These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

In and out of time.

Posted on October 9, 2013 by Alanna Kleinman

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

1063822_10151679239410629_462879539_oTime has come to define my year here. Not exactly time itself, rather, how I interact with time. When I describe my goal for the year, the whole concept of my studies here, it often becomes described as “taking time off.”This phrase boggles me. Can someone actually take time off from life? This phrase hints that we, as humans, have the ability to hit “pause” on life.

I’ll admit from the beginning of my time in Jerusalem, I conceptualized of my status as “on hold,” sort of floating in time and space before I had to return to real time and space. Over the past few short weeks, this facade was shattered.

It all began with the clock.

Two weeks ago, I went to see Christian Marclay’s video installation at the Israel museum. Unlike typical movies where one goes to escape time, Marclay’s film forces the viewer to confront the time spent watching time go by. I came out of the movie obsessed with time, overwhelmed by the hours I had spent simply watching clocks tick. I felt as if I missed out on the time I had spent in front of the screen, as if I has been given the power to watch a clock tick without experiencing the moments being calculated in real life.

A week later, I had one of those beautiful experiences where one “loses track of time.” At the first night of night seder (open study time), I spent hours with my havruta learning what I wanted to learn most at the moment, and came out feeling as if only seconds has passed me by. I was instantly shocked by my lack of awareness of time.

I’ve slowly begun to realize that the way in which we relate to time is very important. What do I mean?

I’ve been here for a relatively short time now, but have formed very close relationships with those around me. I instinctively look to time to mark these as significant yet time fails to accurately define them. I keep thinking to myself, “I feel as if I’ve known you forever” and then catching myself as saying, “I feel as if I’ve known you for a month.” I think these thoughts bring me to an important point; it’s much less about how much time we have with others, and more about how we use that time. Deeply personal and meaningful conversations have brought me instantly closer to those around me. This is something that will be strengthened by time, but it does not draw meaning from time.

In my Mishnah class today, we spoke about the significance of time in relation to prayer. We can use time as a thing by which to mark out the day, to define our routine. Or, we can use time to create sacred space for prayer. I think this concept can and should be extended to learning and to relationships. Time is sacred, when we make it meaningful.

I need to keep reminding myself that I am not taking time off. I’m entering into a sacred space in my life, and I’m going to work a little harder to stop watching the hands of the clock tick by.