Dear Rabbi Fried,
This year as my New Year’s resolution I decided to dedicate time to Torah study. Now that I’m back to my daily routine — the car pools, cooking, homework, cleaning and everything else — the reality of why I’ve never attended classes is setting in. I just don’t have the time or energy to leave the house and attend classes at night, so what do I do with my resolution? My husband feels the same way with his crazy work schedule. The years are going by and the little we learned in Sunday school is getting further into the distant past!
That was a great resolution, so I’ll tell you a secret how to fulfill it: The answer is, five minutes!
One of the greatest Torah sages of all time was Rabbi Israel of Salant (died 1883). He was once approached by his students who asked him his secret of attaining such vast knowledge and clarity. He answered them, “I did it in five minutes!” The students laughed, assuming he was joking with them. He responded that he was not joking at all; what he meant to say was that he never said “it’s only five minutes.” Five minutes here and five minutes there add up to a phenomenal amount of time, but those are the times that are most often wasted. It’s precisely those short spurts of time that allow us to achieve greatness when we utilize them properly.
There was a renowned Talmudic academy in Europe, the Kelm Yeshiva, which produced many of the leaders of the pre-war generation. In this yeshiva, besides the usual lengthy study periods, on Friday afternoons the students were required to halt their Shabbat preparations and learn in the study hall from 2:30 to 2:35 — for five minutes! No one could start early or stay late; they had to be there for precisely five minutes, to bring home the lesson of the value of five minutes. The venerable sage Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman, who was martyred by the Nazis, delivered a discourse in that very yeshiva during the Holocaust on his last Rosh Hashanah. He requested a certain book, which took about five minutes to get down from a high shelf with a ladder. Observing this, the rabbi changed the subject of his talk and spoke about the importance and preciousness of each minute. Every moment of our lives is a gift from the Al-mighty and we should never waste any of those gifts. His talk, given while the flames of the great inferno were engulfing all of Europe, made an immense impact on the students, impressing on them that the preciousness of each moment is what’s important to talk about at such a time!
And guess what? You’re in luck! One of our dedicated students at DATA, a busy mother going through the same struggles you are, has piloted a new program just for people like you. It’s called “5 a Day” and it’s designed so that anyone who spends five minutes a day, reading five verses a day, from the Book of Genesis will finish the book in 10 months. “5 a Day” is a free program and even though it is set up for people to do at home on their own time, there will be guidance along the way. If you sign up you will receive a monthly calendar to help you keep track of which verses to read; you will also receive weekly e-mails to help you understand what you’re reading as well as to give further insights and answers to the questions submitted by participants. Monthly or bi-monthly discussion groups will be available as well. It’s great for men and women; kids can join as well so it can be a family project. So far nearly 100 people have signed up! To join “5 a Day,” or for more info, contact Staci, firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck and much success!
Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at email@example.com.
Dear Rabbi Fried,