“Better late than never” is an adage that seems a self-evident truth. If a particular activity is worthwhile, then its value shouldn’t fade with time. Yes, Grandma might express displeasure over the fact that I didn’t call for the past two months, but ultimately she will be happy that I decided to call today. I might have imprudently delayed insuring my home until now, but delaying it further is even more imprudent.

The same idea holds true in many areas of Judaism. Just because you haven’t made a call to G‑d recently doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pray today—He’ll be happy that you gave Him the time of day. And even if your home has been mezuzah-less for the past five years, now is still a great time to “insure” it with some extra divine protection.

But there are many exceptions to this rule. If you missed making kiddush on Friday night, you can’t do it in a burst of inspiration the following Tuesday morning. And if you neglected to hear the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, sorry, but the opportunity to fulfill this mitzvah will not present itself until the following New Year.

Seems kind of strange. Why is Judaism so time-obsessed?If making kiddush and listening to the shofar enhance our relationship with G‑d—as we believe all mitzvot do—why the strict time limitation? Yes, it isn’t nice that we were careless and missed the most opportune moment to fulfill these mitzvot, but if I forgot to get my wife an anniversary gift on the right day, isn’t giving her one later better than not giving at all? Is it not the thought, and the desire to connect, that counts more than all else?

I guess the question is: why is Judaism so time-obsessed? One minute before sunset on Friday, its fine to make a phone call, but one minute later, it is a violation of one of Judaism’s most important precepts. The three daily prayers have exact time parameters. And so on.

“Better later than never” is based on the assumption that all times are intrinsically the same. Yes, certain days or moments may be associated with powerful sentiments, nostalgia and/or memories, but an act which is good on one day is also good on another. Birthdays, anniversaries and Thanksgiving are all connected to specific days on the calendar, but what’s really important is the ideas and feelings that these days symbolize.

Jewish thought disagrees with this premise. G‑d’s creation is comprised of three basic categories: time, space, and the creations that inhabit them. Just as there is diversity in locales, some holier—such as the Land of Israel and the sites of synagogues—than others, and diversity amongst creatures—vegetation, animal life, human beings, the Chosen Nation—so, too, time is not a homogeneous continuum. The diversity in all areas of creation stems from the disparate levels and natures of the divine energy that vivifies them, and the same is true with time. No two months are alike, no two days are alike, and even no two hours are alike. A different form of divine energy is prevalent on Yom Kippur, Chanukah, Tisha B’Av, Tuesdays, AMs, PMs and Shabbat. Therefore, we can accomplish certain objectives only during certain times, while at other times these very same acts are meaningless. Eating matzah on Purim is like going down a mountain on skis during August—the conditions are not conducive for positive results. It’s not just bad timing, it’s a futile endeavor.

So the Torah can also be viewed as our time guide, telling us how to take advantage of and maximize the unique opportunities presented every day and hour.


We For an entire year, the world is infused with Shabbat energyare currently in the year of Shemittah, the once-in-every-seven-years Sabbatical year. This means that for an entire year the world is infused with Shabbat energy, allowing us a full year to accomplish Shabbat-like achievements.

Shabbat is an island in time when a loftier level of divine light pervades creation. We take advantage of this special situation by taking a hiatus from the mundane aspects of life, and concentrating on the spiritual, on our relationship with G‑d, on the meaning of it all. While those of us who are not Israeli farmers are not required—nor is it recommended—to abstain from working for a full year, it does mean that during this holy year the conditions are favorable for a renewed focus on spirituality. It is a time to pay special attention to our prayers, and increase in our Torah study and acts of kindness.

Yes, this is advisable every year, but this year’s special energies guarantee that efforts in these areas will be met with an infinitely greater measure of success.