“All you need is love,” sang the Beatles in 1967. A pretty sentiment to be sure, but a poor roadmap for life as proven by the young and confused of that generation whose lives were shaped by a fateful summer of love two years later. Love is wonderful but alone, it is hardly adequate.
One thing we all need in addition to love is a real sense of time. The young girl foolishly infatuated with the utterly unsuitable boy is living only in the present. She has no sense of time; no sense of the future when she will be ready for marriage and no sense of the past—the parents and grandparents whose values she is betraying.
The young boy who goes into debt in order to purchase a fancy car is living only in the present. If he could feel the future and know the pleasure of a growing savings account, he’d make different choices. If he knew anything of past cycles of tough economic times, he’d make wiser decisions.
Makeup and provocative clothing for five year-old little girls reveals time illiteracy. Sexually aggressive adolescent boys lack a time sense as do leeringly concupiscent retirees.
Men who abandon wives and families in exchange for a woman the age of their daughters; corporate executive who sell assets to bolster this quarter’s figures; city and state governments that sell off parking meters, bridges, and toll roads to solve this year’s financial crisis and career women who continually defer marriage – none of these possess that sense of time so vital for successful living.
The worthy moral advice from Leviticus about loving another, “…as you love yourself,” appears twice. (Leviticus 19:18 & 34) However, few bother to read the crucial final phrase of both those verses—“I am the Lord.”
In the Lord’s language, Hebrew, there are many names for God. The four letters used in the phrase, “I am the Lord,” in those two verses are not accidental. They are the same letters whose appearance is used to signify past, present, and future. This is intended to indicate God’s ability to transcend time. God was, He is, and He will be. Without that final phrase mentioning God, loving your neighbor could mean loving only in the present.
In fact, by invoking the specific Lord’s name that possesses time connotations the Torah is asking us to love others in the past and future as well. For instance, betraying the memory of long dead parents or grandparents is prohibited as is doing away with the unborn or for that matter, letting them live but saddling them with a crushing debt burden.
Most young children quickly develop an intuitive sense of dimensions such as length and weight. When they reach out to grab or lift something, even toddlers quickly learn how far to extend their hands. They soon learn to gauge how heavy an object is likely to be. Children also develop a sense of temperature, but understanding time not only eludes youngsters, it also challenges most adults.
It is only too easy to live in and for the present. It is far harder and less intuitive to integrate the past and the future into the decisions of the present. Scientific development depends upon knowing what happened yesterday and where we are attempting to reach tomorrow. Life depends on exactly the same.
How do we teach time sensitivity to our children? The same way we teach it to ourselves. I know of few more effective tools than regular, serious study of the Bible. The Bible is not a list of proscriptions neither is it a picture book or a volume of mathematical equations. It is a pivot point around which past, present and future revolve.
A fine place to begin studying is with the Ten Commandments, or more accurately the Ten Statements. They present principles which always have been and always will be vital for successful living. We are making our audio CD teaching, the Ten Commandments: How Two Tablets Can Transform Your Life, available, online only, for half-price through Monday. As we commence a new educational year, it is a worthy tool to take along.