A close relative of mine is very ill, and I go to the Kotel (Wailing Wall) every day to pray for her recovery. One morning, as the sun rises and the birds sing sweet melodies, I call her. “I am here at the Kotel,” I tell her. “You are here with me. Speak into the phone and pray to Hashem, for it is as if you are here beside me.”

In a tearful voice, this loved one says, “Please, G‑d, give me another chance. All I am asking for is a second chance. Give me another chance to live! Another chance to be with my husband and children. Another chance to do good. Please, G‑d, give me another chance.”

Her words break me. I hang up the phone and sob. Another chance. How many times do I push off asking for forgiveness? How many times Give me another chance to live!does pride get in my way? What if time runs out and there is no more tomorrow? What is it about us that we think that we will live forever? We think that we’ll always have tomorrow, another day, another chance. We don’t. For some, it’s later; for some, G‑d forbid, it’s sooner. Inevitably, death knocks on our door.

Our sages taught: “R. Eliezer said, ‘Repent one day before you die.’ His students asked him, ‘Does one know when he will die?’ He replied, ‘All the more so! One should repent today, lest he die tomorrow, so that all days be spent in teshuvah (repentance, returning to G‑d)’” (Shabbat 153a).

“Hurry, it’s almost Shabbat!”

I don’t know how this happens. In the summer months, when the days are long and the sun burns bright into the evening hours, I still find myself rushing to get everything ready for Shabbat. I thought that I had so much time, but no, there’s never enough time. I look up at the clock. Wasn’t it just 2:00? Now it’s already 4:00?

“Everyone take a bath. Quick. Hurry!” Where did the time go? Where did the day go? Now the holy Shabbat is quickly approaching, and we are not even close to being ready . . .

The summer draws to an end, and the days begin to get shorter. In Israel we change our clocks back this Shabbat, the Shabbat proceeding Yom Kippur. Today I have an appointment with two clients. Knowing that I have much to do and that the day is short, I set my alarm clock for 5:00 in the morning. The challahs are rising by 6:00, and by 8:00 delicious smells of Shabbat fill our home. The kids are out and ready on time, and while I see my clients, my husband mops the I have much to do and the day is shortfloor. By noon, our home is ready. At 3:00 everyone is bathed and dressed, and even though it’s still so early, there is nothing left to do. We sit on the couch and read calmly as we wait for the time of candle-lighting.

Why is it when I know that I have so much to do and so little time to do it, I get it all done, and when I have so much time and so little to do, I find myself rushing?

As Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur approach, the days get shorter and shorter. These shorter days are days of reflection, days of prayer, and days of growth. During these days, we blow the shofar, say selichot (penitential prayers and liturgy), give more to tzedakah (charity), and ask for forgiveness. It’s almost as though by making these days of repentance shorter, G‑d is giving us a message: Take advantage of your time and plan accordingly. You won’t live forever!

In college, I had friends sigh and say to me, “I can’t keep Shabbat now, but I will when I graduate, when I’m older.” “When I get married, I’ll keep a kosher home.” There are always excuses, always reasons to put things off for the future. What if the future doesn’t come?

In our relationships, we are no better. “I’ll call her only after she calls me.” “I’m willing to apologize, but he has to apologize first.” “I’ll settle down and have a family after I build up my career.” Tomorrow. Later.

Rabbi Eliezer teaches us that you can’t live your life thinking that “it can wait until tomorrow.” That day that seemed so long and felt like it would never end, that long summer day—it’s over. The sun is setting, the day is ending, and you know what? You can’t get that precious time back. I hear my dear relative’s voice echoing in my head. “Give me another chance.”

Yom Kippur is coming. The day is short, and I’m going to set my alarm clock to get up early. I realize that time is precious and there is much to do. And later might be too late.