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The future ain’t what it used to be

Friday, 3 March, 2017 - 1:20 pm

Future Yogi Berra.jpg 

“The future ain’t what it used to be.” So goes the saying attributed to (but not coined by) Yogi Berra. And I’m sure many can relate - we tend to look forward to some fabled point in the future when we’ll finally get “there” - whatever “there” means. But when we arrive in the future we realize it’s not all that it’s cranked up to be; we’re still the same person, with the same flaws  - still looking forward to when things will be better.

The past, too - we tend to think nostalgically about some bygone time when we had energy and ideas, when we were idealistic and motivated, younger and more carefree.

The truth is that we tend to think about anything - other than the present. The present is way to confronting; the present demands from us. The past or the future are not demanding, they’re distant and out of our control - it’s easy to daydream about. But the present? The present demands that we do something; it demands that we change how we live, it demands that we adjust our choices and it expects us move.

The theme of this week’s Torah portion emphasizes the importance of changing the present and not thinking about the future. It discusses the design of the Tabernacle in the desert that the Jewish people built over 3,000 years ago. The purpose of the Exodus, the revelation at Mount Sinai and the Ten Commandments were all to lead to the construction of this physical structure - not to some transcendental experience.

Wouldn’t it make more sense that the Torah would be given as a formula to escape the constraints of this world? Shouldn’t we want to ditch this dark and unG-dly world?

The truth is that it does; the Torah empowers us not to be constrained by what society says and it frees us up from being measured by mundane definitions of success. Torah study affords us the ability to live in the present - according to the values we know to be true - and not get distracted looking forward to some awaited time in the future when “things will be different”.

The future may not be what it used to be, but the present is vastly underappreciated and underrated.

The choices we make in the present - right now - can influence the past and form the future. And most importantly, the present is the only place that we can actually change anything. 

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