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
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
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
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
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.