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Past, Present and Future
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

The past is gone; the future is but a dream. All that exists is the present moment, which will vanish in a fleeting instant. If so, why worry? -Jewish Folk Saying

We have two ways of measuring time: Analog and digital. An analog watch marks time by the smooth motion of its dials. The minute and hour hands move continuously around the clock face until they make a complete cycle. A digital watch, on the other hand, marks each moment of time separately. One second flashes by and is replaced by another; the minutes and hours are ticked off one by one.

These two methods of time-keeping correspond to two ways of understanding time. Is time one unified, continuous entity, or is it comprised of individual, discrete units? Some philosophers of time believe that only the present moment exists. Once a unit of time passes, it is no longer in existence. This corresponds to the “digital mode” of marking time. Others subscribe to the “block universe” theory, which says that there really are no distinctions between past, present, and future. All of time exists simultaneously. Time is not passing; rather, we are passing through time!

Even when thinking in the present tense, we also find these two distinctions. We can live each moment as it exists for itself, without thinking about past or future. Or we can think about the present time in terms of how it fits into the context of past and future.

These two points reflect two ways of serving G-d. One way is to serve G-d in our ordinary way, according to our natural boundaries and limitations. Our divine service will flow on, constantly, steadily and predictably. The other way is when we serve Him in an extraordinary manner, such as when an unusual inspiration strikes, and we bypass our usual nature and do things that are normally beyond our abilities. This generally happens only at special moments, when our souls get aroused, and therefore it is not constant.

Our job is to make the extraordinary divine service become constant. When we become inspired, we must strive to keep the inspiration alive and continue achieving beyond our limitations.

May we merit that through serving G-d beyond our limitations, we will hasten the fulfillment of the ultimate purpose of creation—the final redemption. Then G-d with all His glory will be constantly revealed to our physical eye.

Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.


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