Have you ever stopped to think about what can happen in a moment? A life can be saved, a comet can streak through the sky and lightning can illuminate the darkness. In the time it takes for an eye to blink, a moment may be missed and the opportunity never to present itself again. It may be a once in a lifetime instance or perhaps part of your daily routine. Regardless of the frequency of the occurrence, that specific moment is present only in the now.
This week’s parsha speaks to the importance of the here and now. Are we a passive audience or active participants in our world? Have we decided to look straight ahead, missing what opportunities present themselves alongside our path or are our eyes open, searching for the next “moment.”
“then you shall say before יהוה your Elohim, ‘I have put away the set-apart portion from my house, and also have given it to the Levite, and to the stranger, and to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all Your command which You have commanded me. I have not transgressed Your commands, nor have I forgotten.”Deuteronomy 26:13 – The Scriptures
It’s that last sentence that really catches my attention. Upon reading it the first time, it seems like a single idea that has been reiterated. Of course, if you have not transgressed His commands, you must have remembered them. But before writing it off as redundancy, let’s look at the context surrounding the verse.
“When you have completed tithing all the tithe of your increase in the third year, which is the year of tithing, and have given it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, and they have eaten within your gates and have been satisfied, then you shall say before יהוה your Elohim, ‘I have put away the set-apart portion from my house, and also have given it to the Levite, and to the stranger, and to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all Your command which You have commanded me. I have not transgressed Your commands, nor have I forgotten.”Deuteronomy 26:12-13 – The Scriptures
This is a conditional statement; the latter can only be done following the completion of the previous. This chapter deals with the increase that one experiences after dwelling in the land. The Torah is saying that Israel is required to tithe the first of their produce, depending on the year, to its proper recipient. Only after obedience to that specific command can they complete the request of verse 13.
Have you ever just done something because you had to and thought nothing more about it afterwards? In the routines that we all become so accustomed to, we constantly react to our environment in a moments notice. Then we let it slip into the blur of the day’s history. In a supercharged, fast paced society there’s often little time to stop and appreciate the “moments” that happen. How many times do we say a blessing or put on our tzitzit because it’s what we do every day? We obviously haven’t forgotten, so we haven’t transgressed His commands, but that’s not the order that the Torah lists it.
It’s as if the Torah is reminding us to be present during the moment. Do not give because you have to, but be aware of the needs that you are meeting because Elohim has given you the ability to do so. If you’re detached from the event, you won’t be able to experience it fully; you’re not transgressing, but are you forgetting what it’s all about? In order to further emphasize this point the Torah states:
“Today יהוה your Elohim is commanding you to do these laws and right-rulings. And you shall guard and do them with all your heart and with all your being. You have today caused יהוה to proclaim to be your Elohim, and to walk in His ways and guard His laws, and His commands, and His right-rulings, and to obey His voice.”Deuteronomy 26:16-17 – The Scriptures
Where’s your focus in all of this? Is it a checklist to run through each day or are we pausing to take in the beauty of each moment that He has placed before us? Are we even aware that the weight of our thoughts, speech and actions attest beyond our own self? Another translation of verse 17 says “You have distinguished HaShem today to be a God for you.” Living in the now and being aware of the needs of others allows us to demonstrate His Kingship to others. It’s not for our sake, but for His, that we observe His commands.
The next time we do an act of kindness, fulfill a commandment or pray, take a moment to fully invest in the moment. Pause and acknowledge the One for whom we labor so that at the end of the day, you can look back on the treasures given to you. Give your life meaning. Look for the opportunity and react with intent and purpose.
To close with a quick story; years ago I had a dream with a particular message to give to someone that I had never seen before. I was unsure if it meant anything, but nonetheless, I kept my eyes open for this woman. One day, I saw her with two children at the local pet store. I froze. This was my moment, but unfortunately, I hesitated and didn’t see her again until several weeks later. This time I was going to do it! Once again, I doubted myself and remained silent. Finally, a year later, I saw her once more. (I worked at this pet store. In a small town, you tend to see the same people over and over again.) This time I mustered my courage and asked for her permission to share what I spoken in my dream. Her tearful reply? “I wish I would have known that about a year ago, but thank you for telling me this now. It confirms so many things.” The timeliness of the moment had been missed but the opportunity to distinguish HaShem was still present.