Time cannot be seen or heard or felt, and yet we experience time every day. In our day to day interactions, we depend on time to be a standardized unit. A minute is a minute. An hour is an hour. Yet, we know from our experiences (especially if you have relatives that are constantly late to everything) that time can be relative.
No doubt, there is a certain inconsistency in the human perception of time. In childhood, time seems to fly by quickly when we are having fun, while that same measurement of time passing can seem interminable when we are bored. As adults, we look back on time and are haunted by the fact that decades have passed in what seems to have been few years.
I recently experienced the relativity of time in a very visceral way when I jumped out of an airplane for my 50th birthday. As I descended from 14,000 feet in a free fall at a rate of 120 miles an hour, time (at least my perception of it) seemed to stand still. With nothing but the blue sky and wind whizzing past my face, my perception of motion and the passing of time were a complete blur. I had no sense as to whether my 8,000 foot free fall lasted a few seconds, a minute or longer and, even though I was moving through space at an extreme speed, it felt as if I was not moving at all. There, surrounded by blue sky and puffy white clouds, I felt as if I were frozen in the moment.
After landing safely on earth (and thanking God and my guide for enabling me to experience the thrill of my life without complication), my mind repeatedly returned to that suspended sensation. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
As life can often feel like a blur, there is tremendous value in finding ways to suspend time long enough to appreciate it. Jewish tradition presents us with many different ways to elevate and celebrate the sacred nature of time. In the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshuah Heschel in his book, The Sabbath:
“Judaism is a religion of time aiming at the sanctification of time. . . Judaism teaches us to be attached to sacred events, to learn how to consecrate sanctuaries that emerge from the magnificent stream of the year. (The Sabbath p.8)
Whether it is through the observance of a holiday with family and friends; taking a break on the Sabbath to step away from the chaos of the week; or simply pausing from time to time to appreciate the Godliness that surrounds us in the moment, Jewish observances invite us to pause and elevate the time we have. So as life continues to unfold and time continues to pass, be bold and unfettered. Take a free fall into the moment and allow faith to be your guide.