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not free from it
middot diligence mesorah not free from it

not free from it

Written by  rebbetzin malkah

art-workloadRabbi Tarfon would say: The day is short, there is much work [to be done], the workers are lazy, [even though] the wages are great and the Householder is insistent. He would also say: It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to absolve yourself from it. If you have learned much Torah, you will be greatly rewarded, and your employer is trustworthy to pay you the reward of your labors. And know, that the reward of the righteous is in the World to Come.  --Avot 2:15-16

Given this passage, we can see that we really don't have much idle time in which we can allow ourselves to bask.  Nor, as the passage continues, are we allowed to feel overwhelmed by any given task that we are to walk away.  Whether the work is easy or hard, this is of no concern.  What is certain is that the Householder, Hashem, is insistent.

On any particular day, the sundry of tasks and obligations for many of us is sometimes too much.  Some of us wish in vain for more hours in a day to complete the jobs or miscellaneous to-do's that nag at us.  But in all honesty, would we?  Would any extra time benefit us, or would we waste it and possibly create even more work?  In truth, the time that we have is precisely the right amount of time.  We are given six days each week in which we are to toil in various arenas, while the seventh day is one of feasting of the soul.  If we have those six days, and we always do, then it is vital that we have a plan and stick to the plan if we seek to reach our goals and coexist with our families and friends.

But what about when we are confronted with something that seems like an impossible task? Do we shirk away or try to hide, thinking we will be exempt by saying no or being unavailable?  As Rabbi Tarfon states above, we are not free to absolve ourselves from it.  We don't get the option of saying, "No, I would just rather not."  We must address whatever it is and step forward - even if we never, ever see the job to its fruition.  Sometimes the most wonderful businesses, inventions, theories, projects, etc... come from someone taking up the mantle and merely beginning.  Perhaps there was not enough information or resources to complete whatever it was that was begun; however, that didn't stop people from seizing the moment, starting the process, and laying the groundwork. Imagine if those who pondered the idea of flight long ago hadn't put their hand to the task? Or those who persisted in the labs to find cures for so many diseases?  For sure, diligence in starting and working at something allows the possibility for an outcome, whereas inaction leads to nothing at all.

It is not only our duty to be busy and organized, but we also are called to higher living through having the courage to begin or take on something which will require true work.  Diligence, zerizut, is a powerful middah when applied in our lives.  It gives us the ability to reach new heights, take on great challenges, and see things along.  Perhaps we won't finish them, perhaps we may.  But as long as the Householder is insistent, we have work to do.

May you approach what lies before you with renewed diligence and seek to chip away at life's daily tasks with more courage, planning and chuzpah.

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