“There is a place where time stands still. Raindrops hang motionless in air. Pendulums of clocks float mid-swing. Dogs raise their muzzles in silent howls. Pedestrians are frozen on the dusty streets, their logs cocked as if held by strings…For this is the center of time. From this place, time travels outward in concentric circles, at rest at the center, slowly picking up speed at greater diameters.”
— Einstein’s Dreams, by Alan Lightman
Isn’t this passage an intriguing fantasy about time?
The idea behind it, and Lightman’s book, is that in 1905 Albert Einstein was working on his theory of relativity, which would one day revolutionize the way we think about time. He was so obsessed about his work that at night he would dream about different worlds where time worked differently than it does in our own universe. In the book, we read about a world where time runs backwards, where creatures grow younger day by day until they become infants and then disappear into their mother’s wombs (somewhat like Benjamin Button). There is a world where time runs in circles, where everything that happened happens again after a certain period. And there is a world where time passes more slowly at high altitudes, and the rich buy apartments on mountaintops so they will live longer than they would if they lived in the valley. And there is the passage cited above about a world where time stands still and nothing ever changes. Do you sometimes feel like you want time to stand still? Would you like to push the “pause button” on your life to catch your breath and gain a little perspective?
Time is our most precious commodity. We assign value to our time just as we do to our more tangible resources. The Jewish tradition not only values time, we sanctify it. Shabbat is our weekly pause button, our opportunity to make “time stand still,” and gain perspective on the complex and frantic pace of our lives. This week’s parasha, Emor, includes a detailed description of the seasons of the Jewish year, the Jewish calendar of sacred celebrations. These occasions are not a burden or an obligation. Rather, they are opportunities to celebrate our tradition and our values and add meaning to our lives. And we are now in a season of the year known as the “sefirah” (counting), the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot, the holiday that recalls God’s giving of the Torah to the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai. In keeping with the Torah commandment, found in Parashat Emor, we count each day of these seven weeks in a ritual known as “Counting the Omer.” The primary reason for counting the omer is to create a spiritual link between the freedoms won on Passover a life of purpose guided by Torah. But the counting also serves the purpose of highlighting the potential and power of each single day of our lives. In short, counting the omer enables us to add a dimension of sanctity to each of our days.
Oheb Shalom Congregation recognizes the importance and value of time. We recognize that each of our members can make choices about how we use our time, and we are grateful when you give some of your time to help build and strengthen our congregation. We have dedicated this Shabbat morning service to honoring our many volunteers and expressing appreciation for the gift of your most precious asset—your time. I hope you will join us at this special service, both to be thanked and to express thanks for all those who have given, with full and willing hearts, to enrich our community.