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Parshas B'Haaloscha - Every Second Counts     15 Sivan 5784

04/21/2024 11:26:35 PM


 Every event and activity at Beth Jacob has its own unique qualities. Whether it is a tefilla, learning session, dvar Torah, kiddush, or a bagel breakfast, they are all distinctly unique and special.  I will share one example from Shalosh Seudos or Seudat Shelisheet (the third Shabbos meal). At the conclusion of bentching, I make a point to proclaim: “Yasher Koach to all! Everyone is cordially invited to Maariv, followed by Havdalah” (adding at this point whatever appropriate additional upcoming item the new week may include), followed by stating  “Maariv will begin in exactly three hundred and eighty-two seconds – 382!” (of course this precise time pronouncement – six minutes and twenty-two seconds- varies week to week depending upon how much time there actually is until Maariv).  There are three reasons why I make this weekly declaration:  1. It keeps people on their toes, giving those who are paying attention to my precise time announcement something to process,  2. It causes at least some of those listeners a need to do the math, and 3. it definitely entertains me!

This fascination for  converting months, days, hours and minutes into seconds started when I was a curious  third grade child.  As many of you have learned over the course of time, I did not relish the opportunity to learn in school. I could not wait for class to be over,  literally not only counting the minutes until the bell, but  also counted all the seconds. I mastered the multiplication of five minutes equaling three hundred seconds then multiplying that by the number of five-minute increments to get the total number of seconds remaining. I usually needed to start the countdown from nine hundred (that’s 15 minutes for those of you still doing the math).

In general, the value and deep significance of seconds are seriously underestimated.   In medical terms, a few seconds can be the difference between life and death.  It’s common knowledge that sports games such as football and basketball are won or lost within a few seconds. In fact, in competitive sports today, not only are the full seconds considered important, but it’s also  especially common in running and swimming competitions that milliseconds separate first, second, and third places, often with all three competitors timed within one second of each other.  While all of us know that seconds turn into minutes, minutes into hours, hours into days, days into months and months into years, but have we thought about a deeper connection between seconds and days? The answer may lie in an acutely interrelated story involving Moshe Rabbeinu and his sister Miriam HaNeviah.

In this week’s parshas B’Haaloscha, the Torah states in Bamidbar 12:15 "ותסגר מרים מחוץ למחנה שבעת ימים, והעם לא נסע עד האסף מרים"   “For seven days, Miriam remained quarantined outside the camp, and the people did not move on until Miriam was able to return home”. But why was Miriam stricken with leprosy? Of great interest is the incident where Miriam is struck with "white leprosy." She receives this punishment from God for questioning and complaining about Moshe’s "Cushite" wife and his separation from her. But what is the back story of Miriam and leprosy? Hashem said to Miriam, “...why, then, do you not fear to speak against my servant Moshe”? And so, God's wrath flared against them (Miriam and Aharon), and He departed. Because she did not trust in God, Miriam was struck with leprosy. When Moshe asked Hashem to remove the disease from her body, Hashem said she would be healed in seven days.

As mentioned earlier, there were two short stories connecting these siblings. The latter story is here, where Rashi reveals why the people did not journey while Miriam was quarantined with Tzoraas. Rashi explains this honor Hashem gave her is due to the"שעה אחת"   - the one moment or one hour which she [Miriam] waited for Moshe when Moshe was cast into the Nile river. As it is stated in Shmos 2:4 "ותתצב אחותו מרחוק לדעה מה יעשה לו"   “[The child’s] sister stood herself at a distance to see what would happen to him.” The Baal HaTurim quotes the Sifre explaining the verse in Shmos has seven words, seven words of waiting. Therefore, the Shechina waited seven days for her, as a measure-for-measure honor. But it is the Sifsei Chachamim who explains the time connection. The character or Midah of good has a 500:1 ratio to the Midah of something bad. Based upon this, he calculated that the time Miriam waited for Moshe was approximately one third of an hour, roughly twenty minutes. If you take 24 hours of a day and multiply it by the three twenty-minute portions of the hour, you get seventy-two. Seventy portions multiplied by seven days equals five hundred and four. The four extras are four twenty-minute segments equaling one hour and twenty minutes. Even though we are over by four, the rule of rounding down comes into play since it is not a full day, but rather a very small portion of the day which falls by the way-side. Some suggest that the extra eighty minutes was an additional reward to Miriam, for it took that amount of time to run to her mother and deliver the good news that Moshe was saved from drowning in the river.

A normal resting heart rate for adults starts at a range of 60 beats per minute.  If we live to the maximum one hundred twenty years, our hearts will beat approximately 3,784,320,000 times. This may appear to be a lot, but the clock on the wall and the internal body clock never stops. Just keep in mind that every second counts. Moreover, if we do something good, Hashem will pay us back five hundred fold, giving us that extra time to perform more Mitzvos, guiding us to  make a meaningful difference in the world.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Fri, July 19 2024 13 Tammuz 5784