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Before It's Too late...

11/16/2018 12:33:39 PM


It's difficult to fully appreciate something whilst we have it. It's much easier to look back and appreciate it. But by that time, it's too late.

This is why many people feel that their lives are filled with missed and undervalued opportunities.

When our children grow up we regret not fully enjoying them in their youth.

When a loved one passes away we regret not fully connecting them when they were alive.

When a friend moves to another city we regret not spending enough time with them when they lived nearby.

A similar thing happens in this week’s Torah portion Vayetzei. Jacob falls asleep on the mountain. When he awakes, he realizes that this is Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, the holy mountain upon which the Temples will be built in the future. Jacob jumps up and declares to himself, “Oy, this is a holy place. If I would have only realized this earlier, I would never have dishonored this place by falling asleep.”

Why is it so difficult to fully appreciate something when we have it?

There are two reasons:

  1. Most of us have a hard time being fully present in the moment. There are always so many things happening in our lives, that it’s very difficult to pay full attention to where we are and what we’re doing at any particular time.

The Baal Shem Tov taught, that a person is where their mind is.

A couple might be sitting right next to each other, yet if they’re thinking about anything else other than each other, they are very distant from each other. Conversely, a couple might be spread across opposite sides of the world, but if they’re thinking about each other, they are in fact very close.

Sometimes you meet a friend at a party and begin a conversation with them, but even though they are next to you and responding, they are not with you. You see their eyes darting all over the room, perhaps looking for someone else to talk to or for a delicious dish at the buffet.

In the Synagogue of Rabbi Shalom Dovber, the Rebbe Rashab of Chabad, the Rebbe walked over to one of the congregants after the prayers and wished him ‘shalom aleichem – welcome back’. The person was confused. “Rebbe, but I haven’t travelled anywhere?” “Oh yes you did,” replied the Rebbe, “during the prayers, you thought about merchandise in ‘Minsk’, and a customer in ‘Pinsk’, and a potential deal in ‘Vitebsk’. So, you travelled half the country in the past half hour.”

From this we learn the importance of mindfulness, of training ourselves how to be focused on the time, the place, and the person/thing that we are engaging with.

  1. Everything in life has both good and bad. This includes people, places, jobs, trips, experiences etc. When we look back, it is much easier to recall all the good that happened, and to forget the bad. But when we are in the moment, we need to make tough choices. Will we focus on the good and ignore the bad, or the other way around?

Two people can experience the very same thing and yet walk away with two very different opinions. One might reflect how enjoyable it was, whilst the other might point to all the imperfections. They both witnessed both sides of the coin, but they each chose which one side will define the experience for them.

If we choose to, we can complain about our loved one, or a child, or a job. Nothing is ever perfect. But we can also choose to focus on what’s good about all these things. This is really the correct choice. Firstly, it will allow us to be happy with what we have. Secondly, it will save us from lots of regret in the future, because once we no longer have that person or thing in our lives, we will most certainly recall all the good and bemoan the fact that we didn’t fully appreciate it when we had it.

As we prepare to enter Shabbat, let’s plan on using this precious day learning how to be fully present in whatever we are doing, and how to focus on what is good about it.

Mon, February 26 2024 17 Adar I 5784