Rabbi Eli Grunewald (Jewish Student Chaplain Scotland):
It is a great honour to have been invited here to lead the time for reflection this afternoon. When I was considering a topic for today, the phrase “time for reflection” really caught my attention. I noticed that it can be switched around to read “reflection for time”.
Time is the most precious commodity that we have, yet we sometimes treat it as though it is unlimited. As a chaplain, it is not strange for me to hear a student express feelings such as a desire to wish away today, this week, even this month, when things are not going so well. While sympathising with the stress and complications that often go hand in hand with student life, I always encourage students to resist that desire. Every day is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, one that we will never have again. Robert Burns summed that up wonderfully, in 1790, in his poem “Tam o’ Shanter”. As Burns put it,
“Nae man can tether time or tide.”
Although I believe that the poem refers to the story of a farmer and his wayward friends, that line encapsulates the certainty that time will run out eventually and will not wait for anyone or anything.
Last week, we celebrated Passover, the great festival of liberation. In the middle of the celebrations, we pause to do something very simple: count the days. From then, each day until the early-summer festival of Pentecost, we mention how many days have passed. Today is day 10. Our counting helps us realise the importance of every day, every week, every month. It helps us focus on the here and now, and reminds us to use our time well. It is so easy to forget that the moments in which we live become days, months, years.
An ancient Jewish source—the Book of Psalms—mentions that idea of counting days. The psalmist dwells on the reality that our lives are brief and filled with challenging times, and pass us by so very quickly. He then asks God to help us to count our days wisely.
Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski explains that the psalmist means that, when we remember that the clock is ticking for all of us, we will be more likely to use our days to the full. And I believe that, when we reflect on how limited time is—when we remember how limited our own time is—that will help us use our time wisely and, indeed, give us more time for reflection.