If not now, when?

Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14


"Our world is a banquet," proclaims the Talmud. "Grab and eat, grab and drink."

Those who arrived during the early hours of the banquet, went about the business of feasting and dinning in a most professional and methodical manner. First, they sampled the appetizers just enough, mind you, to properly whet their appetites. Then, they proceeded up the ladder of courses and wines, carefully negotiating their way to gastronomic satisfaction par excellence.

But what of the group who arrived a few scant minutes before midnight, the hour when the tables were cleared, the chairs stacked and the doors bolted shut? For them to attempt to follow the course outlined by the intricate rules of dinner etiquette would only guarantee that the doors would will slam on their empty stomachs. "Just grab!" we tell them. Grab meat, salads, soup, wine and fish never mind the order and proportion. It's a race against the clock: Grab and eat, grab and drink....

In earlier generations, there was a well-defined "Standard Operating Procedure" for those who consulted the Torah's spiritual menu for the banquet of life. No one, for example, would have ventured to sample the esoteric wine of creation's secrets before filling his belly with the "meat and potatoes" of Talmud and halacha. No one would have been so presumptuous as to believe that he could refine his nature and character before he had perfected his behavior and made his every act, word and thought to utterly conform to Torah's directives.

All this, however, was a luxury of generations bygone. Today, we are rapidly approaching the climax of history, the day when Moshiach will herald a new era of goodness and perfection, yet will also bring down the curtain on the struggles and attainments that stem of our currently imperfect state. So grab! Grab another mitzvah, master another, yet deeper, facet of Torah. Never mind the "Standard Operating Procedure" - strive for the ultimate, now.