Initiative

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By Rabbi Naftoly Bier, Rosh Kollel

In פרשת ויהקל, Exodus 35, 21 it states: “And every man whose heart inspired him came, and everyone who’s spirit motivated him brought the option of Hashem for the work of the אהל מועד, the Tabernacle for all it’s labor and  for the sacred vestments.”

The רמב”ן, Nachmanides, explains that this refers to those who came to do the work of sewing, weaving, building, etc. Due to the conditions in Egypt, there were no artisans, for the Egyptians did not trains them, or even moreso, prohibited the from developing their finer skills. Despite this, there were those who had an innate, gifted, natural ability and we’re confident that if they only dedicate themselves to make an effort, Hashem will actualize their earnestness.

To truly understand the lesson of grave importance that is being conveyed to us, HaRav Yerucham Levovitz זצ”ל directs us to the following Medrash.

“This is what Scripture says, “Lazy people, go to the ant; study its ways and learn. Without leaders, officers, or rulers, it lays up its stores during the summer, gathers in its food at the harvest.”(Proverbs 6:6-6:8) What did Solomon see to learn from the ant regarding the lazy person? Our rabbis say that the ant has three floors, and it does not congregate in the top (floor) because of rain, nor does in the bottom because of mud, but rather in the middle. And it only lives for six months. And it goes and gathers in the summer all that it finds, grain, barley and lentils. Rabbi Tanchuma said: All of its life is a grain and a half and (yet) it gathers these? Why does it do this? Because it says: Perhaps the Holy One Blessed Be He will decree life and it will be prepared for me to eat. What they gather from the summer is for the winter, therefore Solomon said: “Lazy people, go to the ant; study its ways and learn.” So to you shall fix for yourselves mitzvot from this world for the world to come.”

This is in itself a profound lesson.

The Medrash continues:

“And what is “study its ways and learn”? Our rabbis say study its manners, because it flees from theft. Rabbi Shimon ben Halafta said: It once happened that a single ant dropped a grain. And all of them (the ants) were coming by and smelling it, and yet not one of them took it. The one who it belonged to came and took it. See the wisdom that there is in it.”

The first lesson is that the primary path to success at the highest level possible is to with enthusiasm, diligence and aspiration initiate a plan to schedule a goal with unadulterated focus, determination and dedication.

This initiative is the true sense of זריזות, alacrity. If an ant instinctively embarks to relentlessly provide for itself, in case Hashem will bless it with a longer life span, we humans who intellectually should understand that all is in His power, should surely  should unequivocally embark on a journey of dedication to Hashem’s desires.

How was it possible that כלל ישראל would accept upon themselves to abide by all the Torah? For when one assumes an initiative with full, supreme dedication, one understands intuitively that Hashem will partner and facilitate it’s happening.

In the מדבר, those who discerned that they were gifted with a natural ability to be craftsmen, though never having developed the skill through constant practice, due to their initiative to dedicate themselves to the “Mishkan Building Project”, were blessed by Hashem that their innate potential would be immediately realized.

One can ask ‘Is there a connection between this critical idea and the second idea of honesty that we can study from an ant?

The Medrash teaches us that if for example hundreds of ants congregated in one place that some food has fallen, when the first ant reaches it, all the other ants will not touch it! They all have a different scent and when one touched it and it’s ‘smell’ is absorbed by the food, the ants all scurry away. Though it’s possible that the ‘first’ ant left it there, no ant will venture to get near the food once its been touched due to an instinctive rule not to in any manner touch something that might belong to another. A human being in such a circumstance can rationalize that either the ant left it there, maybe it’s too heavy for the ant, and I have the right to acquire something that hasn’t been truly claimed yet by another.

The connection could be explained as follows. It’s natural for a person to excuse themselves, to strive for seemingly difficult objectives due to the dedication and initiative it demands. If one truly understands the potential one has been gifted by the Almighty, if one fully comprehends that Hashem is the facilitator of all success, then one will embark on a journey of steadfast action. The true basis for this is one’s selfless dedication to Hashem, which is an outgrowth of their relentless pursuit of truth. It’s not one whose actions are due to looking for attention, acclaim and success. But rather to feel the obligation to actualize the potential Hashem gives one.

The idea is understood in מגילת אסתר. When Queen Esther was hesitant to plead with Kind Ahasuerus to save the Jewish People from the decree of annihilation, Mordechai said, “For if you persist in keeping silent at a time like this, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from some other place… And who knows whether it was just for such a time that you attained your royal position.” (Esther 4, 14)

When one is at a juncture of life where they are presented with an opportunity, one must without question or hesitation, act! Take the initiative that Hashem presents and one will be successful!

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