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The Presents of Presence

Rabbi Yehoshua Alt

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg Ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the Sefer, Fascinating Insights: Torah Perspectives On Unique Topics. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

The Presents of Presence

Many people go through life rarely ever living in the present. This point is brought forth from the following: A child in elementary school can’t wait for high school. In high school, he can’t wait for post-high school. After that, he can’t wait to get married. He gets married and then he can’t wait to have children. He has children and then he can’t wait until they get older. When that happens, he can’t wait until they get married. And so on.


Here is a poem that speaks on this topic:


It was spring, but it was summer I wanted,

The warm days, and the great outdoors.

It was summer, but it was fall I wanted,

The colorful leaves, and the cool, dry air.

It was fall, but it was winter I wanted,

The beautiful snow, and the joy of Chanuka.

It was winter, but it was spring I wanted,

The warmth, and the blossoming of nature.

I was a child, but it was adulthood I wanted,

The freedom, and the respect.

I was 20, but it was 30 I wanted,

To be mature, and sophisticated.

I was middle-aged, but it was 20 I wanted,

The youth, and the free spirit.

I was retired, but it was middle-age I wanted,

The presence of mind without limitations.

My life was over, and I never got what I wanted.


With this, we can appreciate the saying that goes, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift. That is why they call it the present.” In light of what we mentioned, we can understand a novel interpretation of ועתה ישראל מה ה’ אלה-יך שאל מעמך:[1] living in the present (עתה) is what Hashem asks of us.

[1] Devarim 10:12. In this manner we can grasp עלה אלי ההרה והיה שם, ascend to me to the mountain and remain there (Shemos 24:12): עלה אלי ההרה, to climb the spiritual mountain and והיה שם, be there, be present. Sometimes we can be so distracted by other things or can be focused on the end goal that we aren’t present along the way.

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