I am often accused of being stubborn . I have always stubbornly refused to concede to that designation, claiming that the middah being exhibited is not bullheadedness and inflexibility, which the word stubbornness usually implies, but rather perseverance and tenacity. Let’s take as an example this very column. Here I was, writing a Torah column about matzah and the middah of zerizus, and it was pretty nicely timed, baruch HaShem, to be finished and thus reach its apex at Pesach.
Well, what do you know but there is a corporate decision made, I assume at the very upper echelons of power at the Chadash newspaper, to (inexplicably, to me, but that is only because no one explained it to me) not have a paper be published during the week leading up to Shabbos/Pesach. I guess that most people would meekly fold up their laptops and go on after Pesach to talk of more “topical” items — Torah (Shavuos), bein adam lachaveiro (sefirah); tumah and taharah (the parshiyos of the week). But I refuse! I am still in the middle of a lesson, a point, an idea, and I am determined to stay the course and continue on with this explanation as if nothing had happened (no easy task when you’ve just written about two hundred fifty words on the topic of how something has happened!). I am determined to persist and to proceed!
Where were we? We were talking about the middah of zerizus and how it is a fundamental requirement — yes, requirement! — for the proper fulfillment of mitzvos, and for our general attitude in our avodas HaShem. And how this is perhaps best brought out by the association in the possuk between the essentiality of zerizus for matzah, the icon of Pesach, and for mitzvos in general. (Actually, the word zerizus itself is not easy to translate into English. It connotes an attitude of devotion, enthusiasm, diligence, and fervor in carrying out the will of HaShem. It portrays a willingness and readiness to do whatever is in one’s power to see the action through.)
We discussed how we must combat a laziness which is simply physical; we discussed intellectual laziness, a reluctance to actually think about things and make proper cheshbonos about our goals and where we stand vis-à-vis those goals. There is also emotional laziness, in which we do not want to invest our emotions and feelings into people or situations and/or events.
We then moved on to talk about the roots of laziness. One is the degree to which we indeed care about what it is that we have to do. We are quite diligent about doing things which we like to do; it is thus a bit embarrassing when we discover that we have trouble getting to things we ought to be doing, especially in the spiritual sphere. This is really a bedrock of our avodas HaShem — do we really want to do it?
A major “solution,” but also a basic, fundamental idea, is suggested by the Mesilas Yesharim. Mesilas Yesharim writes in the eighth chapter of the sefer:
What can strengthen this middah (of zerizus), what would make a person be enthusiastic about his or her kiyum mitzvos, is to look at and contemplate — every single day — all the goodness which HaShem showers the person with at every moment, and the wonders which He does with him from the moment of birth to his last day on earth. And no doubt that the more he looks into and reflects upon these things, the more he will come to recognize his great debt to HaShem Who bestows so much good upon him. And this reflection, consciousness, and awareness will become the means through which the person deflects tendencies towards laziness, for his attitude will now be: since I cannot possibly ever repay HaShem for all He has done, is doing, and will do, let me at least thank Him and show my appreciation by doing His will. And there is no person, whether poor or wealthy, whether ill or healthy and robust, who would not discern multitudes upon multitudes of goodness lavished upon the person.
Although the Mesilas Yesharim does not even get into these points, we have to consider life itself, then, the remarkable workings of the human body, the ability to see, to discern color, to gauge depth, shapes, etc., and all the rest of the wondrous biological workings of the body.
Says the Mesilas Yesharim further:
The rich man has so many extras in life to thank HaShem for. The indigent person has to thank HaShem more intensely for his survival; so, too, the ill; and so on and so forth. When a person does this, contemplates and reflects upon this, there is no question that he or she will enthusiastically and energetically be totally spirited in his or her avodas HaShem.
Gratitude is the greatest motivator for taking action. You don’t want to go outside; you’d rather stay home and relax. Maybe it’s raining, maybe it’s snowing. But if I have to go to a chanukas habayis of someone who has done for me, and for the tzibbur, so many chassadim, someone who gave me of his time and energy when I needed help, certainly I will let nothing stop me for attending, for I am overjoyed at the opportunity to show my appreciation. Think about this — and then say — can I do any less for HaShem, who has done oh, so much more for me?
Gratitude, we see in the Mesilas Yesharim, is a great motivator, and helps one conquer the negative trait of laziness.
To be continued…
Rav Malinowitz is the Rav of Beis Tefillah Yonah Avraham, located in Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph, at the corner of Nachal Refaim and Nachal Luz. Many of Rav Malinowitz’s shiurim can be heard at www.btya.org. Send your questions to RCZMChadash@gmail.com.