| Second Thoughts |

Counting the Days

Calendars can help us count the days, but only we can make the days count


That rustling sound of paper meandering down toward the trash bin is the sound of calendar pages bidding farewell to the old year. They had their day in the sun, and that day has come to an end. They offered many opportunities — for inner growth, for spiritual improvement, for Torah learning — and now they must give way to fresh pages, and to new possibilities.

This is the season of calendar change. During Elul and Tishrei, the calendars for the new year arrived almost daily: pocket calendars, desk and wall calendars, in Herew, English, French, Russian… They were sponsored by butchers and bakers, by yeshivos and day schools and seminaries and charity organizations and orphanages and old age homes. I even have one from an enterprising mortician, cheerily reminding one and all to reserve a plot before “it becomes necessary — and, by the way, wishing everyone a happy new year.” (Apparently oblivious to the fact that if everyone really has a happy year, these morticians will be out of business.)

The daily calendars are most fascinating. The day is over in a flash and the page has to be discarded, engendering sobering thoughts like: What did I do besides eat and sleep this day?  Any Torah study, solid prayer, help to others? Anything worthwhile? Those daily calendars can be somewhat dispiriting or, given the right answers, they can be uplifting. Which one of the two depends largely on us.

There is one positive element in these daily calendars: The next day is always at hand, bright and pristine , a fresh, unsmudged slate that offers promise and renewal.

The weekly calendars present a similar challenge, albeit at a less frenetic pace. We get seven times as much time to make new beginnings, to get started on that new project, to complete that unfinished one, to make this week the first week in refashioning our selves. But these weeklies are only expansions of the dailies, and they, too, fade rapidly into oblivion.

Monthly calendars are a bit less intimidating. Thirty days gives one a chance to take a breath, to think, to consider, to plan, to act. The pages of these calendars do not fall off as quickly, but there are only 12 of them, and the year looks so thin when it contains only 12 pages. What can one accomplish in 12 pages?

Calendars: We can’t live with them, we can’t live without them. There is no way to ignore them, to bypass them, to close our eyes and ears to those ever falling pages. Although we are the ones who tear off the pages, crumple them, and toss them away, the fact is that they are the sovereigns that rule our days and control our lives.

Is there a way for us to escape to a place where the calendar — that is to say, time — has no sway? There is such a place, and it is called Eternity, the timeless realm of G-d’s kingdom where time has no dominion.

Which trips easily off the tongue. But can a mere mortal touch Eternity? The stunning truth is that we here-today-and-gone-tomorrow mortals, we temporary residents of this earth, are actually invited to visit this sacred domain.

There are in fact several passageways that permit us entry even if only for a fleeting moment. Serious davening is one such passageway; Torah study is another, as are acts of chesed and kindness and tzedakah. And, of course, Shabbos is the preeminent corridor to Eternity. Each of the mitzvos offers us a glimpse into the kingdom where there are no falling calendar pages and no relentless ticking of the clock. The sense of inner peace and gladness that encompasses us when we seriously engage in such sacred acts is a sign that we have touched Timelessness. For a brief shining moment, time has a stop, and calendars are not controlling us.

Because this is the truth about calendars: They can help us count the days, but only we can make the days count.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 882)

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