hastening the end

We've all experienced the thrill of planning something new. We've also all experienced waking up the next morning and wondering what happened to all that energy and drive for our new plan. It just vanished overnight, as quickly as it came.

We aren't always 'energized' and when we are, we usually waste it.

The challenge for today and every day hereafter: whenever you have that burst of energy, invest it in something positive immediately. Don't hesitate, certainly don't wait, act on it, in some small sure-fire way.

This is the midah (attribute) of zrizut - haste.

When you suddenly remember something you did that was less than perfect, stop right where you are and confess before HaShem, do immediate Teshuvah. In the past I've written about how this kind of Teshuvah is the highest, because you are in the heat of the moment, you are reliving the sin and embarrassed by it.

When you think that you would like to be more spiritual or work on one aspect of religious observance or another, or honor the memory of a late (grand-) parent, don't put it off and decide you will plan something special. Stop right there, find something to eat/drink and make a berachah. Or give some tzedaka, learn some Torah, all of the above.

When you find yourself well-practiced at this new discipline, you will be thankful to see that you are bringing your desires into action, you will feel more fulfilled. Even more, you will see how this aspect of zrizut pours over into all aspects of your life. You'll turn off the TV when nothing interesting is on, you will catch yourself sitting mindlessly looking at your phone or out the window and utilize this time.

And then the test becomes: don't get irritated at every one else who isn't there yet. But that's a matter for another time.

I'd like to share one short example of how Avraham Avinu (our forefather) exemplified this trait of zrizut.

When God told Avraham to go and sacrifice Yitzhak (Akeidat Yitzhak) his only son, he didn't tell him where to go, but he knew it would take some time to get there, yet the Noam Elimelech points out something weird about Avraham's behavior: He chopped the wood right then and there, even though he would be carrying it for a few days. Reb Elimelech learns from this that when we are burning with the desire to do something, it's important to manifest this desire physically somehow, so that we don't lose the initial desire entirely. Avraham Avinu chopped the wood for the sacrifice right away in order not to lose his precious initial fervor.

It occurred to me that there is a question about the way we relate to the Akeidah, indeed some commentators suggest Avraham (despite what appears to be the literal understanding of the text of the event) did sacrifice Yitzhak. We even see support for it in references to "Yitzhak's ashes." So the question is: "If he wasn't burnt, then where did these ashes come from?"

I have two answers I'd like to share with you, the first is one that I arrived at a long time ago and it still provides an acceptable answer, but the second drives home our current point of zrizut:

(1) In Bereishith we see that man was created through the union of dust and wind/spirit. At the akeidah, the binding of Yitzhak, he divested himself of the dust component and was left in an entirely spiritual state. His dust [ashes] remained on the altar even though he was not sacrificed.

(2) The ashes of Yitzhak are the ashes of the wood that Avraham chopped in the initial moment of holy fervor and devotion in which he was prepared to sacrifice Yitzhak himself. From this we see that the initial spark of holy devotion is tantamount in the eyes of HaShem to the follow through of the act itself. Even though Yitzhak wasn't burnt, the wood that was prepared for the burning of Yitzhak was elevated to a level as holy as Yitzhak himself being offered.

From here we can learn how crucial it is not to lose that initial spark of inspiration, channel it into something concrete and know that you have already completed the greatest part of your goal.

Perhaps this is why our Rabbis teach that all beginnings are difficult. (כל התחלות קשות)

[Those who delve into this teaching will understand the gravity of motzi zera l'vatalah, HaShem Yishmor.]


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