0 Posted by - February 4, 2016 - Parsha, Shemot


Parashat Mishpatim

ויתיצבו בתחתית ההר, And they stood at the foot of the mountain. (Shemot 19 ;17) Avdimi Bar Chasa said that this passuk teaches you that G-d turned the whole mountain over their heads. He said, if you accept the Torah, good. But if not, שם תהא קבורתכם, over there will be your burial. (Shabbat 88a)

R’ Chaim Shmulevits asked, why does it say שם תהא קבורתכם, over there will be your burial?  It would be more appropriate to say כאן תהיה קבורתכם, over here will be your burial!?! They were right under the mountain, and all that G-d needed to do, if they did not accept the Torah, was to drop it on His People! So why does it say,שם , “over there”?

The answer he gives is the key to understanding the greatest weapon of your Evil Inclination. Procrastination. “When I have finished paying off my mortgage, I will free up some time from work, and then I will make time to learn Torah.” “When I finish marrying off my kids, then I will have some time to attend a Torah class.” “When it works out for me, then I will spend time learning with my kids.” שם  – Then!!!  That later date! That is when I will learn. But that later date does not have a date. That later date is always “later”.

אל תאמר לכשאפנה אשנה – שמא לא תפנה Don’t say, when I will free up time, I will learn- for you may never have free time!  (Avot 2, 4) The Chassidic masters put a twist on that. Don’t say when I have free time I will learn, because it could be that G-d wants your learning to be that of “a busy person who finds time for learning”! He wants to see if and how much you value Torah, if you make time for it, even though you are so, so, busy!

One night last week, I gave a class on procrastination. As I was preparing the lesson, my wife asked me if I had a few minutes to put the kids to sleep. Bedtime is the time when I practice my storytelling. I try to make up a story that is relevant to the kid’s life, and this is how that night’s story came out. “Binyamin, (our 3-and-a-half year old) there was once a fireman called Boonie the Fireman.(Binyamin’s nickname is Boonie) Boonie had a biiig, red fire truck. Boonie’s fire truck had a big white ladder, that went up high, high, into the sky. And one morning, Boonie, who was upstairs in his Fireman’s House, got an emergency call that a house down the block is on fire. “There is a woman three flights up who needs you to come right over!” “No problem. This is a job for Boonie, the fireman!” As quickly as possible, Boonie slides down the fireman’s pole and dives into his fire truck. He flips on the sirens and starts driving towards the lady down the block. But then, on the way, Boonie smelled, from his favorite bakeshop, freshly baked, delicious, chocolate chip cookies, just like Mommy’s! Boonie’s favorite! What should Boonie do? Should he go to save the lady, or stop in to get the cookies? If Boonie goes to save the lady, someone else will buy the cookies; they will be gone! Forever and ever! What would you do, Binyamin? (Binyamin LOVES chocolate chip cookies).

Binyamin said, “I will save the lady!” “But Binyamin, how then are you going to get your cookies?”  He responded, “The lady will make me more cookies!”

You see, we are all in that position. The “person who we can save”, is none other than that great person that we aspire to become. The life of being the amazing individual that we want to be has a price tag. Those who reach their goals, 1-know what their goal is, 2- they know the price they need to pay to achieve their goal, 3- and they pay the price in full and in advance. They do not waste their money and time on the cookies, no matter how tempting. But what holds us back is all the “cookies”, the things that are not so important, but are very tempting. They are the trivialities we busy ourselves with.

At the end of your life, your greatest regret will be procrastination. The Chafetz Chaim said it. “The greatest חשבון, accounting, you are going to have to answer up to G-d after your death, is, “Why did you live without a חשבון, without a plan.” Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.

The חכמי אומות העולם, the wise gentiles, say that the greatest procrastination in the world is web browsing and email checking.  One study says that the average American checks his phone 110- 221 times a day. I hope that I am not an average American. I do not want it to be written on my grave that I spent so much of my life checking emails or browsing the web. What a waste of a life, even waste of a tombstone!  שם תהא קבורתכם, Your biggest “grave”, your biggest value-time-killer, is procrastination. Rabbi Shlomo Ibn Gebirol said it best: אדם דואג על איבוד דמיו ואינו דואג על איבוד ימיו, דמיו אינם עוזרים, ימיו אינם חוזרים. A man is worried about the loss of his money, but he is not worried about the loss of his days. His money does not help him, and his days won’t return!

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