According to information that will
soon be outdated, Netflix subscribers around the world consume
164 million hours of Netflix each day. In an attempt to allow its
subscribers to consume even more in even less time, Netflix created some
controversy this week by testing a feature that would allow users to speed up
video playback as fast as 1.5 times the original speed.
The news was met with intense
backlash from show creators and movie directors who want their creations to be
seen as they intended. One actor wrote this feature would allow Netflix to “completely
take control of everyone else’s art and destroy it.”
Speed control already exists on
several platforms including podcast players, Youtube and even on YUTorah.org. Whether consuming the most precious and holy
content possible, our sacred Torah, or l’havdil, binging on entertainment
that shouldn’t be in our lives, people want more in less time and now have that
The central story of our Parsha is
the hard reset that God performed on the world, undoing all that He had created
and restarting the world anew. Hashem
took such a drastic measure because, the Torah tells us, the world had become
filled with corruption and moral depravity.
Indeed, the Sefas Emes says, the flood was midah k’neged mida,
measure for measure. The people had
violated all boundaries of behavior and so Hashem removed the boundaries that
protected the earth from water.
The Gemara (Sanhedrin 108a) makes a
mysterious comment: “The generation of
the flood became corrupt as a result of the great blessing that God had
bestowed upon them.” What does that
Rav Pam zt”l says the key to understanding this Gemara and what happened to Noach’s generation can be found in our title character’s name. The pasuk at the end of Bereishis tells us that Lemech names his son Noach saying, “this one will bring us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands from the ground which Hashem had cursed.” Rashi explains that until that time, the world had continued to suffer from the curse that God gave Adam, b’zeias apecha tochal lechem, you will have to work with the sweat of your brow to draw bread from the ground. Until Noach was born, man labored from morning to night and worked tirelessly with his bare hands just to have food to eat, leaving no recreational or down time.
Lemech saw prophetically that Noach
was destined to invent the plow and other agricultural tools that would make
man much more efficient and would ease his burden. Lemech names him “Noach” from the root “nuach,”
to rest, in the sense of providing relief.
Rav Pam explains that the plow and other
tools were the great blessing that Gemara referenced that were bestowed upon
this generation and yet, they became corrupt with it. He explains, the inventions and progress
yielded more free time. That time was obviously
a blessing and gift. It could have been used constructively, productively and
meaningfully. Instead, the generation
discovered the down time and used it for corrupt activity. The breakthrough and advancement could have
brought spiritual ascent, instead they brought moral decline.
Someone shared with me the story of
his friend’s grandmother, a Holocaust survivor who made her way to the United
States. With the characteristic perseverance of one who could not allow Hitler
to win, and despite her poverty, she raised her children to value life,
learning and the Jewish nation.
At some point in the 1960’s, after a
number of years saving penny by penny, she had finally saved up enough to buy
an electric washing machine. On the day that she purchased the washing machine,
she called her children in and told them, “Until now, I’ve spent an enormous
amount of time washing clothing by hand.
Now that we have this machine, I have discovered something I haven’t had
until now – free time. Now that I no
longer need to spend all day at home, we’re going to the library. If we have
free time, it’s to be used for learning.”
We are blessed to live in the
greatest era of technological breakthrough of all time. Simple tasks that used to eat up our time can
now be accomplished in seconds or through automation, in no time at all. We’ve advanced from the washing machine,
dishwasher, bread machine, and microwave, to time-saving modern wonders like
GPS, lightning-fast computers in our pockets, smart homes, and more.
Do we use the newfound time to
pursue frivolous activities and indulge in hedonistic experiences? Or, do we
use the time we are gaining with each breakthrough for meaningful, productive
and constructive activities? Are our
greater comfort and expanded time leading to moral decay and decline, or moral
development and progress?
The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (3:1)
quotes Akavya ben M’halalel who teaches that a person should always keep in
mind, “Before Whom he will have to give Din V’cheshbon, judgment and
reckoning.” What is the difference
between din and cheshbon?
The Vilna Gaon explains that din
refers to judgment for mistakes, indiscretions and poor decisions we made. Cheshbon is not about what we did
wrong during our time, but what we could have done right during that time. We will have to account for din, for mistakes we made, but we will even be held accountable for
the cheshbon, the calculation of what we could have accomplished if we
had only taken advantage of the time we claimed we don’t have.
Have you ever found yourself wishing
there were more than 24 hours in a day? This
weekend, your dream comes true. With the
clock change Saturday night, we will be gifted an extra hour.
A friend of mine in Israel, Akiva
Danto, runs a beautiful learning program the night the clock is changed. He tells people, we claim we want to learn
but don’t have the time. Well, each fall
we gain an extra hour. What will we do
Will we just stay out a little longer
or watch just a bit more? Or, will we
use it to read the book we claim to never have time to read or learn the Torah we
say we wish we had time to learn? Will we
waste it or utilize it, let it slip away or embrace it for something
Our rabbis say, בדרך שאדם רוצה לילך מוליכין אותו, when we show which
path we want to take, we are helped to move forward on it. In the merit of utilizing our extra hour for
something noble and meaningful, may we be blessed to find many “extra
hours” during the year to further our commitment to Torah and advance our