Rebecca Masinter

Parshas Emor - Masters of Time

Are you always rushing? For many of us hours run together into days and before we know it weeks and months have passed. It’s easy to feel like we’re always playing catch-up with the schedule, but the Torah has an antidote to offer.


The Passuk in Parshas Emor says…

דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם מוֹעֲדֵ֣י ה’ אֲשֶׁר־תִּקְרְא֥וּ אֹתָ֖ם מִקְרָאֵ֣י קֹ֑דֶשׁ אֵ֥לֶּה הֵ֖ם מוֹעֲדָֽי׃

“Speak to Bnai Yisrael and say to them, “Hashem’s appointed times for meeting, which you shall proclaim as holy, these are my appointed times.”


The calendar for Jewish holidays is a revolutionary concept.  In the natural world, the sun rises and sets on its schedule regardless of what humans pronounce.  The seasons pass and years change without adapting to humanity’s proclamations about the calendar.  But Jewish festivals are Moadim and they operate completely differently.  The word “moed” means an appointed meeting time or place. Inherent in that definition is the reality that in order for there to be a meeting, there must be two parties agreeing to meet!  An uninvited guest is not Moed, but a scheduled get-together is Moed. Parshas Emor introduces us to the role that we play in proclaiming the Moed, designating the appointed times of the Festivals.


Why is the concept of Moed for the Jewish holidays significant?  The biggest differentiator between a slave and a free person is that a slave has no control over his time.  A slave must do whatever he is ordered, but a free man has the right to use his time for his own purposes.  When the Jewish people were in Egypt we were enslaved with no control over our time. After the Exodus, Hashem granted us true independence, the freedom to control our time.  He reserves certain special days as holy days, Jewish Festivals, but He doesn’t compel us to submit.  Rather Hashem gives us the freedom to proclaim these days as the days of meeting where we willingly choose to meet God and God chooses to meet us.  A Moed.  


Rav Shamshon Refael Hirsch says that this idea elevates us from a master-servant relationship to the love between a Father and child.  These times of meeting derive from a mutual choice with mutual love and yearning between Hashem and us.  The freedom Hashem gave us to manage time is what allows us to choose to meet with Him on the Moadim.  That is what our holidays are, and that is the significance of our counting each night towards Shavuos.


By granting us the power to appoint the dates for the Jewish holidays, Hashem is allowing us to be a full-fledged partner in our relationship and to meet Him on these holy days of our own free will. This too is a gift that mothers can give to their children. It is true that most of us have better time management skills than many of our children. It is also true that there are many things that must happen on our schedule in our homes. But there are areas where granting our children control over their time can be empowering and deepens our relationship. 


I have learned that instead of asking a child to unload the dishwasher or take out the garbage RIGHT NOW, I gain far more by asking them to do it at some point before dinnertime or some other specific hour. By giving my children the autonomy to decide when it’s best for them to help me, I am acknowledging their individuality, recognizing the importance of other things they may be doing, and I’m allowing the help that they give me to happen as a gift on their own terms. Stepping back from a parental time frame transforms their contribution from a begrudging chore into a gift they choose to give me.  Just as our power to proclaim the Moadim allows us to be equal partners who choose to meet Hashem joyfully and willingly at the specially designated times, allowing my children the power to manage their time gives them the same gift, thereby honoring them and enhancing our relationship.