Freedom from Slavery; It’s About Time! by Yaffa Palti
You know those people who always arrive at appointments exactly on time?
You invite them for dinner at 7 and the doorbell rings precisely as the clock strikes the appointed hour.
They show up at weddings before the bride and groom.
They complete all their tasks ahead of deadline.
Know the type?
The concept of time is significant. It can be used positively or negatively.
Using time negatively means being lazy. This is a debilitating disease that prevents us from reaching a goal, be it a household chore, a project at work, a spiritual activity or just about anything that requires some movement.
Using time positively allows productivity and accomplishment to be our primary goal.
The exact moment the Jews left Egypt, which occurs in this week’s Torah portion, was extremely significant. The Torah uses the word b'chipazon, which means they left in a rush, at that exact instant. Had the Jews stayed even one second longer they would not have been worthy of leaving.
That means, had we remained there for one more instant after being set free instead of scurrying out immediately, we would still be living there, wearing burkas and eating lachmajin. I probably would spell my name Yaphah.
At this time, they were on the 49th level of impurity out of a possible 50. I'm no mathematician but even I can count that low. Had they waited even one more second before walking out of the gates of Egypt, they would have hit rock bottom. They would have reached the 50th level of impurity.
Here's my question:
What was so dangerous about remaining another moment in Egypt? Could one extra second of living with the Egyptians influence them so much more? They had been living side by side for more than 200 years. What new paradigms could the Egyptians have possibly taught the Jews one second before they left?
And besides, wasn't this the moment of redemption? A moment of purity? Of revelation? It was such a holy moment. How could they possibly have fallen down a level of impurity in just one split second during the holiest occasion ever?
See, the danger was time itself. Being lazy. Not acting immediately. That's the impurity. Laziness. Procrastination.
The Jews had been given their exit visas. Had they remained at home to finish a game of Candy Crush before leaving, had they stopped to take a salvation selfie or run back home to change into their favorite outfit, that would've been the danger. That was the impurity.
When we're given an opportunity to do something, the moment to do it is right then. If we wait even one moment, we can miss it.
A few years ago, I thought of the most perfect shidduch (match). I actually didn't know either of the two people all that well, but what I did know made them seem perfect for each other. So, what did I, the president of the Procrastinators Club, do? What I did do was pick up the phone and suggest the match. I had every excuse in the world to wait a little while. They were both in camp … I didn't know how to reach them … maybe they'd prefer to wait until after the summer … maybe this, maybe that.
Before I turned around, the day after camp was over, I heard the wonderful news: they had gotten engaged … to each other! Someone else had performed the mitzvah. The moment I had thought of the shidduch was the moment I should have acted.
You know, I was always a little bothered by the famous story of Rabbi Akiva. He left home for 12 years to learn Torah. Upon returning home, before even entering his house, he overheard his loving wife, Rachel, speaking to a neighbor inside: "I'm so proud of my husband's accomplishments in Torah; I wouldn't mind if he goes back for another 12 years!"
Upon hearing those words, he made an about-face, got into his carriage, and stayed away for an additional 12 years.
Couldn't he just go in and say hello to his wife? Not even "what's for dinner?" just H-E-L-L-O. And then he could have turned around and gone to resume his studies.
Only now, after studying the concept of b'chipazon, do I understand why he couldn't go in. Because that was the moment to act. That was the second to go back. It was now or never. If he had gone in and seen his wife even for a second, he might have changed his mind.
B'chipazon. They left in a rush. They had to hurry out of there, because stalling and procrastinating would have brought them down to a lower spiritual level.
Maybe this is the reason Jews were commanded, at that moment, to eat matzah on Pesach. The two significant aspects that make up matzah are time and constant work. Consistently working the dough for exactly 18 minutes qualifies the matzah as kosher. A pause in the kneading, symbolizing laziness, or allowing it to sit even one minute more than 18 before it’s baked and it becomes chametz (leavened).
Time is so important that one 100th of a second is worth $10 million. That’s right. Have you ever watched the Olympics? The winner crosses the finish line in record time 3 minutes, 27:53 seconds. At the following Olympics, the winner comes in at 3 minutes … everyone's turning blue in anticipation … 27:52 seconds! The crowd bursts into cheer. We have a new record holder, who bested the previous mark by 100th of a second.
What happens the morning after? The new record holder gets a phone call. It's Nike. They want him to model their new sneakers. That's $2 million.
Next, Coca-Cola calls him. They want his to be drinking their stuff on TV. That's another $2 million.
And the phone rings and rings. One one-hundredth of a second is worth $10 million.
I think I’ll get off the computer now and go be productive. Procrastination? Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Yaffa Palti is a JWRP City Leader for Communidad Sefardi in Mexico City, Mexico. Yaffa works as a spiritual educator and leader in Mexico City aside her husband Rav Palti and their children.