Making Time For A Better New Year – OpEd


Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year Day begins this year on the evening of September 25 and ends before sunset on September 26 for Reform Jews; and on September 27 for Conservative and Orthodox Jews. Rosh HaShanah ushers in a ten day period of seeking self-improvement by doing a self-judgement review of our deeds in the past year; and then making specific commitments to doing better in the new year.

A week before Rosh HaShanah, a Reform Rabbi traveling in a distant land, heard about a pious priest who was famous for his ability to walk barefoot over burning coals. The Reform Rabbi went to visit the priest and asked him if he could indeed walk over burning coals. 

The saint replied that he had been doing that for many years; but now as a result of many more years of celibacy, study, prayer and fasting he could also walk on water. 

The Reform Rabbi though about this for several moments and then said that the saint could have done the same two things many years ago with a pair of shoes and a rowboat. 

That is true replied the saint but then what would I have accomplished with all my years of celibacy, prayer, fasting and study. 

If you prayed, fasted and studied less said the Reform Rabbi; you would have had more time to help widows, orphans, poor people and new immigrants. We must always make more time for doing acts of kindness. 

I went out, Lord.
People were coming and going,
Walking and running.

Everything was rushing:
Cars, trucks, the street, the whole town.
People were rushing not to waste time.
They were rushing after time,
To catch up with time.
To gain time.

Good-bye, excuse me, I haven’t time.
I’ll come back. I can’t wait. I haven’t time.
I’d love to help you, but I haven’t time.
I can’t accept, having no time.
I can’t think, I can’t read, I’m swamped, I haven’t time.
I’d like to pray, but I haven’t time.

You understand, Lord,
They simply haven’t the time.
Children are playing,
They have’t time right now…Later on…
Students have homework to do,
They have no time now…Later on…

People have to pursue success, and
They have a new house
To fix up…no time now…Later on…

Grandparents have their grandchildren.
They haven’t time…Later on…
Then they are ill, they have their treatments,
They haven’t time…Later on…
They are dying, and they have no…
Too late!…They have no more time!

And so all people run after time, Lord.
They pass through life running–
Hurried, jostled, overburdened, frantic,
And they never get there. They haven’t time.
In spite of all their efforts
They’re still short of time,

Lord, you must have made a mistake in your calculations,
There is a big mistake somewhere.
The days, even the years are too short.
Our lives are too short.

Why don’t we have enough time?
Time for our parents and our children,
Time to study and learn,
Time to think and to pray,
Time to visit the sick and the lonely,
Time to do the Mitsvot we think of,
Time to thank you O Lord for the blessings we have? 

You who are beyond time,
You smile to see us fighting it.
And you know what you are doing.
You make no mistakes in your distribution of time.
You give each one of us time to do
What we really desire to do.
So we must not lose time,
waste time,
kill time,
For it is a gift that you give us,
But a perishable gift,
A gift that does not keep.

Lord, I have time,
I have plenty of time,
All the time you give me,
The years of my life,
The days of my years,
The hours of my days,
They are all mine.
Mine to fill joyously celebrating Shabbat and Yom Tov,
Mine to fill wisely with Mitsvot and Torah study,
Mine to sanctify
So that when the end of my time comes I can say;
I did what I should have done,
I had enough time.

Adapted by Rabbi Allen Maller from a prayer by Father Michael Quoist printed in the spiritual machzor of Temple Akiba: Tikunai Nefashot, edited by Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

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