“Each and every moment is its proper time.”
We learned in yesterday’s Daf Yomi that circumcision can be performed on an 8-day old baby on Shabbat. We learn today that there are other mitzvahs that are permitted on Shabbat because they are time-bound. These principles are articulated by Rabbi Eliezer, who was considered one of the great conservative scholars of this time. He had very little patience for liberal interpretations and was later excommunicated due to his unwillingness to consider other points of view. There is a lovely story of how Rabbi Akiva, who was known for his open-mindedness, gently broke the news to Rabbi Eliezer that he was in essence fired.
The activities allowed on Shabbat include the mitzvah of sitting in a sukkah on the holiday of Sukkoth, eating matza on Passover, and sounding the shofar on Rosh Hoshana. All of these activities are specific to a certain time of the year and day and cannot be put off to a more opportune time (except the consuming of matza which I like to eat all year round with peanut butter and jelly.)
There are activities that are not time-bound and as a result, are prohibited on Shabbat, as there is no urgency to complete them. This includes attaching a mezuzah to a doorway and attaching ritual fringes to a garment. We are told that these activities are prohibited “because they have no fixed time and these mitzvot need not be performed on Shabbat.” Abaye disagrees and says that any mitzva is permitted on Shabbat: “on the contrary, from the fact that they have no fixed time, it can be said that each and every moment is its proper time.” In other words, “the obligation to fulfill the mitzva is perpetual, and one may not neglect it.”
We are reminded in today’s reading that each and every moment has its proper time. But time is operating in a different dimension lately; it is as through the last few months have marched forward in an upside-down world of time and space. Since March when the sheltering-in-place edict was established in New York City, each of the days of the week, and months and seasons have blurred into one another. I do not know what happened to the shoulder of late winter, the entirety of spring and the first half of summer. I will forever remember this time as one that alternated between the absolute quiet of deserted city streets and the piercing sounds of ambulances that punctuated the silence.
I feel as though I am moving at a slower pace while time is racing ahead. And I am aware that there are moments that I have lost by not being in the world, interacting with people on a daily basis and traveling through the city. These moments include nods of the head on the subway by people on my regular morning route, cheerful greetings in the neighborhood diner from a waiter in a yellow jacket, and hugging friends who I run into on the street. I am getting older and I am losing time by staying home. There are limitations to being so time-bound.