Sunday, September 21, 2008

Making Time

The Chofetz Chaim told the following story:
Once there was a shopkeeper who was very successful and made a fortune off of the people of his city and the surrounding environs. Virtually every waking minute was taken up with work. Not only did he lack time to learn one word of Torah, this gentleman didn’t even have enough time to daven. Since he worked until late at night it was hard for him to get up on time in the morning; he invariably arrived at shul around the time of Borchu. Of course, since he always needed to rush to his business, he would leave davening early and never remained until Aleinu.
When this businessman grew older he started to notice that his hair was turning grey. The shock of his own encroaching mortality inspired him to make a rigorous cheshbon hanefesh. “One day it will be time to leave the world and I will be required to give an exact accounting for every action. All the money in the world will surely be worthless then…”
He decided that from that day on he would have a daily seder of several hours after davening no matter what. The very next day he went to bed early, got up on time, and for the first time in years arrived on time for a weekday davening. He stayed until the end and began learning with great enthusiasm.
Meanwhile, his partner wondered why this man, always so regular in the past, did not come to help the moment the store opened at 7:00 AM. When he finally arrived a little after ten, his partner was a little annoyed with him. “Where were you?” blurted the partner.
“I couldn’t make it on time today,” he replied vaguely.
The next day the partner in the store anxiously awaited the reformed businessman, but to no avail. After an hour he decided to search for the twice tardy man. When he finally found him in shul he was furious, but decided to wait for him to complete his seder before exploding. He returned to the store.
At 10:00 AM, when this man finally completed his few hours of learning and arrived at the store, his partner virtually pounced on him. “Are you crazy? The store is filled with customers. I simply cannot manage alone and you sit and learn? As you know we don’t really need the money but not having enough salesmen is like tossing our valuable customers out the door...”
The partner who had done teshuvah did not mince words. “Listen carefully. What would you have done if the malach hamaves had come for me? Would you also insist that I simply may not die because our store is filled with customers? So I want you to imagine that, during those first three hours of business in the morning, I have left the world. Why should it bother you if after a couple of hours I am revived from the dead and come to help out in our store?”
“This is the meaning of the gemara in Gittin 57,” the Chofetz Chaim concluded. “Words of Torah only remain with someone who kills himself for them. This means he never misses his regular times to learn because he acts as though he has already left the world— then all excuses that he has no time no longer apply!”

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