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Yitro

An Invitation to the Royal Wedding

הַזְמָנָה: invitation, designation, preparation

זִמּוּן: blessing Hashem

זְמַן: time

מְזוּמָן: ready, (ready cash, readies)

הַזְמָנָה: Invitation, Designation, Preparation

וַיֹּאמֶר ה’אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵךְ אֶל הָעָם וְקִדַּשְׁתָּם הַיּוֹם וּמָחָר וְכִבְּסוּ שִׂמְלֹתָם…

And Hashem said to Moshe, “Go to the people and sanctify them today and tomorrow and they should wash their clothes. And they should be ready for the third day, because on the third day Hashem will come down on to Mount Sinai before the eyes of the whole nation.”1

Rashi and Targum Onkelostranslate the word וְקִדַשְׁתֶּםasוְזִימַנְתֶּם, from the root זְמַן/time, meaning that Hashem was telling Moshe to prepare the people for a future point in time. This was, in fact, a הַזְמָנָה/invitation that Hashem was sending to the Jewish Nation, where the wordהַזְמָנָהis rooted in the word זְמַן, meaning that an invitation is really a request upon the invitee to prepare himself and be ready for a future point in time.

Finally the day arrives — the day we’ve all been waiting for — the day of the royal wedding where the king and princess will at long last be united in holy matrimony. Pomp and fanfare signal the approaching royal carriages as they make their way from the royal palace to the festival hall. All the eyes of the nation are awestruck as the royal procession passes by. All try to catch a glimpse of the beautiful princess, who is wearing fine-looking garments and is ornated with the crown jewels. Deep down, everyone is asking the enigmatic question: what is it about the princess that she became the chosen one?

Rabi Yaakov says: Prepare yourself in the corridor in order that you will be able to enter the banqueting hall.2

Hashem has, in effect, sent us all an invitation. This world is the invitation, where we have been given the precious gift of time to prepare ourselves by cleaning up our act, ridding ourselves from all the shmutz, and disinfecting ourselves from all the contaminations. Only then, after many cycles of refinement, will we be ready to clothe ourselves in our finest attire and step into the limelight.

זִמּוּן: Blessing Hashem

Just like הַזְמָנָהis an invitation, so too זִמּוּן, at the end of the meal, is an invitation for the other members of the meal to prepare themselves for bentching, in order that they will be in the right frame of mind to thank and praise Hashem.

זְמַן: Time

Everything has a time…a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot…a time to cry and a time to laugh…a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.3

Everything has its appropriate time. We are not in control of how much time Hashem gives us; we just have to be aware of how we spend our time. We use the expression “spending time” because time is like money — it is precious. If we value money, then time is money; if we value learning Torah, then we are held accountable for בִּטוּל זְמַן/wasting time. If we want to measure where we are holding, then all we need to do is to take note of what we do with our spare time. “Killing time,” as the expression denotes, is literally killing oneself. If we were suddenly given a diagnosis that we only had one more year to live, our perspective of time would dramatically change. 

How much money would we be prepared to pay to extend our lives by another year, another month, even another day? We could accomplish so much in one day. The Kli Yakar, on the verse in Bereishisthat says, “and Avraham was old and came with days,” explains that for the wicked people the light of their days is their youth when they are physically strong and healthy, whereas their darkest days are when they are old and infirm.4The tzaddik, however, sees the light of his days when he is a זָקֵן/elder, aged in wisdom, like an aged wine, or a fine single malt matured over time. The am ha’aretz, all the time he ages, he grows more stupid.5Therefore, there is a huge difference in the value of one day spent watching TV soaps and a day spent soaping oneself with the clean, purifying waters of the Torah.

Instead of being a timeline, which is continuous, Hashem has seen fit to slice up time into various time bites: years, months, weeks, and days. Even the days are split into day and night, morning, afternoon, and evening. Why is this so? 

Day follows day, week follows week, month follows month, and year follows year in a repetitive cycle that gives us the opportunity to review and compare ourselves to see how we have progressed from a year ago, a month ago, even a day ago. If we do our cheshbon hanefeshcorrectly, then we should be able to gauge whether we are on target to be ready for The Big Day.

מְזוּמָן:Ready (ready cash, readies)

מְזוּמָןmeans “being ready.” In Modern Hebrew, it means “cash,” because unlike property, which is tied up, money is ready to be spent right now. In England, there is an expression, “have you got the readies?” meaning ready cash.

So as we said before, time is like money; it has a currency value, and we are free to spend it according to how we value it. If we don’t really appreciate it and think that we have all the time in the world, then we will most likely be prone to killing time, yet if we were really aware and focused on the true meaning of time beingזְמַן, of being a הַזְמָנָה/invitation — and not just any invitation, but an invitation to the royal wedding — then we would be sure to make every second count. 

וְעַתָּה אִם שָׁמוֹעַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ בְּקֹלִי 
And now if you will surely listen to My voice…6

Now is the time, for tomorrow will be too late. מָחָר/tomorrow is the tool of the יֵצֶר הָרָע. I hear it not only in myself but all the time in my younger children; whenever it is time to do some learning with Abba, it is always “Not now…”

As Hillel said, “If not now, when?”

We fool ourselves into thinking that there is a tomorrow, “mañana,mañana!” But mañanamay never come. We have all been witness to this; we all live among people who are no longer here, who have passed on, some even at a relatively young age. For all of us there will come a time when there will be no tomorrow.

If Hashem came to us in a dream and told us that we had one more week to live, would we do anything different? If the answer is yes, then why are we not already doing it? It is a sign that we are not living life to the fullest.

It means that we are not fully prepared to leave. It means that we have not fully embraced the idea that life is a הַזְמָנָה/invitation to a future event. If we are not willing to fully prepare ourselves, then we are in effect spurning the invitation, with no RSVP to say that we are coming. And so the angel at the gates of the royal banquet hall will say to us, “Your name is not on the guest list. You are not coming in!”

1Shemos 19:10–11.

2Avos 4:16.

3Koheles3:1–8.

4Kli Yakar to Bereishis 24:1.

5Shabbos 152a.

6Shemos 19:5.

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Tzvi Abrahams

Founding Editor at Veromemanu
Rabbi Tzvi Abrahams was raised in The United Kingdom, and emigrated to Israel where he received his Rabbinical ordination. He recently published the book Root Connections In The Torah, and lectures on the beautiful connections of Biblical Hebrew root words. Tzvi lives in Zichron Yaakov, Israel with his wife, children and their friendly dog.

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Tzvi Abrahams