artistic collage of clocks
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‘Jewish’ Time

Jews are known for being late for meetings, but are spiritually attuned to time in special ways.


Jewish events are notorious for starting late. As The Zionist leader Nahum Goldmann once said, “I tried my whole life to come late to a Jewish meeting and never succeeded.”

Conversely, Jewish law depends upon precision in time. Sabbaths and holidays have specific starting and ending times. Ritual observances such as mourning, have definite, time-bound cycles. We seem caught between the rigor of ritual and the languor of social occasions.

Perhaps each clock is a counterbalance to the other. After all, centuries of wandering do not always permit a fixed and insistent attitude towards time. Flexibility and patience are virtues cultivated by our uneasy history. Still we did not allow tribulation to override obligation. For all the uncertainty in the world, there was certainty in our souls. Our spiritual clocks remain fine tuned. Insistent upon the rhythms of our devotion, we also make allowances for the unpredictability of circumstance.

Of course, often it is a matter of finding parking.

Rabbi David Wolpe’s musings are shared in My Jewish Learning’s Shabbat newsletter, Recharge, a weekly collection of readings to refresh your soul. Sign up to receive the newsletter.

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