Ever looked back on a week and wondered where it went to? It's Friday afternoon; you're absolutely exhausted but no better off than you were on Monday morning. You didn't get enough done and are faced with the exciting prospect of doing it all again next week.

Worse than ignoring financial opportunities is the sad fact that we didn't develop spiritually, as Jews. I'm no more spiritual, no more dedicated and perhaps even more cynical than I was last week. What have I done for G‑d lately, and if not, why not?

What went wrong? I had such high expectations of the week ahead but got sidetracked into irrelevancies and dead-end tasks. It's not from lack of desire, but lack of focus. There are too many distractions competing for our time and, unfortunately, we sacrifice the purposeful for the pleasurable and procrastinate away our weeks.

I couldn't escape being sucked down into the quicksand flowing through the hourglass of my lifeI knew that I should have ignored the phone, the internet, TV, day-dreaming, movies, newspapers, email, car-spotting, novels and sudoku, but their charms were too tempting and they pulled me in to their vortex. Much as I wanted to, I couldn't escape being sucked down into the quicksand flowing through the hourglass of my life.

Successful people in life have self-discipline; the ability to prioritize and set goals. They know how to plan work and work to plan, but so many of us are struggling. Spiritual people set G‑d as their lodestar and guiding light, but many others waste their soul on meaningless drivel and missed opportunities.

I wish I had some way of forcing myself to stay on message. If only I could be locked away in a cell with no distractions and no excuses, can you imagine how much I would accomplish?

Locked in a Cave

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, author of the Kabbalistic classic the Zohar, whose yahrtzeit we commemorate on Lag BaOmer had just that chance. Fleeing from the Romans, he and his son were forced to hide out for 13 years in a cave. They went nowhere, saw nobody, yet it was the most precious time of their lives. A stream of water and a carob tree miraculously appeared to supply them with food and drink and, with no distractions, no disturbances, no complications and no excuses, they spent their time immersed in study.

When the threat level had diminished they left the cave, but what an impact that time they spent inside that cave made on history. Rabbi Shimon went in as a follower and came out a leader. Possibly the most influential Jew of that period, his opinion is quoted in virtually every chapter of the Talmud. The mysticism revolution that he engendered changed the face of Judaism, and until today shapes and colors the way we think, feel and interact with each other and with G‑d.

A Time to Grow

We live in a wonderful climate of freedom and in a time of opportunity. The soldiers aren't on the prowl and no danger threatens our lives. Ostensibly we are free, yet in reality we are under constant attack. The distractions described above are all tools in the arsenal of our evil inclination; attempting to prevent us from connecting with G‑d and living His way of life.

Unplug the phone, turn off the modem, post a "Do Not Disturb" sign and set yourself to workWhen threatened by negativity, sloth and confusion it's a good idea to escape into a cave. Set aside a solid block of time and do absolutely nothing other than the job at hand. Unplug the phone, turn off the modem, post a "Do Not Disturb" sign and set yourself to work. Learn Torah with focus and determination and you'll be shocked at how much you can accomplish.

Your children and students will learn from you and grow with you. They too will develop and accomplish and become great.

Worried about what you're missing out on? Not sure if you'll be able to afford the time spent studying? G‑d promises that He'll supply you with all your needs. The necessities will miraculously appear, leaving you free to concentrate.

Whatever you need, whatever you aspire to will be supplied, while you lock yourself into the gilded cave of opportunity and develop into a leader.