The Price of Laziness
A lazy person, whatever the talents with which he set out, will have condemned himself to second-hand thoughts and to second-rate friends. -Cyril Connolly
Moses calls upon the nation of Israel to donate material for the construction of the Tabernacle in the desert, the structure that will house the Tablets of the Law which they received on Mount Sinai. This portable Temple would accompany the Jewish people throughout their desert journey until they entered the land of Israel. Within Israel, the Tabernacle would have a semi-permanent structure and location, until the building of the First Temple in Jerusalem by King Solomon, hundreds of years later.
What is particularly impressive about Moses’ call for donations was the speed with which the Jewish nation responded. The donations came so quickly and so plentifully, that the artisans actually had to tell Moses to announce to the people to stop bringing anything more. They had more than they needed.
Rabbeinu Bechaye on Exodus 25 (Trumah) learns a lesson as to the vital importance of such alacrity and the converse hazards of laziness. Laziness is a negative trait, but it is particularly damaging when it comes to bear on the performance of commandments.
Rabbeinu Bechaye gives a number of examples, the first being prayer. It is not hard to pray. What is challenging during prayer is to remain focused on the words you’re saying, on connecting and actually communicating with God, and not letting your mind wander to ruminations about work, money, possessions and other mundane thoughts. Not only is such prayer not effective – it is an affront to God, and may provoke His ire more than His pleasure. (This doesn’t mean you’re better off not praying – it means focus!).
Laziness can affect all aspects of our lives, primary our work lives. Rabbeinu Bechaye expands, based on King Solomon’s phrase that “as smoke is to the eyes, so too is the lazy person to his senders.” When you want to warm yourself by lighting a fire, if the fire produces a lot of smoke which then goes into your eyes, you may not remain so pleased with the fire. Likewise, a lazy person who is assigned a task or an errand will somehow manage to spoil the undertaking by their lack of energy, drive or motivation.
Quoting the Sages of the Talmud, “If someone said: “I didn’t try and I accomplished, don’t believe them. I tried but I didn’t accomplish, don’t believe them. I tried and I accomplished, believe them.” For that reason, King Solomon in Proverbs constantly attacks laziness and asks us to look at the industrious ants as positive models who work hard in the summer to provide for themselves in the winter. For those who stir themselves and are quick to work hard, especially in Torah, in the commandments and in character development, they will see gains, they will see accomplishment, they will elevate themselves from level to level, and will always make progress in their lives. The lazy ones will always fall back.
May we get our acts together, get out of bed, and conquer ourselves and our world.