I’ve always been a little bit slower than everyone else.
It takes me longer to read, to write and to take any type of written test.
When I was in grade school and college I was always given extra time on tests and final exams. I was one of the kids granted with ‘time-and-a-half’.
Friends, parents, and teachers always felt bad for us time-and-a-halfers, but for some reason I felt bad for them…
They were always rushing through finals and exams, they were forced to go as fast as possible, whereas me and the holy crew of extra-timers were blessed with more time and more ישוב הדעת, we could really take it slow and steady.
I saw my slowness as some sort of hidden blessing that would later be revealed. My humble intuition told me that somehow I and all the other kids with time-and-a-half were blessed with some sort of gift….maybe that’s why I made my first AOL Instant Messenger screen name (back in middle school) ‘slo2motion’, in accordance with my inner struggle during those middle school years when I first got diagnosed with the “extra-time influenza”, when I was hoping that somehow the slowness that looked like my greatest weakness to all my teachers and friends was actually one of the deepest secrets to tapping in to the essence of life.
The thing is that as the years go by, the speed of life gradually increases and it becomes quite challenging for all those who need extra time on given tasks.
The older we get the greater the demand to get more and more done in less and less time, the more pressured we are to live lives in perpetual motion: thinking, speaking, action-ing, etc. Whether it’s the pressures born from our college workloads, our job responsibilities, our families, or more generally, the pressure to make the necessary changes to transform our world into the beautiful world we’ve been dreaming of since the beginning of time.
As you can imagine, the increasing speed of life is superbly overwhelming for all of us time-and-a-halfers. Especially for all of us who were foolish enough to believe that we had something our parents, teachers, friends, and the world at large would one day wish they had too.
But you know what it is friends…we actually do.
You see, if we were to cut out all the things that slow us down from getting things done, ie. ~ eating, drinking and sleeping, etc. we would actually never be able to do anything productive anymore. Our bodies would simply expire.
To the same extent that we mamesh need to get so many things done and be as efficient as possible, we need to go as slow as possible to open ourselves up to the depths of life, to read the holy Gemara as slow as we can ’till we take it all in, each and every point. I need to hold my holy little niece and walk around with her slowly slowly until she falls sound asleep. According to how many hours we sleep we can than go out and accomplish myriads of holy tasks.
It’s just as important to be a tortoise as it is to be a hare and ultimately we need to befriend our inner tortoise with our inner hare if we want to be living on the most balanced plane of reality.
We cannot just be running and we cannot just be returning. As the prophet Ezekiel once said: “life is running and returning”. Slowing down is just as essential to our lives as speeding up.
So we were on to something. Us time-and-a-halfers were born with a present and a gift. The ability to go slow is actually the deepest thing, It was the last component of creation – בא שבת בא מנוחה – on Shabbos G-d created rest.
We say in Shma – ואבדתם מהרה – “and you will lose by going fast” and we also know the Zohar says that Shabbos, the day of rest, is the source of blessings for the six days of work.
Meaning, the very best way to bless your stressful work week is to start it off slow.
So this past Shabbos I was vibing off these thoughts and I wanted to tap into the slowness of Shabbos, so I went out on a limb and went way slower as I led the prayers at Chevra Ahavas Yisroel. Though there was this one holy yid who was determined to speed me up, Hashem was guiding me to slow myself down. Afterall we had all spent the whole week on efficiency and productivity, mamesh speeding up to the max. The last thing we needed was to make the day of holy slowness start off way too fast. And so I held out the words and the musical notes of tefillah and so did the congregation, and you know what?
This Shabbos we tasted the sweetness of each and every word of tefillah. We tasted the blessing of slowness. We tasted the Shabbos (the rest) of Shabbos. And this work week has been unprecedentedly blessed with the highest blessings of success in return.
This tune is called Running And Returning ~ רצוא ושוב and it was born from this biblical concept that the slower you go on Shabbos, the more success you will find in your 6 days of work.