Guess what, kids! We’re going to Disneyland in three years’ time! Guess what, Honey! We’re being transferred to Paris for two years; our flight’s this afternoon, just after lunch. Both scenarios are equally ludicrous. It is also absurd to fire an under-performing employee and give him twenty-four months’ notice but telling the same employee that he must be out and off the premises within an hour is just as wrong. What time is right?
How long should you spend psyching yourself up to propose marriage to your girlfriend? A week? A month? An hour? Which is right? “We’re offering you the job and would like to hear back from you with your decision in _____. Well, how long? We’d like to hear back from you in twenty minutes? Silly! We’d like to hear back from you before the end of next year? Ridiculous! What time is right?
As usual, ancient Jewish wisdom points us in the right direction. See these verses:
On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place…
And on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast…
…let us go…three days’ journey into the wilderness, so we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.
And be ready by the third day; for on the third day the Lord will come down…
And it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal dress…
Joshua commanded the officers…saying, prepare provisions for within three days you shall cross over this Jordan…
For space reasons I have confined myself to only a few of the many Scriptural references to three days. Is it not peculiar that all these events and many others in the Bible involved a time span of three days? Why not five days? Why not four days? Coincidence? No, of course not. It’s a lesson.
Like all numbers, the number three in Torah nomenclature possesses its own special significance. It alludes to how we humans experience time. We are aware of the past, we understand something called the future, and we live the present. It is always in the context of these three parts of time that we should evaluate our lives and our experiences.
When we wonder whether something will be fun, we are really asking whether it will make the present pleasurable. One of the reasons a car accident can be so horrifying is the realization of how its consequences might affect the future. I recently saw an interview with an elderly criminal sentenced to one hundred and fifty years behind bars. He said that what made life intolerable was not the thought of dying in prison, but that of losing connection with his children and grandchildren. In his case, having a past made the present much more unendurable than it might have been for someone who did not already have deep and rich relationships with descendants.
Through the preponderance of three-day time spans, Scripture is telling us that we need to take into account our past, our present and our future. Whether it is Abraham confronting the reality of sacrificing his son, the Israelites preparing to meet God at Mt Sinai, or any of the other examples, people need to give themselves enough time to integrate the experiences of the past with the approaching future into something they can absorb in the present.
In our own lives, when large decisions or changes loom, the three-day metaphor tells us that the right amount of time needs to be enough time to acknowledge where we are coming from and assimilate that with where we are, while moving decisively into the future. Taking too little time leaves us reeling while taking too much time dulls us, just as ignoring any of the three points of past, present and future leads us down faulty paths.
Moving from difficult straits to brighter horizons using three spiritual secrets revealed during the Exodus is the heart of my audio CD, Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt. The practical and powerful tips in this audio CD transformed the destiny of the Jews, propelling them from poverty to prosperity and from misery to independence. They can do the same for individuals. Now would be a good time to decisively improve your future by changing your present! Are there any whom you love who need a boost into a better life-orbit? For a tiny investment, you can bless them.