When Time Stood Still – A Weekly Letter From Rabbi Davis – June 15, 2018
This Shabbat is a special day on the Jewish calendar. It is 3 Tammuz. According to tradition, this was the day when time stood still.
In the Book of Joshua, we read a story about the Israelite’s battle against the Amorites. Joshua called for the sun to stand still and it did. These additional daylight hours gave him time to save his allies the Givonites by conquering the Amorites before night descended. The rabbis debate how long the sun paused before setting. Some say it paused six hours, others twelve hours, still others say it paused 24 hours. However long it stood still, an ancient calendar calculated that this miracle occurred on Friday afternoon before Shabbat, 3 Tammuz.
There are moments when time seems to stand still: when a couple stands under the chuppa, the moment before you first kiss the one you love, when your loved one takes a final breath. In these moments, time stops. I think our kids feel something similar as summer arrives. Enjoying camps, activities and carefree days under the summer sun they lose track of time.
Shabbat is also an island of time. A reminder of both the original creation and the messianic era, Shabbat draws together the beginning and end of time making each moment a moment of eternity.
“Try to imagine a life without timekeeping,” writes Mitch Albom in his book, The Time Keeper. “You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour.”
We need time to keep us organized and efficient yet often our lives are ruled by the clock. And worst of all, concludes Albom, “man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.” But we can conquer that fear by cherishing those moment of eternity when time stands still.
The 3 Tammuz is significant for another reason: it marks the yahrzeit of the Lubavicher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson who died in 1994. To his followers, the Rebbe is like a sun that never set. His light continues to shine. And not just the rebbe. Each of us can shine a light long after we are gone.
The rebbe taught that when a loved one dies, we experience great pain because we can no longer touch, hold, hug or converse with the deceased. But if we are attached to their soul- spiritual things like character, kindness, goodness- the loss will be less acute. As Joseph Telushkin writes in Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem Schneerson, The Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History: “as distinct from the expression ‘Death ends a life but not a relationship,’ the Rebbe’s view in essence was that ‘Death ends neither a relationship nor a life.’” Even after the body dies, “the relationship continues because the soul is still alive. Therefore, we know that when we do good, we bring joy to our loved ones.”
This summer, may we enjoy moments when time stands still: when we accomplish more than we thought possible in the time remaining, when the days pass slowly, and the nights linger, when a kiss lasts a lifetime, when a day of rest feels like an eternity, and when those we love live on long after they pass away.
May Rebbe’s memory be a blessing.
Rabbi Alexander Davis