Allowing Time for Reflection

I met an acquaintance who suffered a sudden loss. He was very grateful for having a supporting and loving family who came to be with him and his family while adjusting to the new reality. “But,” he added “what I desperately need is some quiet time to process and reflect, and I cannot find it.” I was touched by his honesty and insight. Our fast-paced life today makes it harder and less common to really take the time to reflect on the meaning of our experiences, the choices we have made, and the direction we are heading. 

Despite the modern term, the concept of binge-living is not new. Almost a millennium ago, the renowned commentator, Rashi, who was writing in the now famous region of northern France, Champagne, reminded his students of the importance of pausing and taking their time. “When you look at the Torah scroll, you focus on the black letters,” he writes, “but the white parchment around the letters is an integral part of the Torah, and in fact, the white space is a higher form of Torah.” The white space meant to give Moses an interval for reflection between one division and another and between one subject and another. If Moses needed the breathing space, these moments of reflection, some time to slow down, we, too, need space and time to think, to process, to reflect. 

In his essay “The Busy Trap” Tim Kreider argues that, “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.” [The New York Times, June 30, 2012].

We need to ease our never-ending busyness, to allow self-reflection and the opportunity to look closely at the people we have become and ask deep questions of ourselves. We must take time for those things that we really value, that are precious and sacred and enrich our life. 

When God summoned Moses up Mount Sinai we read, “Come up the mountain to Me,” God says, “and be there.” (Ex. 24:12). The Kotzker Rebbe taught that even after a person struggles to reach the summit of a mountain, it is still possible not to be there. We’re often so focused on climbing the mountain that when we finally arrive we are distracted away from that place and that moment.  

Henry David Thoreau asked, “Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life?” In a form of an answer, I’m packing the car in preparation for a short camping trip with bad cell reception and no wi-fi. 

Happy Passover.