Beit Midrash

  • Jewish Laws and Thoughts
  • Pathways in Personality Development
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

R. Avraham Ben David

5. Overcoming Weaknesses

Part five of "Pathways in Character Development" Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion, to do the will of your Father in heaven.


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

Av 5761
Every one of us desires to maintain control over himself and his character traits, to possess the strength to overcome his weaknesses so as not to be drawn to things he's not interested in. And just as one needs the strength to resist all sorts of negative tendencies, so too one needs the strength to overcome those weaknesses which prevent him from doing what he must do - what is right to do.

The sages said: "Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion, to do the will of your Father in heaven."
Most of us are eager to do good deeds, yet this calls for effort, and many are lazy about getting up early in the morning. To wake up and to get out of bed is not easy, and although it's very important to get up quickly so that there be enough time to complete everything that needs to be done; even though each added moment of tardiness adds pressure, for it leaves one unable to complete everything he must; in spite of the fact that one understands and recognizes the importance of hurrying to get up - it is difficult. Laziness weighs one down. Concerning this the sages said: "Be strong as a lion to do the will of your Father in heaven." One must develop faculties of strength like those of a lion - the king of the jungle: the sort of strength which enables one to overcome all laziness, to overcome the sluggishness which prevents one from doing what he wants to do - what he thinks is right and important to do. Faculties of this sort, one must develop on his own.
And just how does one go about forming faculties of strength like these? By performing exercises which build up one's strength, and by a making a firm descision to succeed.

It happens from time to time that an individual sits at lunch brake, and though the clock indicates that it's time to return to work, the employees continue talking away as if nothing had happened. It's not easy to stand out, separating oneself from the crowd - despite the fact that it’s the right thing to do. Concerning this the sages said: "Be bold as a do the will of your Father in heaven." Develop courage, the trait of boldness in its acceptable form. If animals, who lack intellect, are endowed with faculties of this sort, certainly man, the possessor of first rate human faculties and ideals, has a responsibility to develop such qualities. Therefore, be bold as a leopard; be courageous enough to do the right thing, despite the discomfort involved, despite the ridicule it brings.
Concerning laziness, sluggishness and lethargy, the sages said: "Be light as an eagle and swift as a deer." Push away the sluggishness and the laziness - be swift and zealous.

So - two types of faculties need to be established: firstly, the ability to restrain oneself, to overcome difficulties, and to refuse to be drawn after one's desires. Secondly - just the opposite - the ability to overcome laziness, and the capacity to act quickly and energetically in carrying out one's obligations.
The attribute of laziness is no less detestable than that of lust. True, a lazy person does not actively carry out evil, yet he brings evil upon himself through his passivity. King Solomon, in the book of Proverbs, attests to this: "Also one who slackens in his work is a brother to the destroyer." For, though he is not the destroyer himself, doing evil with his own hands, don't think that he is far from him - he is, in fact, his blood-brother. Even one who slackens in his work is brother to the destroyer. For, when a person slackens in his work, one weakness leads to another. He doesn't exert himself, and so naturally he lingers behind the others, whether in studies or work. This causes despair, which results in his exerting himself even less, and so he continues to descend. A person who doesn't learn well doesn't know what to do, this leads to mistakes which bring about failure. Therefore, one must push away weaknesses and overcome his laziness: "Be light as an eagle and swift as a deer to do the will of your Father in heaven."
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