When I was a child, my mom used to play Simon and Garfunkel in the car on the way to preschool. I have vivid memories of singing along with those words, “Slow down, you move too fast” from “The 59th Street Bridge Song.” I don’t think at the time either of us was aware of the moment and the message it held in it, but now, as the parent of a 6- and 9-year-old, I can’t help but think, “Goodness, slow down!” Time is moving much too fast.
I glance up at their school pictures hanging in the hallway upstairs, wondering how time has continued to move at such a pace. It isn’t that I didn’t know time was moving, it just feels as though they’ve grown in the blink of an eye. They were just babies yesterday, and now, they’re big. What is it about time and our living in it that makes it both simultaneously slow and fast?
This week’s Torah portion perhaps gives us a peek at the reasoning. Parshat Vayetzei begins with Jacob on the run from his angry brother, fleeing his home and the mess that has become of his family dynamic. Exhausted, he lies down and has this crazy dream in which God comes and speaks to him. God gives Jacob marching orders, a legacy to hold and create, and a full sense of his mission in life.
As we read this week’s Torah portion, we see Jacob in pursuit of Rachel. As time goes on, it is explained by Jacob as a feeling that “seemed but a few days.” Certainly years of labor and stress did not fly by. What Jacob apparently means is that his love, the desire he felt in those moments, simply made the time pass faster.
When we look forward to something, when we’re fully present, time has a way of both standing still and moving faster than we realize. Parshat Vayetzei reminds us that those moments allow us to see clearly all that has passed and perhaps the immediacy of the future. Time never actually stands still, which is why it’s often annoying when anyone tells you to “enjoy the moment because you’ll miss it” as if there was anything we could do about it. Time is finite and fleeting, but, if we’re lucky, we’ll be able to carry and pass on the memories of the times that meant the most.