Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz – In a Minute

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Operation Inspiration

 

How often have you had conversations in your home that go like this?

“Honey! Can you please come here?”

“In a minute, sweetie.”

Then, hopefully, sometime within the next ten to fifteen minutes you remember that your spouse called you and you get up and see what they need. But what is it about the, “In a minute,” that makes us feel we’ll only need that much time? It seems like we’ll take care of what we need to and then be free and available for whatever task is next. Unless, of course, we get distracted.

I do think that when we say, “In a minute,” we’re sincere, and we believe that in a mere sixty seconds or so, we’ll be able to help with whatever is needed. I am thinking that, perhaps, this is because we subconsciously understand the power of time and what can be accomplished in a minute.

Let me give you an example. This week was Rosh Chodesh Elul. Elul is a time when we try to rise in our service of Hashem and actualize our potential. As I was about to begin Shemona Esrai, I had a flash of inspiration. I will try to daven the Shemona Esrai from a siddur!

The truth is that many of us pray by heart, though, yes, closing our eyes may help us concentrate better. That said, looking in a siddur, with our fingers on the place as we say the words, is also a tremendous aid to concentration. (Well, it is, when your brain isn’t thinking about what a great topic it would be for your next column, and it begins formulating the words and sentences you will use.)

So, I turned the pages to the right place and instead of closing my eyes, I followed along in the siddur. I may not do it every tefilla (I already have not,) but I got that one. And that’s the power of a minute. In that instant when I decided to do something to improve myself, I captured that moment in time and upgraded it for eternity.

Chazal speak of those who “acquired their worlds in a moment.” The decision made in a critical moment can change the course of history and the trajectory of one’s life. Yes, “in a minute” is a powerful tool.

I recall hearing about someone who attended a siyum on Mishnayos. The one making the siyum was 70 years old, and the fellow who attended wasn’t so impressed that this elderly man who had been learning his whole life completed the six orders of Mishnayos. Then he heard the speech. That’s when the man explained that this celebration was being made for Mishnayos he had learned while in his car waiting at red lights. Wow! And that’s the power of a minute.

It echoes something that I heard recently. The Gemara states that when a man goes to Heaven, one of the first questions he will be asked is, “Did you set aside fixed times for study?” Presumably, the answer they want to hear is, “Yes,” as we have an obligation to be involved in Torah study day and night, and one should have set times that he learns both by day and by night.

What a friend told me was astounding. He said, “The answer should actually be, “No.” Not because you didn’t set fixed times when you learned, but because you didn’t limit yourself to that. Rather, aside from your organized learning schedule, at each moment, if you had an opportunity to learn, you would do it.” That’s the greatness of, “In a minute.”

What if someone needed to talk and you were really busy? You couldn’t spare the time to listen to them vent or ramble about whatever was on their mind. But, what if instead of rushing them off the phone, you gave them that minute to know someone cared about them? It would be the equivalent of bronzing that moment for eternity, as a commemoration of your kindness.

We have opportunities constantly to capture a moment better than Kodak or Polaroid ever did. A photo is a memory, but since our actions create angels, a moment spent wisely is a living being that continues to retell the story of your momentary triumph!

How often does our Yetzer Hara work hard to convince us to do something wrong? If you give in, you might feel terrible. But, think about how many minutes you managed to fend him off before you lost. Each moment you didn’t stumble was a triumph! For that minute, you were a tzaddik who valiantly battled the evil inclination and that victory is recorded for posterity, for all time.

It is empowering and rejuvenating to realize that it doesn’t have to be big things that mark accomplishment. It can be all those little moments when we took advantage of the opportunities we had and acted on them right away. When we did something great in the here and now, and didn’t say, “I’ll be there in a minute.”

 

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