A unique take on this manifestation, recently expressed by a close acquaintance, was jarring. This “push to get things done, for time is moving quickly” is no longer an age-related sentiment. Today everyone seems to be feeling the pressure to get things done – not on account of our fast-paced world but because Hashem is infusing each of us with a sense of urgency in order to have us prepare for the ultimate yeshuah at hand.
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The gaon Rabbi Moshe Kremer, a forebear of the Vilna Gaon, set perhaps the ideal example of how to make the best of time – at a most opportune time, divinely speaking.
So resistant was he to relying on his kehilla for support (refusing to use his Torah as a means of livelihood) that he and his wife set up a small shop from which they sold food and household goods to sustain their family.
The Jews of Vilna felt an obligation to buy solely from their rav to compensate him for the wages he turned down. When this caused other shopkeepers to lose out, the rav asked his rebbetzin to conduct the sale of their wares on only one day of the week and immediately close the shop when they arrived at the amount necessary for their survival.
His disheartened followers hit upon a perfect plan. Purim was approaching and their rav could not possibly turn down their offers of shalach manos, a mitzvah on their part. And so an unabated stream of Purim revelers came to deliver elaborate packages of the finest in edibles and plenty more.
With no end in sight and the shalach manos piling up, Rav Moshe sent his shamesh to gather all the town’s poor folks, as well as widows and orphans, to come and partake of the Seudas Purim in the home of the gaon. The downtrodden that had come to assuage their hunger with food befitting a king’s banquet soon overwhelmed the modest premises, and the festivity was moved outdoors.
As Rav Moshe’s words of Torah nourished souls thirsting for spiritual infusion, doleful eyes began to sparkle with new life. Soothing warmth enveloped all those present, and the sound of voices breaking out in song further heightened the exultant atmosphere. Rav Moshe sent his shamesh out again, this time to summon all the noted luminaries of Vilna to join them.
Before long, the simple folk and the wise men, the indigent and the affluent, the young and the old mixed and mingled as though they were one. Rav Moshe took his cue and rose to address the crowd that had become “as one man with one heart.”
“My dear brethren and children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. Up to this moment it is I who has hosted you with shalach manos. Now I ask that each of you send shalach manos to your brothers in need, those whom you are seated next to, as well as the ones who did not join us here tonight.
“Pesach will be here in no time and some of us will lack the barest of requirements for Yom Tov such as wine for the arba kosos or the basic greens needed to prepare a simple soup. If all of us will take a tenth off of each of our purchases acquired in honor of Pesach, I will assign two gabbaim to distribute the goods to the impoverished among us.”
They stood up, one by one, linking arms instinctively, as rapturous song reverberated in the nighttime air and feet lifted high in rhythm to the beating hearts that soared. Rav Moshe’s message was well received.
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Let’s backtrack a bit, to where the Talmud states we will only be redeemed when we do teshuvah – in large part contingent upon fulfilling the grandest mitzvah in the Torah, that of giving tzedakah “with a generous hand.”
What better time to prove ourselves worthy of the Ultimate Redemption?
Rachel Weiss is a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press.