calendar begins with the month of Nisan, the month of Pesach. The year begins with renewal, newness, and planting. Rosh Hashanah is the first of Tishrei, the 7th month of the year on the Jewish calendar. A half of a year has passed (yes, the Jewish New Year begins in the 7th month, more on that another time)—it’s time to review, time to make adjustments, time to repair, time to harvest what we have sown.
We can meditate and focus on perceiving of this time as an opportunity to reflect on how to fix the breeches that may have occurred in our relationships with our loved ones. We can observe and clearly determine if we need to alter strategies and tactics to lead us in the direction we want to travel in to actualize our potential and enjoy a happier life. We can understand more clearly whether our actions contribute to creating a better or worse world. It’s a time to strive to objectively scrutinize our beliefs and understandings, religious, moral, and political, and adjust them if necessary. When we reflect, we can also take pleasure in our successes of the year to this point and begin to enjoy and celebrate that harvest. This is a special time not to be wasted, but to be seized upon to be positively used and enjoyed.
Wishing us all a L’Shana Tova Samayach U’m’tukah, A Wonderful, Joyous and Deliciously Sweet New Year,