March 7, 2021, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, USA
Recently I visited one of the homes where we lived when I was younger. A lovely corner home in California, just a short walk from our local synagogue where my father served as rabbi.
I can still recall him speaking from the pulpit. I wish I had recorded and memorized every word. He spoke about time, he spoke about how the Jewish people have sanctified time. Shabbat begins and time changes. We are no longer the same. Our behavior changes. The yearly calendar is marked by time, there is the Jewish New Year, then the day of Atonement, then the time of the ingathering of the crops, Sukkoth, and so on. At the beginning of each new month in the Jewish calendar he marked the passage of time and reminded us to use our time wisely, how each new day should bring us closer to some worthy goal. Time is a major issue in Jewish tradition.
The rabbis of the Talmud debated the exact time that a day begins and ends, the time for reciting the morning prayer of the Sh'ma, my grandfather wrote a book, "A Time to Be Born, A Time to Die".
I was thinking about the Biblical Hebrew Slave. The word Slave is not used in Hebrew the same as it is in English, the word is Eved עבד. This is the same three letters used for Oved, עובד a worker. In Hebrew the three letters are the same. E, B/V, D. Avodah עבודה means work. So Eved just means a worker. The Hebrew slave has committed a crime, he cannot repay those whom he has harmed. He has hurt society. We are taught that each member of society must contribute to society. This man needs an education.
So he serves his time. He becomes a "Slave", or perhaps an Apprentice, to a good, hard working, honest citizen. He lives with the family for seven full years, and at the conclusion he goes free. But now he is a different man. Now he has received the education he was lacking. Now he is ready to re-enter society as a contributing member.
But it takes time.
Why can't he just take a quick course, say over a weekend, and understand that a man must work, pay his dues to society etc. Why seven long years?
That answer is the difference between a blue belt and a Black Belt in Krav Maga.
I teach a technique, I see that there are a few mistakes, I correct them. Soon the student is performing the technique correctly, I am pleased. He asks if there are areas in which he can improve. And I respond, it takes time.
Krav Maga is a shortcut, it is simpler than other martial arts, it is designed to be learned quickly. In a few weeks a student can become proficient. So what is the difference between the proficient beginner who is doing the technique correctly and the master Krav Maga black belt?
Life takes time. A plant cannot be rushed, a child needs time to grow. An idea takes time to take root and habits take time to become our normal behavior. I was thinking about the Hebrew "Slave", he can learn the ideas in a weekend seminar, he can pass a written test but he will not pass the life test. In life he will revert back to his bad habits. To erase those bad habits will take seven years.
Seven years of waking up early, thanking God for creation, for life itself. Gratitude to the Almighty. He will till the fields, he will get his hands dirty, he will earn his daily bread. He will learn to appreciate the hard work it takes to put bread on the table. He will not take what others have toiled for. It will take seven long years to erase his previous bad habits. It will take seven long years to become a different man.
The white belt may understand the technique, that may take a few minutes, but to truly become the technique, for the technique to become a part of you, so that you can use it when caught by surprise, this will take time. There is no short cut. The black belt is more fluid that the beginner. His movements are more natural. This takes time.
And I think of my dear father standing at the pulpit, yes Dad, I was listening.
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