First steps towards a meaningful life | Chovas Hatalmidim | Harav Y Reuven Rubin Shlita

First steps towards a meaningful life

Chovas Hatalmidim – Week 7

By Harav Y Reuven Rubin Shlita

There are those who seem to be always busy yet never really accomplish anything. Come on, we all know these wonderful caring souls, but instinctively we understand we can’t trust them for anything that is time sensitive.

The Bobover Rebbe Rav Shlomo ztl was a Yied who seemed to have time for everything yet was renowned for his ability to get enormous amounts of things done. The Rebbe was very close to his talmidim and would often schmooze with us in what could have been mistaken for informality but in truth was laden with lessons that imparted vital life skills.

“Every day is tomorrow’s memory, and how we create an ambience for treasuring time will become the formula for our youngster’s future”

I clearly remember one such time; besides myself there was just one other boy. The Rov spoke almost whimsically about a fictitious figure who was always busy with his affairs yet never got anything done. The Rebbe went through our hero’s imagined day, getting up, wasting time with all sorts of ideas and thoughts about what needed doing. His day was replete with false starts and near misses, and before you knew it, he would schlep himself to bed exhausted from doing nothing. This guy never succeeded in anything, yet he was busy doing so.
The message from this moshol stayed with me: to accomplish a meaningful life one needs to learn to be focused.

Let me share with you a small piece of recent research:
One of the most obvious and common reasons that people are frequently late is that they simply fail to accurately judge how long a task will take – something known as the planning fallacy.

Studies have shown that people on average underestimate how long a task will take to complete by around 40 percent! This is why for some, completing one task at a time is a huge challenge.

The Piaseczna Rebbe ztl worries about this aspect of our service to Hashem. He speaks to students and after showing them how wasted a life can be when lived without a consciousness of time, he shares with them practical advice that will give them the wherewithal to live in a positive way.

“Before every endeavour that you undertake, calculate how long it will take you and commit yourself to that time frame. For example, you may say to yourself: this page of Gemoro should take me an hour to learn. Then before every task give yourself an order: “I am not going to slack off during the amount of time I set aside to finish this!” After you finish, take stock: if you see that you finished on time, rejoice. However, if you did not finish on time, and there were no unforeseen circumstances that caused that lateness, then you should be quite upset and angry at yourself. “Gevalt! What will become of me?

The Rebbe wants the young to become aware of time and how not to waste it. A student must know that if he fritters away time he is held accountable. The Rebbe tells his readership that they should write out a schedule for each day and then ensure that it is followed punctiliously.

The Rebbe goes so far as to give a detailed example:

Wake up at this time, by such and such a time I will have washed my hands, got dressed, said birkas haTorah and read the Shema, and then I’ll learn until such and such a time, etc, etc. List your whole day, even times given over for rest or play. Each day, look over your schedule, so that you will know what you want to accomplish.

The Rebbe tells us this project should be practiced by all young people, those in and those out of yeshiva. This insistence of keeping to a schedule leads to self-discipline, a gift that will always stand us in good stead.

The soul that can’t set itself to any particular task is one that is the servant to one’s own folly. Time is Hashem’s gift, once lost it can never be retrieved. A young mind can learn to live with structure, and it is parents and teachers that have to underline the importance of its value.

As I am writing these very words, just at this juncture my phone has rung.
A bochur has a question: He is home in England for Pesach and has his ticket to return to yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel. He just found out a close relative is celebrating his wedding three weeks into the new zman. He wonders if he should just stay here in England for those three weeks and then return to yeshiva. He feels that the effort of going, then returning so soon, then going back is just too much. Obviously costs should be factored in, but I know his parents will spend everything for their son to continue being successful in his Torah studies. I shared with the young man the words I had just written from the Rebbe. I explained that living with a seder, with a learning schedule of Torah, is extremely important for his future. He will always remember how cherished his time learning is, and how it was worthwhile every day, even if it meant having to travel back and forth for a simcha.

Every day is tomorrow’s memory, and how we create an ambience for treasuring time will become the formula for our youngster’s future.

I hope I convinced the young man at the other end of the phone, as I know the Rebbe sought to convince all future generations.