Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Three Sifrei Torah!

[All I have to say to this post at Life in Israel is AMEN!]

[I wrote the following for this week's Toronto Torah, which is downloadable from here. It was inspired by a friend of mine in Allentown, who loves the Shabbatot on which we bring out three Torah scrolls.]

Time is valuable, but it is only a currency to be traded and spent rather than hoarded. A moment of time has no independent worth; the value of time is realized when it is invested in a relationship, in spiritual growth, in education, or in community.

Unfortunately, we easily mistake our valuable currencies for commodities; as a natural outgrowth of our need to acquire currency, we come to view it as an end unto itself. This is how we become obsessed with amassing money, and it is also how we become obsessed with protecting our time. Much as people spend what they must for perceived necessities and stint on spending for other items, so people spend time on perceived necessities, and stint on the time they spend for other pursuits, including davening, Shabbat meals and learning.

This point is particularly relevant today, when we invest our time in reading from three sifrei torah. What a beautiful moment - the confluence of Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, and the onset of Nisan, the month which leads all others in the Torah's calendar! We withdraw three scrolls of our sacred heritage from the Aron Kodesh and parade them through the synagogue, the silver polished and shining, the gathered children awed by this unusual display of religious grandeur, hands reaching out to press once, twice and three times the velvet cases enwrapping sanctified parchment. We celebrate the riches of our synagogue, and express a great communal appreciation of the blessing revealed to us at Sinai.

But in the midst of this pomp, some of us might turn to our neighbours and sigh, "Three Torahs – we won't be out of here until 12:30!" This reaction stems from a view that time is a commodity to be hoarded. Better to recognize that those minutes of Shabbat morning could not be used in a more worthwhile way, that the time during which we honour our tripled Torah, listen to its tripled words and comprehend its triple message, will be time well-spent, and will bring us and our children great returns. Knowing how to spend our time positively, rather than hoard it, will help us live more fruitful and inspired lives.

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