The Breath in our Jewish Lives
October 22, 2021
By Jennifer Patrick

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately, how the passing of it seems to be accelerating.  I vacillate between feeling there’s never enough to recognizing less is on my horizon than in my rearview mirror.

Seeing that I’m “getting in my own way,” I remind myself of Judaism’s beautiful construct of time and how it should be guiding my life’s rhythm.

Time is really the breath in our Jewish lives.  The sages who created our enduring calendar made certain of it.  From the very beginning, in Genesis, we embraced the difference between day and night.  When those 12-hour time posts were struck, they were meant to guide our 24-hour existence.  Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot move us to recall the importance of our Exodus, receiving the Torah and forty years of wandering.  And, of course, every new year begins with Rosh Hashanah followed by Yom Kippur’s soulful repentance and the opening of the gates.

As Jews, we are clear in how we live the years, the months, the weeks and the days.  And even though reality is too complicated for one single concept of time (Rabbi Jonathan Sacks), I am left asking myself, “What about the moments?  What does Judaism have to say about the moments?”

You know, those moments when you’re too hurried, too pulled, to actually be “in” them, to see the possibility before you? 

How we act or react is not profane.  I believe moments can be sacred.

I have needed to be reminded of this especially of late.  And Rabbi Joshua Heschel provided me with the most prescient reminder in his book, The Sabbath.   “There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord”.

Time is beyond our mere measuring of it:  It is about suspending it, stopping to see what is actually before us. 


“We can only master time in time…The higher goal of spiritual living is not to amass a wealth of information but to face sacred moments.  We must not forget that it is not a thing that lends significance to a moment; it is the moment that lends significance to things.” (Heschel)


I am understanding more that living happens when I exist in moments while in them.  Shabbat too,      like moments, is always with us and it is the most potent of Judaism’s pausing observances.  The wisdom of it…is timeless.

Whether restoring the rhythm of our lives in days, weeks, months or years, let us not forget about those precious moments and that they are ours to make sacred.

Breath them in.

Jennifer Patrick is a member of Congregation Beth Abraham and the Director of Executive Education & Leadership for the Canisius College Wehle School of Business.

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