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2010-10-23 Parshas Vayera 5771/ 2010 by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Sermon Parshas Vayera 5771/ 2010

Sermon   Parshas Vayera  5771/ 2010
No subject has dominated the headlines over the past year more than the economy.  Jobs, unemployment and spending seem to be on every one's mind.  Do you remember the story that was popular a year or so ago about a pollster taking a survey of how much of people's income goes to different kinds of spending?  The woman being interviewed said, "I spend 40 percent of my income on housing, 20 percent on clothing, 40 percent on food, and 20 percent on transportation and entertainment."  The pollster said, "But ma'am, that adds up to 120 percent."   "I know it! I know it!" said the woman.
Money is important -- particularly when you don't have it.  But there's something even more important than money, as we learn from this week's Torah portion.
Parshas Vayera describes in great detail how Avraham, when visited by three guests, demonstrated tremendous zeal in serving and taking care of them.  Avraham "Hastened to the tent to Sarah" so that she should prepare fresh bread, "ran to the cattle" to prepare the greatest delicacies, and then "stood over them beneath the tree" while they ate in the shade, making sure that their every need was provided for. (Genesis 18:6-8)
At the end of the Torah portion there is another situation in whcih Avraham demonstrated this character trait of zeal.  On the morning that Avraham arose to perform the Akeida, the binding of Yitzchak, he "arose early" to perform the mitzvah (22:3).  In this difficult situation  when Avraham believed he was told to kill his beloved son for whom he had waited so long for, you'd think that the last thing he would do would be to get up early in the morning to do the job.  Yet we see that Avraham did!  How can this be?
There's a well-known concept in human dynamics known as inertia.  Inertia is our natural tendency to try to remain as inactive as possible.  You know the classic example of inertia  -- the guy who can't make it to minyan in the morning because he has an 'ear problem'.  Every morning when it's time for minyan (morning prayer services), his ear gets stuck to the pillow.  Inertia is even worse when it comes to carrying out mitzvas, because there's an added challenge -- the challenge of the Yetzer Hara (evil inclination).  The Yetzer Hara doesn't want us to be like Avraham -- being zealous, quick and enthusiastic about performing Hashem's mitzvos.
So what can we do, then, to acquire the trait of zeal?  The key to acquiring the trait of zeal -- and in fact, one of the keys to getting the most out of life, is to recognize the importance of the greatest resource each of us has.  That is, the resource of 'time.'
In the secular world, there's a saying  I'm sure you've heard.  They say; 'time is money.'  Well, Judaism looks at things differently.  They say 'time is money', we say;  'time is life.'
The idea of valuing each moment was explained in a parable by Rabbi Moshe Yitzchak HaDarshan, a great 19th century orator in Eastern Europe.  Imagine if everyone in a cemetery was given another half hour of life to acquire as much heavenly reward as they could.  That's right -- all the dead were brought back to life, and they had 30 minutes here in this world, before they had to return.  You'd see people hurrying around.  Some would be learning Torah, some praying, some visiting the sick, and others giving tzedaka, each person according to his or her ability.  Now, what if these people were give a few hours of life, or even a few days?  Wouldn't they try to utilize their time to squeeze in as many mitzvos as possible?   How about us -- who knows how much time we have left?
John Grisham is one  the world’s 10 top-earning authors.  At one time Grisham was a young lawyer with a wife and a growing family, not doing particularly well financially.  And he discovered that he didn’t enjoy the legal profession.

How did Grisham go from being stuck in a job he disliked–and which provided little pay in return for his hard work–to getting paid millions to do what he loves? He made the sacrifice of getting up each day at the crack of dawn, heading down to his office, making a pot of strong coffee, and sitting at his desk to work on his writing before his official workday began.  Grisham's first two books, “A Time to Kill” and “The Firm” were written from about 1984 to about 1989. The bulk was written at five o’clock in the morning.  He would write for an hour or two in the morning, get ready for court, and then go to court.  Grisham said the following:

The alarm clock would go off at 5, and I’d jump in the shower. My office was 5 minutes away. And I had to be at my desk, at my office, with the first cup of coffee, a legal pad and write the first word at 5:30, five days a week.

His goal was to write a page every day. Sometimes that would take 10 minutes, and sometimes an hour or two. That’s how he got from where he was then, to where he is now: he has written 22 books that have sold over 250 million copies; ten of these books have been turned into movies, with an eleventh in development.

An hour a day.  Who doesn't waste an hour a day - especially when they're younger --  that could be used to accomplish something truly important?
It's like the Chofetz Chaim once said: life is like a postcard.  When you start off writing a postcard, you write in big print.  But when you see that the postcard is running out of space and you have so much to more to say, you begin writing smaller and smaller, squeezing in words wherever there is room.   It's the same with life, and doing mitzvos.  We're not careful about accomplishing as much as we can, because we feel that there's so much time left.  But as our life passes, we realize that our time is precious and we try to squeeze in at the end as many mitzvos as we can.  But if we realize NOW the value of time, we can utilize the time we do have to the fullest.
A greatest modern example of appreciating the value of time comes from Lance Armstrong.  Armstrong, a cyclist who is best known for having won the Tour de France a record seven consecutive times, was given a less than 40% chance of survival in 1996 when diagnosed with cancer.
In his book titled "Every Second Counts", Armstrong wrote
I've often said cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me.  But everybody wants to know what I mean by that: how could a life-threatening disease be a good thing?  I say it because my illness was also my antidote: it cured me of laziness.
Before I was diagnosed (with cancer), I was a slacker.  I was getting paid a lot of money for a job I didn't do 100 percent, and that was more than just a shame -- it was wrong.  I told myself: if I get another chance, I'll do this right -- and I'll work for something more than just myself.
I'd like to conclude my remarks by posing a hypothetical offer.
Imagine if I told you that I wanted to make you a deal.  I'd like to open a bank account for you,  into which each day I'll be deposit the sum of $86,400.  Each day, of course, except for Shabbos and Yom Tov.  Sounds good, doesn't it?  Even in these times of inflation, you can still do a lot with $86,000.  "Ah, what's the catch?" you ask?  Well, there is one small catch.  At the end of each day the remainder of the money deposited earlier will be wiped clean.  You have all day long to spend the money, but any unused money at the end of the day, will disappear.  Still -- $86,400.  Doesn't that sound like a pretty good deal?
Well, the truth is, each of us already has such a bank account.  However, the currency in our account isn't dollars, but another currency -- called 'time.'   60 seconds are in a minute. 60 minutes are in an hour, making 3600 seconds per hour.  24 hours a day, times 3600 seconds, equals 86,400 seconds in a day.  Each morning when we wake up, those seconds are
deposited in our 'account' to be used as we want.  They're all ours.  But any seconds that we waste or leave unused can't be carried over to the next day.  They're gone forever.
To answer the question with which we began these remarks; what we have even more important than money, is 'time.'
The Torah says that Avraham Avinu 'came with his days.'  This means that Avraham utilized all the days of his life -- he didn't waste a single day.   Psalm 90 states, "The years of our life number 70, if in great vigor, 80. .....teach us then, to number our days, that we may acquire a wise heart." 
Like Avraham Avinu, we can develop zeal for the performance of Hashem's mitzvos, and develop a tremendous enthusiasm for life ....if we learn to count our years and days ....and to make every second count.