The instructor filled an empty jar with rocks. “Is it full?” Then he poured a pitcher of pebbles into the jar. “Full now?” Next he poured sand. “Full?” Finally, he poured water. “Now it’s full.” “What do you learn from this?” One student answered, “That no matter how busy you are, you can always fit it one more thing?” “No, the important thing is: you have to put the rocks in first. If you fill your jar first with the pebbles, sand or water, there will be no room for the rocks.”
Put the rocks in first, those important things that keep you grounded and centered.
I’m the one who thought that you could always fit in one more call, one more meeting. Yet when I fill my jar with what seems urgent but not important, there isn’t room for what I really need: time for my inner life — prayer, study, reflection; and time for my family.
A New Year approaches: it is an empty jar. How I fill it up is up to me. Elul is the deep breath I need to get clear about what my rocks are, and to promise myself to put them in first.
Rabbi Laura Geller is Rabbi Emerita of Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills CA.