Time Marches On, But Does Life?

Natural beauty in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. (courtesy)

Today (Monday) is Rosh Chodesh. Mar-Cheshvan. We are certainly feeling the bitterness. This is meant to be a day of renewal and joy. To be honest, during “regular” times (whatever that even means anymore,) I haven’t necessarily thought too much about renewal on Rosh Chodesh. Starting something new. Letting go of things that may have been holding me back the previous month. Taking advantage of new opportunities. I think now that the world is functioning in a way that is so far from the idea of renewal, I’m noticing the lack. But who can contemplate renewal at a time like this? (“At a time like what?” might be some people’s response if they are fans of The Parent Trap.) 

As for joy, there are definitely moments of joy sprinkled into the craziness. People are still getting married. Some people have pushed off weddings, but many have been getting married in parking lots, backyards, and on army bases. We’ve all seen the videos. Even a war can’t stop the joy that is somehow, seemingly more so than normal, permeating the Jewish homeland right now. I keep thinking about it and really can’t wrap my head around how the joy is almost drowning out the terror. 

There are other things a war can’t stop. A war can’t stop time. No matter what is going on in the world, 24 hours will continue to pass from midnight to midnight. There will always be seven days from one Shabbat to the next. Those seven days may feel longer or shorter depending on what is going on in life. That’s because life is not like time. Life can come to a complete halt. Life can pause. And life can move in slow motion. Life came to a complete halt for more people than we can count just ten days ago. Challah sitting on a table waiting to be cut open for the Shabbat/Chag meal that never happened. A jarring reminder of the lives that left it behind. Too many more lives have halted since then. Life may be on pause for the countless people who are waiting to hear about the fate of their loved ones. Life is moving in some degree of slow motion for the rest of us while certain aspects may be on pause. And for the babies born this week or this month, have their lives even begun? 

On a more mundane level, I feel this reality in seeing the bag that I take with me to ulpan sitting on the floor indefinitely. When will it be needed again? That aspect of my life is on pause. The “After Chag” to-do list that I created for myself is mainly untouched. So many of the items no longer seem necessary. Sure, they are things that I need to take care of. But not now. Those parts of my life are on pause as well. 

Yet, time marches on. 86,400 seconds ticked by yesterday, and another 86,400 seconds will pass today. People say “life moves on.” I think it would be more accurate to say “time moves on.” Yes, certain aspects of life continue to happen just as consistently as the clock ticks, but is life moving on? Or is time moving on and dragging some daily tasks along for the ride? What does it mean for life to move on? It certainly doesn’t mean that everything continues as it did before because then I don’t think people would use that phrase during a time of crisis. It would almost be offensive to make such a comment. 

Life may stop us in our tracks, but time moves on. A minute will always last for the exact same amount of time whether it feels to us like a second or an hour. Desperately waiting for life-changing information, it might feel like forever. But a minute passes by quite quickly for a child who has one more minute to play before bedtime. 

90 seconds is not a very long time when running to the safe room after hearing a siren. I know because it’s happened before, and it happened again today. At 4:46PM. I was in the bathroom. Maybe that’s TMI, but it made me think about the people who only have 15 seconds to get to the bomb shelter. What happens if they are in the bathroom? Or in the shower? Or fast asleep in the middle of the night? This is a reality. And don’t forget about the few seconds that it takes to register what is actually happening. People in those areas must have a very fast reaction time. Their lives depend on it. Thinking about this makes me realize how lucky I am and how much value a single second can hold. I didn’t have time to wash my hands (I did so afterwards,) but I was able to safely get to the safe room without too much concern. 90 seconds doing push-ups feels like forever though. I tried it. 

Time can sometimes be the one constant in our lives when so many things have turned upside down. Rosh Chodesh is so inherently connected with time. It will come like clockwork every single month exactly when it is expected. No matter what is going on in the world. We just may not always feel it the same way. 

With today being Rosh Chodesh, this past Shabbat was Shabbat Mevorchim. My first one as an Israeli. I lost out last month which is the one and only month of the year that does not have a Shabbat Mevorchim. This is a prayer that I have always felt a particular connection with. I don’t know why. I especially love the Israeli version though. It is the only prayer that I know of that is different in and out of Israel. (I could definitely be wrong about this.) 

Do Jews outside of Israel not need sustenance and livelihood? Good news? Rain at the right time? The ultimate redemption? General good things and blessings? This is not meant to be rhetorical. I really wonder why the prayer is different outside of Israel. Anyway, I’m very happy to be Israeli now if for no other reason than to be able to say this beautiful prayer every month. And also because I am very happy not to be in America at this time. I had not felt completely safe in America already for the past couple of years, so I know I would feel especially uncomfortable there now. No matter what’s going on in Israel, it always seems to be the safer option. Even now.

I so clearly remember the first time I noticed that Birkat Hachodesh was different in Israel. It was during my year in seminary in a shul in the Old City of Jerusalem. I’m pretty sure it was the Hurva. Something about it just really speaks to me. The added prayers were particularly meaningful to me this month. Firstly and most obviously, we are going through a terrible time as a nation, and we are thus particularly desperate for the relief that is requested- perhaps begged for- through this prayer. Secondly, I felt excited when I realized that this will become a monthly thing for me now that I actually live here. Not just a special treat every once in a while when my visit would overlap with a new month. 

And so, I can only hope that our nation’s prayers from all over the world this past Shabbat truly will herald in a month of good and blessings. A month of joy and happiness. A month of salvation and comfort. A month of livelihood and sustenance. A month of good life and peace. (Emphasis on peace.) A month of good rumors and good news. A month of rain in its proper time. A month of complete healing. And last but most certainly not least, a month of complete redemption. Amen.

About the Author
Ariella Cohen grew up in Far Rockaway, NY and made Aliyah from Bala Cynwyd, PA in August 2023. She is an engineer and amateur musician with lots of other hobbies on the side.
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