What are you focused on?
During this time, as our people wander in historical imagination from Pesach – Freedom in Egypt – to Shavuot – the Responsibility and Morality of Sinai, it is traditional to remind ourselves what is important, through reading the ‘First Principles’ of Judaism – Pirkei Avot.
In a beautiful and challenging section, Rabbi Hillel teaches the following:
הִלֵּל אוֹמֵר אַל תֹּאמַר לִכְשֶׁאִפָּנֶה אֶשְׁנֶה, שֶׁמָּא לֹא תִפָּנֶה
Do not say ‘when I have time I will turn to it’ – because you may never have time.
I love this teaching for this moment.
Many of us feel that we have no time – and some of us feel that we have all of the time in the world. And there are many gradations in between. And, if there is something or someone that you meant to turn to, but have not yet done so…will it ever happen?
Just like a whittler who never sharpens their tools will become less and less productive over time, we need to occasionally take account of what we want to achieve, and create real plans for how to get there.
This is true in our personal lives – but this is also true for our governments. Right now, we are seeking, as a Jewish community structure and as a larger society, to turn to those in the most need – to get to our agendas of looking after the most vulnerable and being guardians of our planet.
Some governments are showing their priorities of what they want to accomplish at this time by only using the language of economic development, and not human development. Other governments, such as the newly formed government in Israel is starting work on annexing the West Bank.
As our stress and lack of ability to stretch our attention continues, the pressure on us may continue to increase. In the current state of distraction, I hope we will take time to learn, to read, and to connect. To work on projects to support those that we love and care for, and advocate for those that we love.
As Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut approach, gather with us on Tuesday evening at 6:00 pm to be in community and take an important moment to honour those that helped create the Jewish State through the most terrible sacrifice. And, at 6:45 to honour the mission of their creation.
In this time, I hope we will continually focus on what – and who- is important to us. If we don’t carve out the time now, will we ever?