20 Av 5781 / Thursday, July 29, 2021 | Torah Reading: Eikev
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The Priceless Five Minutes    

The Priceless Five Minutes

The student almost choked when he overheard the Chafetz Chaim chastising himself: "Yisroel Meir, where are the five minutes? What did you do with the five minutes?"


Imagine that you win a lottery, where the first prize is five minutes inside the open vaults of Chase Manhattan Bank: there are a pile of empty sacks waiting for you and you're allowed to fill as many as you can carry with as much cash as you can carry out on your own…


Would you check your WhatsApp or your favorite news portal? Would you let someone avert your attention from grabbing the sealed wads of 100 hundred-dollar bills, where each wad is worth $10,000? No way! Even if you can only carry one sack, but you've filled it with 100 wads, you'll be taking home $1 million; not bad for five minutes.


In reality, five minutes of life are much more precious than a million dollars. Our lives are worth much more than a million dollars or even many times more than that. A person with spiritual awareness is fully cognizant of time's value.


A well-known story about the holy Chafetz Chaim notes how he used to disappear from the yeshiva for two hours a day, between the hours of 2-4 PM. His students at first thought that their teacher would walk home to eat and rest during that time. But, when they knocked on the door of his modest house desiring to ask him a question, they discovered that he wasn't there. Not at home and not at the yeshiva, where could he be? One of his students decided to stealthily follow him one day, to solve the mystery. The Chafetz Chaim, almost ninety at the time, slowly climbed the yeshiva backroom's old wooden steps that led to the attic, where no one else ever went.


The student almost choked when he overheard the Chafetz Chaim chastising himself: "Yisroel Meir, where are the five minutes? What did you do with the five minutes? How can it be that you can't account for five minutes?!" Then, the holy scholar begged the Almighty for forgiveness, as if he were the biggest sinner that ever walked the face of the earth.


The saintly Chafetz Chaim could not account for five minutes of his previous day's time during his daily two-hour secluded session of self-assessment. That's what he was doing alone in the attic when he disappeared every afternoon.


We ask ourselves, "What's the big deal about five minutes?"


For a person whose life is threatened, five minutes is a very big deal. In an armed conflict, five minutes is an eternity. In first aid, where one can potentially save a life or forfeit the opportunity, five minutes can be the difference between recovery and the opposite, Heaven forbid.


If saving a physical life is important, what about saving an emotional or spiritual life? One can revitalize a soul in less than five minutes with an encouraging word or a pat on the back. There are many different ploys we can use to enhance positive emotions and overcome negative emotions in five minutes. By utilizing five minutes in the right way, we can make major improvements in both the quality of our lives and our interpersonal relationships.


Time is the one resource that can't be replenished. There is no compensation for a lost moment, let alone hour, day, week, month or even more. One's entire success and productivity depend on taking advantage of time. Stop and think – one of the Gemara's greatest sages, Abaye, only lived until the age of forty! What's more, two of our greatest and most prolific spiritual luminaries, the holy Arizal and Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, never even reached the age of forty. Look at what they all accomplished in one short lifetime!


Let's decide to take better advantage of our time this year, living each moment like the treasured gift from Above that it really is.



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