Is it just me, or does life feel like a marathon? I mean this not only in the sense that I am constantly, literally, running from one task to the next but also in the sense that the demands being placed on me seem never-ending. The ribbon is no where in sight. I feel that this is so in my life, and I see signs of it in the lives of my friends, fellow community members and neighbors here in the burbs.

A typical day, and I know I can't claim the lock on this, is so exhausting that it can make you mad.

The early wake up of the newborn child is like the blast of the marathon's starting gun. Breakfast, get kids dressed and off to school, pray, peruse my daily Torah lessons, join a coffee meeting to help someone in crisis, meet with another person about supporting Chabad's work, back to the office to return phone calls, send out thank you letters and emails, stop at home to have a bite, go back to the office to try to squeeze in a little more work, then off to pick up the kids from school, pray the afternoon service, pray there is no traffic, get home, have dinner, straighten up after dinner, help with home work- and it's different work for each child, testing, reading, reviewing; then it's bath time, go over notes for class, put the kids to bed, get them another drink of water so they stay in bed, run back to the chabad house to give a class, rush back home, say hello to wife, pray the evening service— CRASH in bed. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

Next morning: start again. Don't pause. Of course, some of the details need to be changed. On Fridays there's another dimension of food prep, etc. You'd think Sunday would be an off day, would be different, but no, Sunday has its jobs. There's also kids' parties, friends' parties, food shopping etc., etc. I thankfully share these burdens with my wife - we are running the marathon together, but that doesn't make it smoother.

If at this point you don't know what I am talking about, we obviously live on different planets. Now I'm sure I could take (yet another) time management course and streamline what it is I do, but that is not going to take away the running, it is just going make it feel less stressful.

I believe that many, if not most, young families in America are doing some version of the above-mentioned marathon run. Husbands (when they exist in the marriage) have their roles, and wives have their jobs, but unless you can afford to hire help to alleviate "some" of the burden, or hire your own taxi service, this is the daily reality.

We choose to send our kids to Jewish Day School about 40 minutes away from home, which means pick ups and drop offs consume a great deal of time, but families who don't have such a long drive to and from their children's schools usually fill the "saved" time with dance, soccer, baseball, ice skating, voice lessons, piano lessons, Hebrew School or some other extra curricular activity.

My point is, it doesn't matter who you are, where you live or what you do for a living, there is some variation of the marathon of life. It just feels as if we are always running, running, running.

My wife and I were talking about this the other day, how while we live together and share chores, burdens and responsibilities and see each other a lot during a typical day, we actually haven't spent any real time with one another in a while. I know that is not healthy, and we need to make time to spend quality time with each other, but then wouldn't that just add another thing on our many list of things that are already making us run?

In Ethics of our Fathers (2:15) our Sages tell us "repent one day before you die" (as if there is time in our schedule for that, too)- the idea being, that since you don't know when you will pass away, treat every day as if it is your last, and that will help keep you focused on what is really "worth your time" and what is not so important.

The Talmud (Berachot 28a) comments on this statement (contrasting those whose focus in life is G‑d and Torah to those whose sole pursuit is the material ): "We run and they run. We run to eternal life, and they run to ultimate destruction."

I think what the Talmud is saying, if I can paraphrase and say it my own words, is: Life is going to be a marathon. You are going to have to run just to get by. But by golly, if you are going have to run, make sure you are running in the right direction. Make sure your goal is clearly defined or you may find that, G‑d forbid, you are running in the wrong direction and wasting all that effort. Make sure that G‑d, Torah study, and mitzvot observance are the major part of what you are doing.

There is a famous story that highlights this point. One of the great Chassidic rabbis saw a man running and asked him, "Where are you running?" to which the man answered, "I am running to make a living." He then countered, "How do you know your livelihood is in front of you? Perhaps it is behind you, and if you just slow down it will be able to catch up to you!"

The point is, life has a certain amount of running built into the system, but let's not forget why we are running and where we are running as we get caught up in how busy we are doing all that running.

Happy and meaningful running.

Make it a great week.