We see an amazing thing about the preciousness of time in this week’s parsha: Bo. Hashem said exactly at midnight he would kill all of the firstborn of Egypt, but when Moshe told this to Pharoah, Moshe said ‘about midnight’ the plague would happen. Rashi points out the reason. The stargazers of Pharoah might have been off by a few moments with their time telling and said, “Moshe is a liar,” if the firstborn did not die exactly at midnight according to their calculations. One thing we see from here is the arrogance of the Egyptians – they were so sure they had the right time and could not be off by a few moments (remember also, they did not have atomic clocks back then.)
We also see another lesson. If the Egyptians clocks were off and the plague of the slaying of the firstborn happened a few seconds after their watches said it should happen, the Egyptians would have seen a few moments later that they were wrong. So why did Moshe need to change what Hashem said – the Egyptians would have seen that Moshe was clearly not a liar? The reason is because Moshe did not want a chilul Hashem (desecration of Hashem’s name) to occur, even if it would only happen for a few moments. For a few seconds, the Egyptians would call Moshe a liar and even though they would realize their mistake, the chilul Hashem still would have been uttered and believed for a few moments. Any type of chilul Hashem, even if it only lasts for a moment, is terrible, so Moshe changed Hashem’s words to avoid it.
On the other hand, just as any chilul Hashem must be avoided, we must do whatever we can to have any kiddush Hashem (praise of Hashem’s name) take place. There is a law on Shabbos that if a building falls, the bricks of the building are considered muktza and may not be moved. If there were people in the building and a person is 100 percent sure all of those people are dead, the bricks may not be moved. But if there is any possibility the people can still be alive, then the bricks may be moved, even though this is a violation of the laws of Shabbos. Even if one is positive there is only one person under the bricks that is still alive and if the bricks are removed, the person will only live for a second, we break the laws of Shabbos to keep this person’s life longer by the one second. The reason is because in that one second, the person can repent. During the one second, the person’s thoughts can change his eternal life in the World to Come. He can praise Hashem in that one second and this can change everything for this person’s future.
In the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, Michael Phelps taught everyone what 0.01 seconds means. Because of winning a race by 0.01 seconds, Phelps won $1 Million from Speedo and became the athlete with the most gold medals in any one Olympic Games. 0.01 seconds changed Phelps’s entire life. 0.01 can change any person’s entire life; although it is a short amount of time, so much can happen. This is the lesson from Moshe – he did not want to allow a terrible chilul Hashem to happen because of something he said, even though this chilul Hashem would only last for a few moments.
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