"Don’t do today what you can put off until tomorrow…because tomorrow you may not have to do it!"
This was the fun phrase used by a friend’s mother for most of her life. The irony being my friend's mother personified the complete opposite of this statement.
But if you think about it, this is actually quite a sobering thought. How many of us can truly say we don't put off important things we know we should have done yesterday?
From my own experience, I now know that if something is important I better attend to it immediately, otherwise I simply don't trust myself to "get around to it." I know I could benefit from a Time Management course. In fact, I once signed up for one but I never made it there. No time.
There are still so many new ideas, projects and plans I'd like to get around to. With better personal discipline they might actually materialize.
You might be surprised to learn that effective time management is not only a professional value but also a religious imperative.
Right now we are in a period of time known as the Omer. It is the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot. Just as the Israelites counted the days after the Exodus in eager anticipation of receiving the Torah, so do we count these 49 days annually.
But why count time? Time marches on whether we take note of it or not. What value is there in counting the days?
We count these 49 days to make us conscious of just how precious time is. It is there to make us more sensitive to the value of a day, an hour, a moment.
A new young rabbi arrives in an eastern European town. During his first day, one of the town leaders gave the young rabbi a tour of his new village. Eventually, they came to the Jewish cemetery where, as was the custom, all of his rabbinic predecessors were buried in a common section. As they passed by the gravestones something became frighteningly clear – the ages on the stones. The life of one rabbi was 34 years, another 28, and yet another was a mere 23 years. There was not one person who survived past 40.
As this shocking realization descended upon him, the new rabbi started sweating. He began to believe that the community was so difficult it was killing off its rabbis. His guide, sensing the young rabbi’s growing panic, said, “Let me explain, and then you can decide if you still want to leave. These dates are not the number of years of these people’s lives, they are the number of years that they truly lived their lives.” You see we have a custom in our community that each person keeps a notebook and at the end of the day they write down how much of their time was spent serving God – not just through prayer or study, but the number of hours spent living a life of gratitude and not regret – the number of hours living closest to their highest self – living according to the important and not trivial things.
At the end of a person’s life, we add all of the hours in the notebook and that is the number we put on their headstone. He lived to be 94, not the 38 years engraved there.” And pointing to another stone, he said, “And this rabbi was on this earth for 83 years not 34.”
So the Torah tells us to count our days – because they are, in fact, numbered. We each have an allotted number of days and years in which to fulfill the purpose for which we were created. So as we count our days, let us all be blessed with the strength to truly make our days count.