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A man was walking through a forest when he came across someone cursing as he laboured to chop down a tree.
"What’s the problem?" the man asked.
"My saw is blunt and won’t cut the tree properly!"
"Why don't you sharpen your saw?"
"I don’t have the time to stop!"
Rashi (Vayikra 1:1) explains a beautiful insight about the layout of the text in the Torah. Rather than a continuous flow, there are breaks between the paragraphs. These breaks indicate that Moses stopped after various events in his life to reflect, integrate the experiences, and grow from them.
Parshat Balak records the downfall of Bilaam and his attempt to curse the Jewish people. It is in fact the only portion in the Torah where the text is written with no breaks.
The Chofetz Chaim explains, that unlike Moses, Bilaam never stopped running. In spite of being privileged to direct communication from God, he did not slow down to integrate or reflect on the experiences, and they therefore had no effect on his character.
Imagine who he could have been had he done so!
In our quest to becoming the best people we can be, let's make sure to make time for reflection. Are we running so fast that we are missing opportunities? Perhaps even harming ourselves or others as we run?
Are our acts of kindness impacting our characters, changing our personalities for the better?
It is important to take the time to reflect on our experiences, to see what we can learn from them, and how we can improve.
Although difficult to do, stopping occasionally to sharpen the saw will produce more effective labour in the long term.
In the busy pace of our lives this can sometimes be difficult, but if we can’t find the time in our week then we can use the pause that God has built into the structure of our lives – Shabbat!
Shabbat Shalom! (Saw analogy from ‘The 7 habits of highly effective teens’ by Stephen Covey)