Do a few extra minutes really matter?

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It is not uncommon to hear people say, “We’ve got a few hours to kill.” Why do we use the phrase “killing time”? We may waste paper by not using it wisely, but we don’t say we’re killing paper. When we don’t use our time wisely, we do, in fact, kill time. It is gone, you cannot get it back. When I hear the phrase “killing time,” I am reminded of a story that helps teach us that every minute is precious. A young boy was traveling with his grandfather on the subway.

When the train reached a certain station, the boy hurriedly pulled his grandfather across the platform onto another train. When the elderly man saw that the train that he had boarded was headed in the very same direction as the one he had just been on, he asked his grandson why they had changed trains.

“That train was local,” replied the youngster.

“This one is express; we save five minutes.”

There was a moment of silence and then the grandfather turned to his grandson and said,

“And what are we going to do with those extra five minutes?”

Do those extra few minutes here and there really matter?

The verse in the Torah which describes the conclusion of the creation of the world is one of the better known verses: “And God completed on the seventh day His work which He had done and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.”

We set aside the seventh day – from sunset on Friday afternoon until night on the following day – as a holy day, a day of rest because God did so when He “rested” on the seventh day from the creation of the world.

The beginning of the verse is, however, problematic. It seems to imply that God actually worked to finish the job on the seventh day. So did He work on the seventh day or did He rest?

Our sages explain that God did not actually work at all on the seventh day, but He did work until the very last moment on the Friday afternoon. Since humans don’t know exactly at which precise moment the day passes, we cannot work until the very last moment. We need to accept Shabbat a few moments early to insure we don’t “go overtime.” God, who knows exactly when the new day begins, can work until the very last moment – so it appears as if He is working on Shabbat.

But why did God have to work until the very last moment? Surely He could have finished His work earlier and have saved us from thinking that He had actually worked on the seventh day. As with everything, God had an intention. At the very outset, with the creation of the world, He wanted to teach us a priceless lesson – that every moment is precious, that we need to value our time. God worked until the very last moment on the last day of creation because He wanted to convey this important message – even if we have just a few minutes at our disposal, those minutes are not to be wasted; they are to be used toward the purpose for which we were created.

On the very first day that man was created, God taught us by way of example that “killing time” goes against our entire belief system and the purpose for which we were created. Every moment we are given is a gift. That moment is to be used to create good things and to build a better world around us, not to “kill.”

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