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Parashat Emor


During these weeks between Passover and Shavuot, we have a custom of studying the Ethics of our Fathers.

In chapter one Hillel the Elder said, “if not now, then when?”


Hillel’s famous statement is a bit puzzling. The simple answer to his question is, “later!” Why can’t we take care of whatever it is some other time? Granted that procrastination is not a virtue but why does he imply that if not now, then it will never be?


Hillel is telling us that if I do something later, it may indeed get done, but I will have missed the current ‘now’. The present ‘now’ has but a momentary existence, and whether used or not, it will never return. Later will be a different ‘now’.


King Solomon dedicates seven famous versus of his book Kohelet to this principle that everything has its specific time. His point comes across clearly, I can put off doing a good deed for someone until tomorrow, but will that deed, done exactly as I would have done it today, carry the same impact?


The wisdom that I learn at this moment belongs to this moment. The good deed that I do at this moment belongs to this moment. Of course I can do them later, but they will belong to the later moments. What can I do that belongs to this moment is only which I do now.