Killing Time ­ Article ­ BINA

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Killing Time

Killing Time

by Rabbi Yaacov Chaiton

A young boy was travelling with his grandfather on the subway. When the train reached a certain station the young boy hurriedly pulled his grandfather across the platform onto another train. When the elderly man saw that the train that he had boarded was headed in the very same direction as the one he had just been on, he asked his grandson why they had changed trains. "That train was local" replied the youngster, "this one is express, we save five minutes". There was a moment of silence after which the grandfather turned to his grandson and said "And what are we going to do with those extra five minutes?"

"And G-d completed on the seventh day His work which he had done and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done".


This verse which the Torah uses to describe the conclusion of the creation of the world is of the better known verses in our Torah. We set aside the seventh day - from sunset on Friday afternoon until night on the following day - as a holy day, a day of rest because G-d did so when He "rested" on the seventh day from the creation of the world. The beginning of the verse is however problematic - "And G-d completed on the seventh day His work which he had done" - seems to imply that G-d actually worked -to finish the job - on the seventh day. So did He work on the seventh day or did He rest on the seventh day?


Our sages explain that G-d did not actually work at all on the seventh day but he did work until the very last moment on the Friday afternoon in such a way that it would have appeared to man that He worked into the evening. Human beings who don't know exactly at which precise moment the day passes cannot work until the very last moment - we need to accept shabbat a few moments early to insure that we don't "go overtime". G-d, who knows exactly when the new day begins can work until the very last moment - something which appears to the human eye as if he is working on Shabbat.


But why did G-d have to work until the very last moment. Surely he could have finished His work earlier and have saved us from thinking that He had actually worked on the Seventh day?


But as with everything G-d had an intention. At the very outset - with the creation of the world - He wanted to teach us a priceless lesson - that every moment is precious, that we need to value our time. G-d worked until the very last moment on the last day of creation because He wanted to convey this important message- that even if we have just a few minutes at our disposal, those minutes are not to be wasted; they are to be used towards the purpose for which we were created.


It's not uncommon to hear people say "we've got a few minutes/hours to kill". The modern world has given us many means to "kill time", a trap which many of us fall into. On the very first day that man was created, G-d taught us by way of example that "Killing time" is antithetical to our entire belief system and the purpose for which we were created. Every moment we are given is a gift. That moment is to be used to create, to build a better world around us, not to "kill".


Someone once asked the great Chasam Sofer (one of the leading Orthodox rabbis of European Jewry in the first half of the nineteenth century) how he had become such a towering sage. To this the Chasam Sofer responded - "It took me five minutes". He explained "There are thousands of times in life where a person has a spare five minutes, most of which go to waste. From an early age I trained myself to utilize those five minutes each time, and in those five minutes I became the scholar that you see today!"

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