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Parshas Ki Savo - Time Cannot be Made Up, but You Can Make Up for Lost Time!                15 Elul 5780

09/04/20 10:54:38


Even though it has been a dark six months from the time when the pandemic took hold on the world, there were many bright spots along the way. Every year, as we approach Rosh Hashana we look back over the course of the year about to close and remember things we should or should not have done. For those things we should have done, we say to ourselves, ”Well there’s always next year.” For those things we should not have done, we express regret, saying we are sorry and will not do them again. One of the most treasured gifts we have is time – a gift which cannot be saved; it can only be used or wasted. Time is so precious because only time gives us opportunity for growth, for helping others, and ultimately for making a difference in the world. Time itself is irreplaceable, but the things we could have done during a certain given period time are dependent solely upon how we use it.

 Barbara Bush, in her book Reflections: Life After the White House, writes,  “At the end of your life you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child or a parent.” There is no question that we parents attempt to make wise choices and correct decisions for our children. My wife and I made a difficult choice, sacrificing in order to send our children away from home for high school. Clearly, every parent makes such decisions based upon what would be best for their sons or daughters. For my wife and me, these decisions were made with those principles in mind, but the choice was never easy. I will not get into the pros and cons of the decision, but one obvious aspect is missing out on their lives, not seeing them daily, not having opportunities to guide and direct them in person.  The time that they were away cannot be made up, time is here and then time is gone. We cannot recapture the teen years - or any other time of life – time cannot be retrieved. But , due to Covid-19, our youngest child came home from Israel a few weeks earlier than planned, and also due to Covid-19,  stayed well beyond the time he was scheduled to return to his Yeshiva in Eretz Yisrael. Like so many others in the world, he was home either quarantined, following stay- at- home orders, or just having nowhere else to go for five and a half months. We set out on a mission to make his time valuable, productive, and fun. Beyond what we call “the silver lining” was 5 ½ months of bonding and really developing a close connection to our son. We learned together almost every day to fill in the gaps he was missing from Yeshiva on zoom. We exercised and assembled a new basketball hoop together, taking over four days to construct it.  We used that basketball hoop just about every day possible. We prepared meals and ate healthy foods together and through our nurturing and support, he lost a sizable amount of weight. The ultimate value was spending time not with a teenager who often does not particularly want to spend time with his parents, rather with a mature young man who thinks deeply and philosophically as I shared life’s insights with him. This precious experience made up for lost time. The importance of time and the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with Hashem is found in the Manual.

In this week’s Parsha Ki Savo we read of the Tochacha, the public rebuke of the Jewish people and a horrific description of what will befall the Jewish nation if we stray from Hashem. The Torah states in Devarim 28:28 "יככה ה' בשגעון ובעורון ובתמהון לבב"   “God will strike you with insanity, blindness and mental confusion.” Rashi explains the ‘simhon levav’ as obstruction of the heart, while Rav Hirsch explains it as hallucinations. These are the primary reasons a person does not come back and repent. We have blocked our hearts from attempting to repent and return closer to Hashem. One of the Al Cheit’s we ‘klap’ our heart is ‘for the sin that which we sinned before you in confusion and a closed heart’. The confusion and hallucinations not only caused us to sin in the first place, it prevents us from returning  to Hashem through Teshuva. We are beset with so many distractions that we do not find the time to even think about our misdeeds and the need to ask God for forgiveness. It was these same distractions that led us to sin initially which now distract us from trying to make it right. Therefore, through reasoning that if we are able to make up for the infraction by doing Teshuva, getting close to Hashem, it will be considered as if we never sinned to begin with. And so, the time we missed out in the beginning will be rectified by how we spend the time later.

As we evaluate our lives in general and this past challenging year in particular, the essence, quality and gift of time rises to the surface. Sometimes we feel we wasted so much time, and yes, it is true we cannot get that time back. Nevertheless, that which we lost out during that time can be made up with meaningful and positive experiences of the same magnitude moving forward.

There is a well-known Gemara Makkos that when a person killed someone accidentally, he would flee to a city of refuge. Nevertheless, an avenging relative could reach the person before he made it to the city safely, especially if he did not have enough time to get there. Measures were taken to help him reach the city of safety before the avenging relative could catch him by putting up signs on the road giving directions leading to the Ir Miklat - city of refuge.  Perhaps, as we feel time fleeting from us, we, too, need guidance, directions, and reminders.  Perhaps we should hang signs of “Elul”, “Elul”, “Elul”. Maybe by seeing these signs around us will make it easier to feel that closeness and surely help to make meaningful use of the time we now have.

There is no difference between my son and me and between Hashem with each of us. My son and I, who were apart from each other during those post-elementary school years, restricted by distance from each other, was given back to us through making powerful use of every moment of the time we now had together, reconnecting in ways so powerful and beautiful in only a few short months together during a pandemic.  Many of us have drifted away from Hashem our Father at different periods of our lives. However, the experiences during the month of Elul and the holiday season from Rosh Hashana through Simchas Torah can make up for lost time. Let us each appreciate the opportunity to use each day, each moment wisely, to have the focus to see the value of time put to meaningful use.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Wed, September 30 2020 12 Tishrei 5781