“These are the words that Moshe addressed to Israel on the other side of the Jordan.”1 Thus so begins Sefer Devarim (the Book of Deuteronomy) – Moshe’s book. These last eleven parashot in the Torah are those delivered by Moshe, spoken to us at the border to Eretz Yisrael, before his death. They are intimate words, teaching, pleading, inspiring a nation raised in the desert, sons and daughters of slaves, awaiting the privilege and responsibility of life in Eretz Yisrael.
First, Moshe recounts for us our travels through the desert. He tells us, “it is eleven days from Horeb to Kadesh-barnea by the Mount Seir route.”2 We know though, from Sefer BaMidbar, that the journey only took 3 days. Rashi expands to say, “Moses said to them: ‘See what you brought about! There is no route from Horeb to Kadesh-Barnea as short as the way through Mount Seir, and even that is a journey of eleven days. You, however, traversed it in three days!’”3 So Moshe begins by recounting a miracle where Hashem shortened their journey by eight days. But why is this the first thing Moshe tells Am Yisrael?
With these words, Moshe reveals to us a secret. He says, if you connect to Hashem and live according to his instructions, you will come to live ma’al hazman and ma’al hamakom (above time and above space). Rebbe Nachman builds on this idea in his teachings that one cannot have both wisdom and wealth. He quotes the Gemara where it is written that “he who wants to become wise, let him face south; to become wealthy, let him face north.”4 Rebbe Nachman says, “We find therefore that when a person wants to become wise, he stands to the south, and so it is impossible for him to become wealthy. This is because when he is in the south, he is not in the north, and wealth is in the north. And the reverse is also true.”5
We must understand that without time, there can be no space. Two objects are defined as being separate objects because time allows them to be distinct. The distance between two objects exists only because they exist at different points in time relative to us (i.e. to get there will take an hour. If it didn’t take an hour, it wouldn’t be there, it would be here). We know though that at the beginning, whether we use secular language or religious language, there were no such distinctions between time and space. Time and space were simply One until they were fractured into two separate units. “Gd called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, a first day.”6 Hashem fractured time and then filled it with space. It is only through time that we can come to know space.
We live our lives in space that, as Rabbi Avraham Heschel teaches, moves through time.7 We think time runs, but rather, time stands eternal and space runs. It is the relationship between space and time that creates impermanence, mortality. We ourselves run against this frustrating reality. There is simply not enough time to do all we want in the world of space. We live in space yet time is the currency through which we acquire in the world of space. And there’s never enough.
Yet, we know that time is relative, or better yet, the relationship of space to time is relative. As Einstein said, “when you sit with a nice girl for two hours you think it's only a minute, but when you sit on a hot stove for a minute you think it's two hours. That's relativity.” It is scientifically more complicated than that, but the principle is the same. We are capable of changing the relationship between time and space. The General Theory of Relativity tells us that as we approach the speed of light, time slows down until it reaches zero. When time reaches zero, the world of space and time becomes One once more.
But we cannot really influence time, we can just influence how we perceive space moving through our time. “Time... is beyond our reach, beyond our power. It belongs exclusively to Gd.”7 We live on borrowed time. Rebbe Nachman tells us as much when he says wealth is in the north and wisdom in the south. But it is not hopeless. We can be above time and above space, or rather, above the restrictive relationship between time and space. How? Rebbe Nachman describes, “the exception to this [restriction] is if he is on the ultimate level of humility so that he is literally ‘nothing.’ Then, he does not stand on any side. For it is impossible to say of him that he is in the north or in the south, since he is nothing and naught, literally. It is, therefore, possible for Torah and prominence to be in one place; as for example Moshe.”5
It is our egos that see time as a restriction. It is the part of ourselves that perceives the fractured reality as fractured that screams out, “I don’t have enough time.” We fracture time when we categorize it as past and future. But our soul sees only Oneness, including in the realm of time and space. We come to understand that to be above time we must go the path of ain – of nothingness or oneness. When we connect to the Oneness inside of us, space and time cease to be different entities. Our soul only experiences the now, and in the now, time and space are One. There is simply the moment. We realize that there is enough time now, because that’s all there truly is. The only way to transcend this mindset of scarcity is to transcend to the source of time, the source of it all. Only in the moment can we connect to that source.
So Moshe tells us, do not think that eleven days must be eleven days. See now how you completed the journey in three. Time is not yours so do not confine yourself to it. Be above it.
Most distinctly, we see this in our own lives when we refuse to do what is good for us because “there’s not enough time.” I can’t meditate, I can’t work out, I can’t spend time with those I love, “because there’s not enough time.” Yet these are the very activities that connect us to that which is greater than ourselves, that allow us to be above time, that bring us back to the moment and frees us of the servitude of the world of space. Ancient Zen wisdom says, “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you're too busy, then you should sit for an hour.”
This is the power of Shabbat. On Shabbat, nothing was created. On Shabbat, the possibility of time independent of space was created. By abstaining from the world of space, we experience eternity. “And Gd blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it Gd ceased from all the work of creation that He had done.”8 By not creating on the seventh day, Gd ceased from linking space to time and thus, gave us a taste of only space. On Shabbat, we can truly be in the moment. As Rabbi Heschel writes, on Shabbat, “eternity utters a day.”7
May we all merit to realize that there is always enough time to do that which we need to do. Time is His commodity to give us and He gives us exactly the amount of time we need to do exactly what we are supposed to do. When we think time is ours to own, we feel its scarcity in the world of space. We cannot be wealthy and wise. But when we realize that it is not ours at all, then we surrender to the understanding that by living in the moment, we connect to eternity. When we connect to eternity, we bring space and time back into Oneness. It is through the moment that we will have the time we ever need.
- Devarim 1:1
- Devarim 1:2
- Rashi: Devarim: 1:2
- Bava Batra: 25b
- Likutei Moharon: 162:1
- Breisheit 1:6
- Rabbi Avraham Heschel: The Sabbath
- Breisheit: 2:3