Published January 2021
Time as Teacher
The whirlwind of events that has swirled through our lives in recent days has overwhelmed most of us. Given current realities, are there any guidelines that will enable us to live a stable and satisfying life? We must come to terms with the fact that there will always be events and factors that are beyond our control: social forces, illness, political happenings, and developments in the economy. We cannot determine how long we will live or how our children will turn out. Our influence over the future- and, indeed, over the present- is necessarily circumscribed.
If we are to find peace of mind in this world, we must accept the facts of life. What we cannot cure, we must learn to endure. Worrying will not change realities. But prayer can help us see things in the proper perspective. In Jewish theology, there is no room for self-pity or despair. On the contrary, Judaism maintains that despite appearances, things can work out for the best, in the long run. A popular Hebrew song puts it like this: “The mind cannot conceive what time can achieve.”
Misfortune may turn out to be good fortune. Often something occurs that angers or depresses us; months later we realize that it is the best thing that could have happened. What once was loss turns out to be gain. To insure our emotional and spiritual well-being, we must cultivate patience, perspective and a sense of proportion. As Moses iben Ezra phrased it: “Time is the most sublime and wisest teacher.”
Rabbi Alvin Kass
Chief Chaplain of the NYPD