The Present of the Present

Technological advances have provided us with unprecedented opportunities. Not only do we have the ability to do incredible things, but we can often do them immediately- they are “at our fingertips”. While this immediacy is certainly valuable, we often do not appreciate the value of what we have because of its availability. A verse in this week’s parsha emphasizes this very point.


The parsha begins by instructing Aharon that he should never enter the Holy of Holies (16:2). Only after that, however, does it then give the exception to the rule- that he may enter during the Yom Kippur service. We are well aware that the Torah does not waste words. If the only time Aharon could enter was on Yom Kippur, why not simply say ‘Say to Aharon, you may only enter on Yom Kippur’? Why does the verse first set down, as a rule, that one may never enter the Holy of Holies, only to bring an exception to that rule afterwards, in a separate pasuk?


Some explain that  this nuance provides an insight into human psychology. When we want to truly appreciate the value of what we do, then one way to do so is to recognize first when we cannot do it. Before instructing Aharon that he could enter into the Holy of Holies, Hashem wanted to stress how restricted that place was, year-round. Ultimately, when Yom Kippur finaly arrives, that moment will carry that much more weight.


A Birthday celebration is cherished because it only comes once a year. Holidays are enjoyable and exciting because they only happen every few months. Giving flowers to a spouse is special because you don’t give them to anyone else. Shabbat is special because we go 6 days without it. And so it is with everything. The trick is remembering that when the moment comes. How often do we take for granted Shabbat, our children, our friends, even if we never have those opportunities. If we pause, reflect, and remember all the times we could not do this or that in the past, we can hopefully truly appreciate what we have in the present.