It is so wonderful to have the privilege of reaching grandparenthood. One reason is that it gives us a sense of accomplishment that we have reached yet another milestone in our life when our sons and/or daughters have created dividends for us, i.e. the grandchildren. I look at it as double rewards for having had our children.
Another reason is that our grandchildren really allow us to forget that age is inevitably creeping up on us. In the meantime, you can’t wait to build a relationship with your grandchildren, and in the process you are drawn into their youthful world and every moment of their lives.
You begin to appreciate anew the world of the young, and somehow you feel rejuvenated. At least that’s the way I feel about my grandchildren. I value and enjoy those precious moments with them as every day brings new discoveries and experiences.
In spite of these wonderful feelings, these precious moments are not taken for granted. I know that life is fleeting and time is precious, that we have to value and use wisely the time that God gifts to us.
In the Ethics of the Fathers (3:20), one of our sages, Rabbi Tarfon, said: “The day is short, and the work is great (much).” Disregarding this important admonition, people procrastinate and act as if they have unlimited time at their disposal, taking for granted the precious moments of their lives. This occurs in every aspect of life — again and again you hear people say, “I will do such and such when I get the chance. I will study, or read a book, or spend time with my family, my friends, or go to synagogue services.”
Another sage in the Ethics of the Fathers (2:5), Hillel, counseled, “Do not say ‘when I have leisure I will study.’ Perhaps you will have no leisure.”
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lusato said, in the introduction to his magnificent work of Jewish ethics, The Book of Mesilat Yesharim, The Path of the Just, “There is nothing in this book that you don’t already know. There is nothing in this book that is not obvious, and therefore you should read it every day. Because it is the obvious things in life that we tend to take for granted and that we don’t pause to think about and to consider as often as we should.”
How to take advantage of our “time” and not discard the opportunities that time affords us is crucial, even though most all of us know and understand the obvious — that time is precious and we must utilize the time we have for those important things in life. For this is an obvious truth that I believe we all need to hear, to read, to absorb and to think about.
The greatest gift that we have been given by God is “time” — and the greatest gift that we can give back to God, or that we can give to those we love, is time.
In an ad from a jewelry store I once saw in The New Yorker, a girl stood in a cap and gown while her proud father handed her a watch as a graduation gift. The caption read, “There is no present like the time.” It was not just a clever twist, but a monumental truth. The greatest present that a father or grandfather can give his children, or grandchildren, is time. Nothing else means as much.
There is a song that captures this truth and valuable lesson when it says, among other lyrics, “My time is your time.” It is true that when you really love someone, you say to them, “my time is your time.” For what other gift can you give that will ultimately mean as much as the gift of your time? It also resonates with all of us when we are upset and we claim, “He didn’t even bother to give me the time of day.”
We all know some people who work day and night in their business, and if you ask them why they do it, they’ll say it’s for their children. But I believe that their children would be a lot better off if the parents worked less for them and lived more with them.
If you really love your children, you say to them “my time is your time,” because the truth of the matter is, we don’t have an endless supply of it. Wasted hours destroy our lives just as surely at the beginning as at the end, only as we near the end of our life it becomes more obvious.
Life is like a parking meter. Once you’ve inserted your coins, time is running —once your time is up, the meter “expires.”
This Shabbat, we will be reading parashat “Hachodesh Hazeh,” in preparation for Pesach. When the Israelites left Egypt, the first thing that God said to them was, “From now on, this month belongs to you, “Hachodesh Hazeh Lachem.”
The real difference between a slave and a free man is this: a slave works and a free man works; a slave eats and a free man eats; but the difference between them is that a slave’s time belongs to his master and a free man is master of his own time.
And the real difference between someone who says he loves his family or loves his synagogue, and the one who loves them with every fiber of his being, is that one showers his love with gifts and materials, while the other values and gives the gift of his time.
The Torah taught us long ago: If you are really free, then time belongs to you. And if you really love someone — be it God, or the Jewish people, or your mate or your children, if you really love someone — then say to them, “My time is your time,” for this is what love means.
Rabbi Simon Benzaquen has been rabbi of Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation for 20 years. He received his rabbinical diploma from the Rabbinical Academy of Marseillaise, France. He earned his B.A. in Jewish Studies at Jews’ College in London and was awarded Honors issued by the National Council for Academic Awards of England. At Jews’ College he also studied Hazanut cantorial liturgy. In 1987 Rabbi Benzaquen studied in Israel to become a certified mohel.
Rabbi Benzaquen is also a sofer for sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzot and a noted artist for his unique style of calligraphy of painted and decorated ketubot.
In 1992 and 1993 he was appointed Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of America. He is a member of the Executive Council of Sephardic Rabbis of the U.S.A. and Canada and served as co-chair of the board of Rabbis for the American Sephardi Federation in 1987.
Rabbi Benzaquen is married to Cecilia Benzaquen and has four children and five grandchildren.