WHEN TIME STOPPED

 

An antique grandfather clock, also known as a longcase clock, hugs one corner of our living room at Brant Lake. Some of these clocks with eight movements required winding once a week. 30-hour clocks were wound every day.

I don’t know who last wound this clock but of this I am certain: the pendulum has not swung for many years, and the chimes have not rung. Time stands still in this corner at Brant Lake where the waters never cease to flow and, when I pass the clock, I remember a story of a wedding at which I officiated many years ago.

The young man, an Israeli named Youval, married a member of my congregation. When the ceremony had concluded we entered the reception hall but at the entrance there was a large sepia billboard that portrayed Youval’s parents. With white sleeves rolled up, khaki pants and a pitch fork over their shoulders they represented the early generation of Israeli pioneers. Youval’s father died from malaria while draining an infested swamp in the north of Israel. His mother died of cancer. Neither one reached their 40th birthday. Youval barely knew them.

When it was time for a toast, Youval’s older half-brother rose and in his hand he held a worn leather box. A single tear escaped from the brother eyes. “Youval,” he said, “Youval, you never knew our father, the parent we had in common. He was among those who settled the land of Israel many decades ago. He built the land but did not survive to reap the harvest.”

The brother paused, searching for words held captive by emotion.

“I was with dad at the very end, when you were only a small child. He handed me this box with a request. ‘Give this to Youval when he marries. It will be many years, I know, but on that day and in the years to come, I will be with him.’ Those were among his final words. Youval, my brother, I have kept this little box. It has traveled through the history of our family. From Israel to New York and now, back to Israel, tucked into the depths of my desk in Jerusalem. I present this box to you as a gift from our father.”

A hush fell over the guests. Wine glasses were returned to the table as Youval slowly opened the box. Inside was a watch, a gold watch from an earlier era.

“Youval,” his brother spoke again: “This watch has not been wound since the day our father died. That was his request and suddenly time stood still. According to dad’s wishes the watch was to remain unwound until this day. My dear brother, this is the blessing he could not bestow upon you—the continuation of our family legacy.”

As I listened to those poignant words I realized that watch was a symbol of faith—time may seem to cease for days, or even years, but eventually the hands of time turn and once again we welcome the future.

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