For the week ending 25 December 2004 / 13 Tevet 5765

What's the Time?

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: It often happens that a child who is a complete stranger will meet me on the street and ask me what time it is. I find it difficult to understand how knowing the right time is significant to such a youngster, whose parents have not seen the need to provide him with a wristwatch, and I am tempted to ignore the request. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: The child asking you for the time may indeed be in need of knowing the hour because he or she was told to be at home or school at a designated time. The absence of a watch of his own may be attributed either to the economic situation of his parents or to their distrust of his ability to properly care for such a delicate instrument.

Like many adults in the same situation, you are likely to suspect that the juvenile inquirer is not really interested in the correct time, but is merely seeking an opportunity of engaging an adult stranger in conversation, a pastime which children treasure as a contact with the "big world" outside their home and classroom. You may be correct in making such an assumption, but so what! Isnt it worth a few seconds of your time to do a child a favor? As you provide him with the right time in a patient, friendly tone, try adding a few words of encouragement for him. You would be surprised at how much you can achieve with this.

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