A very special Shabbat is upon us. The occurrence is rare – to have 3 Sifrei Torah used to read the 3 different portions, namely Vayikra, Rosh Hodesh and HaHodesh. This last reading is a call to all the Jewish people to prepare themselves for the celebration of the Festival of Passover. It is obvious that this month of Nisan is special because the Israelites achieved their freedom from slavery. During bondage, “time” did not belong to them. Rather, slaves spent their time fulfilling the will of others. A slave had no time which he could consider his own. He lacked freedom of choice due to his subservience to his master, who determined his complete schedule. In contrast, freedom grants the individual mastery over his own time, enabling him to decide the most effective way for its use.
I ask, are we really free to do with time as we see fit? Or are we slaves to time? We all carry watches, and we have clocks in every room of our homes and offices. New Minyanim come to existence just to save some time from the old and established Minyanim. People look at their watches when the speaker is taking a longer than expected time. We have deadlines to meet, expiration dates to be aware of. We have rush hours, peak hours, happy hours and off hours. We have shifts and turns. So, I ask again, are we really free of the limits that time imposes upon us?
I must concede that we might be slaves to time, but that is not the greatest problem; the greatest problem is that we are slaves to the times in which we live, to the events which take place as a result of the “times”. These occurrences have a permanent influence upon individuals and nations resulting in their rise and fall. We are slaves to the “fads of the times”, “fashion of the times” and the “relative morality of the times”
We, the Jewish People, were given the gift; the ability to subjugate the events of time and transcend them so that they have no effect upon our spiritual and communal development. The only way we can reach the height of spiritual and communal development is by freeing ourselves from all masters, even from the dictates and absurdities of the events associated with the times in which we live; the fashion of the times, the fads of the times, etc.
Because true freedom is defined as the ability to free oneself from all of the absurd constraints that society imposes and dictates upon us, especially when they contradict Jewish Torah Values, our Sages state: “There is no free man other than the one who lives by the teaching of the Torah” . The secret to the eternity of our people, in contrast to the many nations who have disappeared from existence, is that the rest of the nations followed the times and its dictates; unlike our people who were subservient to the teaching of the Torah and freed us from the fashions of the times.
In New York, this concept of “The Times”, has a special meaning; it is “The New York Times”, where you can read all the dictates and absurdities that are “fit to print”; that serve to subjugate and enslave our minds. Although we may be slaves to time, that’s entirely different than being slaves to “The Times”. True freedom is not defined as having enough time to read the New York Times, but rather, true freedom is defined by how much free time we are going to have by not reading the New York Times.
Rabbi Elie Abadie, M.D.