Get Off Your Butt
This week’s Torah portion is a continuation of the epic speech Moshe gives to the Israelites before they enter into the Land of Israel without him. It starts off by Moshe informing his people that he is placing, in clear sight, the choice before them between blessings and curses. Hence the name and first word of the parsha is ראה – See. See, look, pay attention, there is nothing mysterious about this; it is in plain sight: If we follow God’s ways and His Torah and Mitzvot, blessings will happen. If not, then… not so good.
Yes there is much to discuss on this topic since we don’t always see such a simple formula the way Moshe presents it, especially regarding the notion of “Why bad things happen to good people”. But one thing is certain, the blessings and curses that Moshe is talking about and that will happen are not an instantaneous occurrence. There isn’t bolt of lightning every time one transgresses one of God’s commands nor is there a windfall of cash every time one fulfills a mitzvah. Life does not work that way, not when it comes to Mitzvot performance nor for anything else for that matter.
A person does not contract lung cancer from smoking one cigarette. But over time, day in and day out, if he or she started with just one or two when they were sixteen, kept up the pattern, increased the frequency and did it for years, then yes there is the greater chance at getting cancer. Similarly one does not attain amazing physical shape after going out for a mile jog one afternoon. If you want to stay in shape, feel good and have a better chance at a long life, then exercise is something that needs to be done starting as early as possible, improved upon, kept up and a lifelong pursuit.
The blessings from exercise do not happen overnight. Nor the blessings of a good business, mentschy kids or anything else meaningful in life. They are cumulative over many days, weeks, months, years and even decades. And not just for the one individual but rippling out to others; family members, communities, cities, and even a whole nation. This is the system of Blessings and Curses that Moshe is describing.
In the introduction to his commentary of this week’s parsha, Rabbeynu Bachya – Bahya ben Asher ibn Halawa (1255-1340) Spanish commentator – offers his view of the one thing that will get in the way of these many blessings that God has in store for us. Laziness. Yup, being lazy, lack of movement, sluggish, stuck, inertia – this is what prevents people from getting more blessings and good in their lives. He breaks it down into four different categories:
1. Lazy regarding your house. Yeah, it’s interesting he starts with this one. You know the thing that needs to be fixed in your house but never gets done? And then it gets worse and costs you way more money? It starts as just a small leak in the roof, you don’t take care of it and now a big rain comes and ruins more stuff. It is an important lesson in life: Nip the problem in the bud while it is little before it becomes a big problem. You can avoid plenty of curses if you don’t let the bad stuff that starts off small, get out of hand and end up big.
2. Lazy regarding your body. Here he talks about not doing what you have to do to earn a living resulting in a person not having sufficient food. This is hardly an issue in our day and age in Western nations and, if anything, our curse is with the exact opposite – that there is too much food. Too much junk food, too much choice, overstuffed portions – you know the drill. So we would have to reinterpret this category to the aforementioned exercise, moving away from our stultifying screens and getting off our butts to do some exercise. “Lazy regarding our bodies” today usually means not taking care of ourselves properly.
3. A lazy spirit. A lazy spirit… what would that be? Your character traits and not doing enough to fix your bad habits. We are all born with natural talents and ablilites, and we are all born with certain weaknesses. Some good traits come to us naturally while other negative ones are a lifelong battle. We can’t stop working and improving on the good stuff we were born with, and battling the negative stuff we were also born with.
4. Lazy regarding Torah, Mitzvot and Good Deeds. These are the things that define the Jewish people, our identity and our role in the world as an אור לגויים – A Light Unto Nations. We cannot be complacent when it comes to constantly striving to understand God’s wisdom in his Torah, coming closer to Him and helping others via His Mitzvot, and bettering ourselves and our world with Good Deeds.
Rabbeynu Bachya ends off by reminding us that the crucial character trait to combat all of this is what we call in Hebrew, Zerizut – being quick, alacrity, eagerness and enthusiasm for Life. Being alive and not just going along for the ride. Being active and not just passively getting swept up by the meaningless fashions of the times that are here today and gone tomorrow. Zerizut means grabbing life by the horns, living awesomely and not settling for mediocrity.
And when all is said and done, the bottom line is that it is completely in our hands to choose. As Moshe starts off by saying in this week’s parsha – “See, I am placing before you today Blessings and Curses.” It is being placed in front of us for us to choose. Today – it applies just as much today as it did thousands of years ago. See – it is right in front of you and you will see the consequences with your own eyes.
So put some Zerizut in your life, and watch all the blessings flow your way.
You say I know it’s a waste of time
There’s no use trying
So scared that life’s gonna pass you by
Your spirit dying…
Get on your feet
Get up and make it happen
Get on your feet
Stand up and take some action