Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Thief of Time

The Ahavas Yisrael of Vizhnitz, zt”l, was known to be a very diligent scholar who never wasted a moment of his time. During every available instant he was occupied with either Torah or avodah. This characteristic was so ingrained within his very nature that he actually felt pained by wasted time. The rebbe would often say, “The most difficult avodah for me is wasting time! Since even the smallest unit of time is an irretrievable segment of one’s life span, why let it slip away without any positive use?

On Yom Tov in his beis medrash there was a break between minchah and ma’ariv during which everyone went home. Since everyone cleared out to rest after a very fully packed day, the gabai would lock all the doors so he could also go home for a rest.

Once, just before such a break, a certain chassid fell asleep in a corner of the beis medrash. Understandably, the gabbai figured that the shul was empty and locked up. After a short time this chassid woke up and found that everyone had left and he was locked in. He frantically checked all the doors, and finally found that the gabbai had left the key on the inside of one of the doors. He opened the door and took the key with him with the intention of returning it to the gabbai that night.

When the gabbai arrived, he found that the key to the door on that side of the shul was missing and the door on that side of the shul remained locked. Understandably, the gabbai searched thoroughly all over the shul but could not locate the key. When the chassid finally retuned the key to the anguished gabbai, he was relieved but a bit annoyed. After all, this man knew his address. Why hadn’t he returned the key immediately?

After the chassid went his way, the Ahavas Yisrael, said to the gabbai, “Now I understand why chazal say a person who borrows without permission is a thief. It seems troubling why this should be so. After all, he intends to return it later. But now it is easy to comprehend. Borrowing without permission causes the owner to waste time for absolutely nothing. This borrower is a thief of the innocent man’s time, and a thief of time is also a thief!”[1]

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