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by Benyamin Cohen    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Do not say when I shall have the opportunity, I shall study, lest you never have the opportunity" (Ethics of our Fathers 2:5).



Do not say when I shall have the opportunity, I shall study, lest you never have the opportunity" (Ethics of our Fathers 2:5).

Tolstoy tells a story: There was once a nobleman who wished to reward one of his loyal subjects by giving him a large parcel of land. The nobleman even agreed to allow the subject to determine how much land he would obtain. The next day beginning at sunrise, the man would be allowed to encircle a piece of land. Whatever he could encircle that day would become his, so long as he returned to the starting point by sunset.

In an attempt to plan out the best possible outcome, the man rationed that he would go in one direction until precisely midday, at which time he would then turn around and head back to the starting point. Pumped with enthusiasm, the loyal subject awoke early in the morning so that he would be ready to go as soon as the sun came over the horizon. And just as the first rays began to show their light, the man set off on his day-long journey. Thinking ahead, the man paced himself as the sun began to rise over the morning sky. With each step he took, he was increasing his riches.

Noon arrived and the subject could not bear the thought of this marking the end of his opportunity to gain wealth, so instead of turning around as he had originally intended, he continued on just a bit further. Before long, it was a half hour after midday and he was still going out further and further, hoping to obtain as much land as he possibly could. Just another little bit, he thought, and I will not only have enough for my children, but for my grandchildren as well. And so he walked, for another hour and then yet another.

Suddenly, the subject was grasped by a sense of panic as he finally realized just how far he had gone out. Would he make it back to the starting point in time? If he didn't, all of this effort would be for naught. He spun around and began the long trek back to the starting point. Sunset was drawing closer and closer, and he could not afford to waste any more time. He picked up the pace, and began to jog.

As he was running, a friend of his approached him in desperate need of his help. "I cannot help you now," the subject said. "Tomorrow I will be glad to do whatever you want." A little while later, his wife approached him, asking him for his advice regarding one of their children. "Not now honey," he replied. "Tomorrow and every day after that I will be more than happy to help you."

The race was now between the descending sun and his frantic footsteps as he rushed back to the starting point. He continued, trying to go faster and faster with each passing step. The sun was now almost gone, and in the distance he could see the nobleman waiting where he had begun so long ago. With one final ounce of strength, he plunged for the finish line and landed just seconds before the sun whisked away its final rays. A smile of victory appeared on his face, and there it froze as his soul departed from him.

We race through life, constantly telling ourselves and our loved ones, "Tomorrow, tomorrow, I will help you. Tomorrow I will have time." Today, we race to make our fortunes, oftentimes pushing off what is truly important. What is really meaningful in the long run? How can we honestly rationalize pushing family matters aside as we pursue other, more mundane, tasks? How can we justify putting Torah study on the back burner?

Yom Kippur is just hours away. Are we ready?


This d'var Torah was adapted from Understanding Judaism: The Basics of Deed and Creed by Rabbi Benjamin Blech.

Benyamin Cohen, a native Atlantan and graduate of Yeshiva Atlanta, is editor of Torah from Dixie.

You are invited to read more Yom Kippur articles.

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