$24 In A Day

Rabbi Chaninah ben Chachinai said: He who stays awake at night and goes on his way alone and turns his heart to idle thoughts is liable for his life. (m.Avot 3:5)

In our modern culture it is easy to extend our days well into the night. We have electricity that allows us to illuminate the night just as if it were the daytime, and do just about anything in the night that we would normally do in the day. In theory, we could be much more productive than those in previous generations. But we also have a number of ways we can waste away the hours of the night. We have television, internet, and a host of other distractions that can occupy our evenings well into the wee hours of the morning if we allow them. But what if we were to use the hours we spent binging out on the latest Netflix series to study Torah or do something for the Kingdom instead?

This is the problem Rabbi Chaninah alludes to. Although his generation didn’t have all of the electronic and technological distractions that we have in our day, he understood that humans will find ways to waste time. And when we waste time that could be dedicated to Torah or mitzvot, we are throwing away a precious commodity that we can never retrieve. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, of blessed memory, understood this principle more than most people. In his lifetime he was able to accomplish what most would simply label as impossible. However, he kept his hand to the plow and did not look back. And through this dedication he was able to affect the lives of millions of people across the globe.

Yeshua understood this principle even more so. Yeshua explains this principle while in the process of healing a man blind from birth:

We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9:4–5)

Yeshua had a sense of urgency in everything he did. He utilized the time allotted to him. He knew that while it was “day,” he must be about his Father’s business. The day Yeshua spoke of was not in reference to the literal day or daylight hours. He spoke of his time on earth, and that of his disciples. He reinforced this concept to his disciples when they tried to sway him from going back to Judea when Lazarus died. He reminded them:

Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him. (John 11:9–10)

He had a limited amount of time and he had work he needed to accomplish. Unfortunately, most people do not have this sense of urgency in building the Kingdom and therefore waste away their time on entertainment rather than investing it into things that will pay out eternal dividends. We have all been given twenty-four hours in a day. Each hour is like a dollar that we can choose to spend however we wish. But if we choose to spend all of our money on candy we won’t have anything to buy nourishment with. If we don’t use those dollars to invest, we won’t have any gains. If we squander what we have been given, we may not be given more.

What would this world look like if we could effectively use the daylight we were given to bring hope and healing to those around us? What would it look like if we turned those nights where we are “alone on the road,” focused on mindless entertainment that has no eternal value, into nights engaged in Torah study and teaching others? What if we were to turn our “idle thoughts” into meditating on the Scriptures and the words of our Master? What would this world look like? What would the world look like if you were to change the way you invested your time? It might look a lot more like the Kingdom.