It’s been a bit busy over here – excuse my absence!
(I’m going to make up for it now with a really long post.)
Bear with me as I organize my thoughts, it’s been a whirlwind!
Just emerging from the blur that is Chanukah and having finished reading the book of Bereishit in shul today, the words ‘Chazak, Chazak*’ are ringing powerfully in my ears.
I am aware that the concept of time has been hovering on the edges of my scattered brain, from the first day of Chanukah – and our blessing of “mi she’asah nissim la’avoteinu, bayamin hahem bizman hazeh”/”The One who made miracles for our anscestors – in those days – at this time”, through my many challah recipe testings, and bakings over Chanukah (see previous post! Save the Challah – I probably should have titled it ‘Save Me from my Challah!’) and finally into today’s Torah parsha reading, the emotionally laden story of Yaakov’s final summation of his life and his blessings to each of his children.
So basically, this post is long overdue – but has perhaps benefited from all that ‘stewing’ time in my brain. So let’s talk some more about time now, shall we?
On a regular Friday morning, my challah baking fits so smoothly into my existing routine of shabbat cooking – that I don’t notice the time going between challah dough making at 7:00 am and hafrashat challah at 9:00 am (approximately!) But when I need to make challah for recipe testing during the week, I am hyper conscious of just how much time I need to give the challah dough to rise. And it’s a whole lotta time.
בימים ההם בזמן הזה. / In those days, at this TIME.
What is it about time?
מה שלא יעשה השכל יעשה הזמן
A hebrew phrase from my childhood that I use often . . . loosely translated it means “What can’t be worked out with our minds, will work itself out over time.”
We don’t have a lot of patience these days- it doesn’t seem to be a valued virtue of this generation. Hearing the ancient stories of husbands and fathers out at sea or crossing deserts for months—years at a time… All I can think is-” how did the women bear the wait… the not knowing right now…not even a quick text to say “hi honey, be home in 7 months or so . . . have dinner ready?!”
We can’t even wait for the next web page to load. Gd forbid we are stuck waiting in line, the phones all come out as if on command, and all of us in the line search for something that is instantly available to soothe our impatience.
But not everything in life is instant. And the better the thing… the longer it seems to take.
A baby takes 9 months to become (between me and you- it’s closer to a year…!) Go ahead and buy a faster internet service, a lightning quick microwave, and news updates in real time- but you won’t find a quicker womb!**
**if you do, please let me know.
Even in our kitchens – we have found ways to speed up the myriad of processes that goes into the making of our food, from the food processor to the microwave- we’ve worked out so many ways to speed up the process of nourishing. But nurturing, like a baby in the womb, like a fledgling challah dough, this cannot be rushed.
I include a quote in my book, by Epictetus,
“No greater thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig. I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”
Raising children is just like that. Challah is like that too. The most common complaint I get about unsuccessful challah attempts is that the challah was too heavy, dense… “A brick.” I hear this a lot.
And the reason I give them is invariably the same, “you just didn’t give the dough enough time.”
In my book ‘The Rising Life’ I talk a little bit (a very little bit) about miracles—and the fact that I didn’t put miracle stories into my book—on purpose.
Because, thank G-d, I see lots of miracles, every single day, and more often than not – they are directly linked to the incredible power of hafrashat challah/separating the challah, but I don’t like the whole—instant, abra cadabra, quick fix—sound of the whole thing.
Because life doesn’t work that way and neither do miracles.
Even the best ones, they don’t always happen when we want them to— but the miracle is that they happen right when they are supposed to.
The splitting of the red sea, the 10 plagues, all of these seem to be “abracadabra” moments of pure magic. But there are scientists who have found perfectly logical natural answers to how these events could have occurred. So does that make it less of a miracle?
Not at all.
The miracle is in the timing.
Yes, there is a phenomenon where the sea can completely split open when the winds do a certain thing. (One thing I will not do on this blog is get scientific on you) But that it happened right then? At the exact moment that the hapless Israelites stood at its banks, trapped between the Egyptians swords and a watery death? That is a miracle.
The holiday of Chanukah was not instituted until a year after the miracles occurred. Because the people felt that the energy of the Chanukah miracles were accessible again the next year at that time. This was an auspicious moment in time for this miracle/light energy – and we would be able to tap into that moment, year after year, generation after generation.
Time is a magical thing.
Even unbearable grief becomes bittersweet memories and finally becomes a smile of loving remembrance, after much, much time has passed.
We end the whole book of bereishit, the story of our becoming, with this week’s Torah portion ‘Vayechi,’ which outlines the story of Yaakov’s last moments, and the blessings that he leaves us with.
Yaakov’s journey – through so much pain and struggle – ultimately ends with the beautiful awareness that the there was deep purpose in all that had occurred.
He tells his son, Yosef, of how blessed he feels at the end of his life – to have seen his son again, and even his son’s children. He leaves his children with blessings for their future – he sees the big picture and understands the ultimate power of time.
Yosef’s brothers are newly afraid that their actions will come back to haunt them – but Yosef reassures them that “their thoughts may have been for evil, but Hashem intended them for good.”
And on that note, my thoughts come to rest on the idea that although things may look negative, evil even, it is only in our limited perception in the here and now.
To see the ultimate good in all things, is to allow for Hashem/time to do it’s thing.
To understand that there is a whole big picture, and we are just existing in a tiny speck of it.
To know that one day, we will look back and understand Hashem’s plan in all of this. To acknowledge the gifts that happen with time.
This requires enormous strength and fortitude, during the moments that are dark, the times that feel impossible. And so, as we finish the story, we say Chazak, chazak – may we have the strength.
Bayamim Hahem, Bizman Hazeh.
In those days, at this time.
May we merit to see the miracles that occur in our life, in ‘real-time’, and may we have the wisdom and the patience to joyfully watch our life unfold, our children grow, our dough rise.
And may it all happen, b’shaah tova, in the right time.
*The words we say as we finish reading each of the 5 books of the Torah, "Chazak, Chazak, v’nitchazek’" "Strength, Strength, and may we all be strengthened.”