Ki Seitzei: Learning to be Lazy
Some folks have an uncanny way of distorting what they learn to make it fit their comfort zone, like the couch potato who learned The Garden of Emuna...
by Rabbi Lazer Brody
Some folks have an uncanny way of distorting what they learn to make it fit their comfort zone. Here's an example:
An overweight young man just finished reading The Garden of Emuna, and he's delighted with what he learned. He took his yellow highlighter and highlighted every place where Rav Shalom Arush mentions the Rambam's first principle of emuna that Hashem alone, "does, did and will do every deed." The young man also highlighted every place that Rav Shalom writes "everything is from Hashem." He especially loved the part when Rav Shalom cited the Gemara passage that says, "A person cannot possibly overcome the evil inclination on his own; he must have Hashem's help," highlighting that as well. As you see, his book was bright with yellow.
The lad's mom had bought him The Garden of Emuna because she hoped it would give him some spiritual drive. She promised him a new Ipad Pro on sale for only $499.95 if he would read the book, and for that bribe, he agreed!
"Nu, Norman," mom said, "Do you think that you'll maybe watch a little less TV and start learning some Torah now that you've read The Garden of Emuna?"
"Mom," Norman smiled, as he reclined in the orthopedic massage chair, flicked on the TV with the remote control and poured himself another glass of cola, "if Hashem wants me to be a Torah scholar, I'll be one! The Rambam says that everything is in His hands."
Frustrated, mom had no idea how to refute her son. "Well, can you at least get out of bed in the morning and put your tefillin on? I'm not even asking you to pray at the synagogue with a minyan – that's a whole three-minute walk each way."
"Mom," Norman said lovingly, as the Yankees were coming out on the field (on the screen) to play the White Sox, "That's up to Hashem too. He's the greatest, isn't he? I loved The Garden of Emuna, and thank you, mom, I adore my new Ipad Pro."
"Norman," mom blurted as her exasperation level was rising as fast as inflation in Venezuela, "why don't you at least go outside and get some exercise. It's a gorgeous summer day and a twenty-year old young man should be out moving his body."
"Mom," Norman said in complete confidence, "if Hashem so desires, I can be playing center field for the Yankees tomorrow morning, and knocking balls out of the ballpark with my 21" biceps."
Frustrated with her son, mom slammed the door to the den and returned to the kitchen. Norman reclined, a big smile on his face, then crunched down on a mouthful of Doritos and poured another glass of Coke. "Ahh", he thought –"this is living. On top of it all, just imagine the paradise that awaits me in the World to Come for my lofty level of emuna..."
Sorry, Norman. Both your body and your soul are in big trouble. You got everything wrong...
The Torah says, "It shall be that you go to war against your enemy..." (Deuteronomy 21:10). The Torah is not saying "if" you go to war; it says that you shall go to war – it's a done deal!
Norman now argues with me: "I'm not in the army! What the heck kind of war are you talking about?"
It's not a military war, with cannons and rifles. The type of war that each of us must fight, our sages tell us, is the war against the evil inclination.
Don't forget – the Torah first says, "It shall be that you go to war against your enemy...". Only afterwards, does it say, "...and Hashem shall deliver him [the enemy] into your hands" (ibid). You are right about what you learned in The Garden of Emuna, Norman. The Gemara in Kiddushin 30b does say that a person cannot possibly overcome the evil inclination on his own; he must have Hashem's help. But, he won't get Hashem's help if he doesn't first go to war with the evil inclination. That's what the above passage is telling us: first, go to war and do everything to win. Once you do, Hashem will deliver the enemy into your hands.
The worst enemy in the evil inclination's arsenal is laziness. The above law applies to everything: first, we must simultaneously pray for Hashem's assistance and do our best effort. Then, once we've made our best dedicated effort, hishtadlut, Hashem's Divine assistance kicks in, whether our endeavor is spiritual or material.
Sorry, Norman, but it's time to get to work.
Rabbi Lazer Brody was born in Washington, D.C. in 1949. After receiving his bachelor's degree in agriculture from the University of Maryland in 1970, he moved to Israel and joined the Israel Defense Forces regular army, and served in one of the elite special-forces units. He is a decorated combat veteran of two wars and numerous of counter-insurgence and anti-terrorist missions on both sides of Israel's borders.
Rabbi Brody is the English-language editor of Breslev Israel's highly popular English-language website at www.breslev.co.il, and the founder and director of Emuna Outreach. Between Breslov Israel and Emuna Outreach, he devotes his time to spreading emuna and particularly the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev around the globe.
"Lazer Beams," Rabbi Brody's award-winning daily web journal, has been instrumental in helping tens of thousands of people around the globe find joy and fulfillment in their lives.