This technique can help with marital harmony, but it doesn’t necessarily produce enthusiasm or zerizut, our middah for the week. As I noted in an earlier Riverton Mussar article on enthusiasm, “It’s one thing to get the job done, but quite another to get it done with enthusiasm.”
This lack of enthusiasm doesn’t impair only married men, of course, but also unmarried men, and teenagers as well, even female teenagers, who’ve developed their own unique form of grumpy resistance to unexpected interruptions. It’s remarkable, then, that one of the best and earliest examples of zerizut in Scripture comes from a teenage girl who’s interrupted by a surprise request.
I’m talking about Rivkah, when she is discovered by Abraham’s servant as he seeks a wife for Isaac. He requests a little water and she “quickly” responds and then offers to water his whole line of camels too. “Then she quickly emptied her pitcher into the trough, ran back to the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels” (Gen. 24:20). The Hebrew words for “quickly” and “ran” pop up a few times in this story, and remind an observant reader of Genesis 18, when the patriarch Abraham runs to meet the three strangers and then runs around to quickly prepare them a meal. Rivkah’s enthusiasm—like that of her father-in-law to-be—isn’t just impulsive, but deep, as we learn when she commits herself to follow Abraham’s servant into a whole new life.
So how do you get from curmudgeonly compliance to zerizut? You gotta run!
Zerizut comes from jumping up to do the good that’s at hand, quickly and cheerfully, even when you’re tempted to kvetch, delay, and make the other person squirm a bit before meeting the request. Zerizut is an internal trait, but as so often, we can get at it through outward modifications of behavior. A key word in Rebekah’s story is “quickly,” and another is “run.” So run, don’t walk, to do the right thing, even if you don’t feel enthusiastic, and enthusiasm will begin to bloom.
Yedid nefesh, the great piyyut, or song of devotion, applies the same verb for running to the zerizut that fires our worship, providing a clue to cultivating this middah in everyday life as well.
Yedid nefesh av ha-rachaman meshoch avdecha el retzonecha yarutz avdecha kemo ayal Yishtachaveh el mul hadar'cha.
Beloved of the soul, merciful Father, draw your servant to your will. Then your servant will run like a deer to worship before your splendor.