Tortoise and the Hare

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The Tortoise and the Hare

Every Yeshiva has these two types of students. Let’s say it’s time for breakfast. Everyone files in, gets their silverware and food, and starts eating. Type A shovels his food down as quickly as human possibly, washes it all down with a cup of water, makes his Bracha Achrona, and heads back to the Beis. Checking his watch, he nods when he sees that the entire meal took less than seven minutes. Type B is the opposite. He takes his time selecting his breakfast. He alternates slow, deliberate chewing with shmoozing with the guys sitting next to him. Over time, the Chadar Ochel empties out, leaving our friend alone with the rest of his meal. He finishes eating a few minutes before Morning Seder starts, bentches carefully from a Bentcher, and walks back into the Beis just as Seder is starting.

U'Bilvad She'Y'Chavein Libo LaShamayim

Neither type is right or wrong. Different people are going to use their time in different ways, for meals and for everything else. Some people will learn during the break, while others will go take a nap, exercise, or spend time with friends. In the end of the day, there’s one question which determines how that day’s 86,400 seconds were used: Was I USING my time, or BURNING/WASTING/KILLING my time? If you’re intentional about the things you’re doing, and you keep the ultimate goal of your stay in Yeshiva in mind, then your time will be well spent. If the guy sleeping knows he needs the nap to maximize his Afternoon Seder, that’s a perfect use of the break (see Orach Chayim 231). If he’s napping because he doesn’t have anything better to do, that’s a waste of time. If the guy exercising knows that he needs the break to get his energy out, or he’ll feel better over the day or week by working out, that’s a smart use of the break. If he’s doing that because that’s what he did during breaks in high school, he should definitely re-evaluate. One Talmid started off his year spending his break in his dorm room listening to music. After a month, he realized that he wasn’t appreciating the music, he was bored during the break, and he felt like he was wasting his time – so why was he still doing it?! If time is being used intentionally for a specific purpose, it’s almost definitely being used well. Unplanned time is often unproductive.

Take Some Time to Think

Counterintuitively, using time well does not automatically translate into opening a sefer to ‘chap’ a couple of minutes or plugging into a shiur for every free moment while walking somewhere. It is a great idea to bring pocket Sefarim with you when traveling and to have a great lineup of recorded Shiurim available. At the same time, giving yourself time to simply think and check in with yourself is crucial for growth and development. Sitting down for a Cheshbon HaNefesh, or using a walk to think about how the year has been going, is one of the most important ways you can use your time, even though it’s not formal learning.

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