Thursday, March 18, 2010

Parshas Vayikra

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh, Parshas Vayikra

4 Nissan 5770/March 19, 2010

It is always fascinating to note which recollections remain with you years later.

My father is a very punctual person. We joke that if he says he will be somewhere at 7:02, we can hold him to his word. And if he comes at 7:03 he’ll be shaking his head about the driver of the car in front of him who cost him an extra minute because he was driving too slowly.

If my father is like that generally he is even more punctual when it comes to davening. He would often tell me that when people head out to work knowing that they will have to punch in when they get there, they do their utmost to make sure they are on time. After all, time is money. When we come to shul we receive infinite reward for every moment we are there, so why waste opportunities?

The analogy may have been poignant but, as we all know, actions speak louder than words. The following anecdote spoke volumes:

W hen I was younger and would accompany my father and older brother to shul on Shabbos morning, we were generally one of the first to arrive. There was one older teenage boy in the shul who was very impressed with my father’s perpetual promptness, and decided that he was going to make it his mission to precede my father to shul. For the next few weeks he arrived earlier and earlier, but he was stunned to find us all already sitting in shul when he entered.

Then one Shabbos morning as we were nearing the shul, we saw him walking from the opposite direction. He was proportionately a few steps closer. Instinctively my father took off and made a mad dash towards the entrance of the shul. [Although generally one is not allowed to run on Shabbos, one is permitted to run to shul on Shabbos.] When the young man saw him coming he too began running.

It is an image etched in my memory. I had never seen my father run like that before (especially not in his suit and Shabbos shoes), and it was quite a site to see both of them charging towards the door. I remember walking into the shul a few minutes later and seeing the triumphant adolescent rubbing his hands gleefully, panting, and saying, “I beat Steve Staum to shul! Oh does it feel good!”

I cannot say that I am as prompt and punctual as my father, but I definitely strive to be, and my efforts are due to his example.

I was thinking about that memorable incident this week, because the same way I learned the trait from my father, my father learned it from his father. This Friday – 4. Nissan – is the yahrtzeit of my Sabbah (father’s father). Sabbah was the consummate mentch, a person of regality and gentlemanly character. And he was punctual to a fault. If he made up a time to be somewhere and he wasn’t already there waiting when the time came he would apologize profusely.

It is ironic that in a world of technological speed and efficiency, there is such a lack of value and appreciation for the value of time and keeping one’s word, which includes keeping to an appointment or schedule.

One of the many lessons that Pesach teaches us is the invaluableness of time. The seder cannot begin before it is halachically night, yet the afikomen must be eaten before (halachic) midnight. The matzah and marror must be consumed within a few minutes (there are different opinions). Above all is the fact that only a moment differentiates between matzah becoming chometz.

On his yahrtzeit I take a moment to thank Sabbah for teaching us the value of time, to keep our lives from becoming chometzdik!

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

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