Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Passover - Pesach
To dedicate this lesson

Bein Hazmanim


Rabbi Berel Wein

Now that Purim is safely past us and the month of Nissan fast approaches us with the glorious holiday of Pesach in its wings the yeshiva world enters a period of time called bein hazmanim - between the times (the semesters of Torah study.) There are three semesters in the yeshiva world and they run from Succot to Nissan, Iyar to the Ninth of Av and then the month of Elul to Yom Kippur. The periods of time between these semesters is therefore called bein hazmanim - the time between semesters. I find a great deal of symbolism lurking in this apparently somewhat prosaic title of bein hazmanim. I have always felt that all of us in life constantly find ourselves bein hazmanim. We are always between our changing stages of life, moving our location, changing jobs or professions, traveling, adjusting to new family situations and hoping to make some sense of the bewildering world events that always seem to blindside us. I feel that bein hazmanim is therefore in its broadest sense not an intermission time in our lives but it is really the constant state of life and being in our lives. We are always between things - life cycle events, plans, trips and projects. Many times therefore we somehow sacrifice the certain present for the uncertain future. By looking forward to the zman - the coming semester itself, so to speak, we oftentimes ignore the bein hazmanim, frittering away opportunity and time that are currently present before us for our use and positive exploitation.

In the yeshiva world there is almost always a lecture given by the heads of the yeshiva at the end of the zman to the student body imploring the students not to waste the bein hazmanim and to never allow it to be a time of backsliding in Torah studies and correct behavior. Many times the bein hazmanim can cancel out the hard won accomplishments of the recent zman itself. Thus the goal is to make the student realize that in truth bein hazmanim is a zman in itself and that it should be treated so accordingly. How true that is in everyday life as well. Rabbi Akiva said that one should not postpone study and good deeds for a later time when he or she thinks that time will be available for those projects for perhaps that time or opportunity may never arrive. Living in a lackadaisical bein hazmanim mode is dangerous and counterproductive to human accomplishment. The rabbis of Israel over all of the generations of our history stressed that time is the only commodity in life that is irreplaceable. By this they meant that bein hazmanim is always the zman itself. The Talmud itself tells us that Rabbi Akiva himself never announced that it was time to leave the study hall except on the eve of Yom Kippur and of Pesach. To Rabbi Akiva bein hazmanim was always the zman itself and that is what helped make him the paradigm hero of the Jewish people for all times and circumstances.

Naturally life and its necessary mundane and ordinary chores persist. In the yeshiva world, the buying of new hats, suits and other accessories; helping prepare for Pesach at home and elsewhere; and serious matchmaking efforts take place then. In our world of year-round constant bein hazmanim work, family and all of the ordinary tasks of living occupy us. Yet we can realize that even while performing these tasks we can do so with a higher intent and a deeper understanding of the value and purpose of time. The commonly used phrase "to kill time" indicates a hidden appreciation within our subconscious that this is somehow akin to the heinous crime of taking human life. The great blessing of shehecheyanu - that You have given us life and preserved us - is called in the Talmud the blessing of zman - of time. That is how life is measured and also how it should be appreciated. That is why we mark birthdays and anniversaries and treasure special days and celebrate the holidays of the year. Our father Avraham was eulogized as "having arrived with his days." That is meant to indicate that all of his days were filled with constructive activities, holy endeavors and great kindness and attention to the needs of others. He arrived at the end of his life with full days. He never differentiated between bein hazmanim and the zman itself. As such he therefore continues to set an example for all of his descendants, the people of Israel.
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