Time, wasted time

Let us not waste the precious gems of time.

Menachem Ben-Mordechai,

Judaism יהלומים. אילוסטרציה
יהלומים. אילוסטרציה

How much has been wasted today?

I recently read a talk by Rav Mordechai Gifter, zt"l, titled "Elul Teaches Us To Value Time." His observations included:

"We live today without any value of what is a minute of time. If only every time we were engaged with something valueless we would stop immediately. We would realize by wasting time, I’m taking diamonds and throwing them into the sea."

One finds a similar attitude of vigilance toward time among other Torah luminaries, gedolim. A grandson of Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, has recalled, “When he would come to the yeshivah [of Staten Island] before Shacharis, you could see that he had his time mapped out, minute by minute. Not a moment would go to waste.”

Likewise, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt”l, advised a student's son celebrating his bar mitzvah, "The prime secret of success in life is not to waste time. Guard yourself and don't waste even one precious second of your entire life." The following account shows how Rav Elyashiv exemplified his advice:

“The gabbai of a shul brought a new Sefer Torah to Rav Elyashiv so he could write a letter before the hachnassat Sefer Torah ceremony…When he finished writing the letter on the parchment, he asked how much time it would take for the letter to dry and the Torah Scroll to be rolled up. After hearing that it would take about five minutes, he took his Gemara and went to a different room to learn.”

As a final example, in 1972 a son of Rav Ovadia Yosef, zt"l, was in yeshiva. His father wrote to him:

"How fortunate are you that you merited to dwell in the courtyards of G_d, to study the Torah without interruption...Your time, your hours, your minutes are worth more than gold. Every moment is very precious, and one who collects slowly will end up with plenty."

Rav Ovadia Yosef zt"l: Every moment is very precious, and one who collects slowly will end up with plenty...
In the language of economics, Judaic life places great importance on opportunity cost. Dr. Russ Roberts of Stanford University's Hoover Institution summarizes the concept: “Time is precious. One of the simplest but most important ideas of economics is the idea of opportunity cost–anything you do means not doing something else.”

An hour spent arguing on social media is forever lost to learning Tanach or mussar. The author Seth Godin recently stated along these lines in a general context, "It might be that time spent knitting, reading, being introspective and digging deep is more productive than checking a Twitter feed just one more time."

Furthermore, interaction on sites like Facebook often consists of reactive thinking, snark, and short-term exchange. This runs counter to the character traits that traditional Jews seek to build, such as refinement and reflectiveness. (During a discussion of Jewish education, Rav Yaakov Weinberg, zt"l, noted in this regard that "the first and foremost goal of chinuch is to teach good qualities, middot tovot. It should be an even greater concern than their learning and observance, shemirat hamitzvot.")

As we go approach a new year, it is worthwhile to consider how we have used our non-renewable wealth—the diamonds that Rav Gifter described. If we find habits of waste and all too many diamonds squandered, let us treat the remaining gems with more wisdom and gratitude.