Sunday, April 26, 2009

Missed opportunities?

My brother has recently made Aliyah and moved to Modi'in. Over Pesach, he came to visit and told us all about the vibrant lifestyle in this fast-growing town. From the way he described their ultra-modern home, spectacular public transport system and overwhelmingly warm community, I can't wait to see it for myself. (I might have even considered moving there myself, but we've got plenty work to do here in S.A. so Israel's on hold till Moshiach).

Modi'in is clearly one of the most attractive places in Israel to live and real estate is very valuable. That made me wonder about people who had owned land there twenty some years ago, when Modi'in was little more than a Bohemian settlement. Those who had foresight to buy then must be sitting pretty now.

Then I remembered that we actually had family who almost moved to Modi'in in the early nineties. They almost became millionaires (considering that they almost bought property that would have fetched a fortune in today's market).

We all have "almost" stories. "Almost" made a fortune of money, "almost" met a public figure, "almost" this and "almost" that. Life is full of opportunities, but we almost always seem to miss the really good ones.

Last Wednesday was election day in South Africa. Like a good citizen should, I headed to the polling station up the road. Voting was moving very slowly and it took over an hour to cast my ballot. Normally, I would have stood and chatted to the strangers in line, possibly daydreamed or fretted at the inefficiency of it all.

For once, though, I had enough foresight to take advantage of the time. I took a book that I had needed to study and got through about half of it during the wait. Opportunity used.

Standing there reading reminded me of the Vilna Gaon, who quipped that he became a Torah giant in all those five minutes' that others simply wasted.

We are currently counting the Omer. The Omer days are not festivals, they're ordinary days. Counting the Omer each day transforms each day into a meaningful time- a mitzvah day.

You need less than five minues each evening to to count the Omer. In that short mitzvah-moment, you transform you whole day. Here is a cheap investment that offers great returns.

Counting the Omer is all about not missing opportunities. Yom Tov is always an inspiring time and, be it Pesach or Rosh Hashanah, we naturally feel we need to take advantage while the opportunity lasts. The Omer shows us that we don't need to wait for special days to find opportunities for meaning. They are there every day. And they only take a few minutes.

Five minutes of focus each day can change your whole day. Use five minutes each day for something worthwhile- a Torah-byte, chapter of Tehillim or one kind deed. It will change your day, possibly you life.

And, at the end, you won't have to look back and say "I almost made my life meaningful".

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