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

6. "Zerizut" - Its Practical Application

Part six of "Pathways in Character Development" Every mitzvah which presents itself must be carried out immediately. "When a mitzvah presents itself," say the sages, "don't put it off."


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

Av 5761
A lazy person always has plenty of reasons for not exerting himself. He doesn't sense that his so-called reasons are not founded upon objective consideration, and that in reality his laziness influences his opinion and sways his logic. King Solomon expresses this idea in the Book of Proverbs: "A lazy person considers himself wiser than seven sages." A lazy person sees himself as being wiser than everybody else, and is therefore unable to receive criticism. He is certain that he himself is most correct and understands best; others are mistaken and lack comprehension.

Even when, presently, it is clear to an indiviual, that which he must do, and that which is proper to do, still, laziness can overcome him. "Perhaps," he reasons, "it is best, at any rate, to sleep a little bit more in order to gather up strength before I set out. If I sleep I will feel that much more refreshed later on; perhaps I will be able to perform my task more effectively, with greater clarity of mind." All of these explanations, though, are really nothing more than excuses, and if he does goes to sleep, he will no doubt doze off for a long time, will set out late, and in the end won't manage to complete everything he should have. "It is hot today," he says, "much too hot - it's better not to go out," or, "It's too cold, raining, dangerous - better to stay indoors," "I just finished removing my jacket, why should I go through the trouble of putting it on again?" One has to make himself aware of this tendency. One must overcome this negative quality - laziness - and develop instead the quality of zerizut , alacrity in the fulfillment of one's obligations - "Those who posses zerizut," tell us the sages, "race to fulfill the commandments."

The angels were blessed with this praiseworthy quality. Concerning them it says: "Mighty in power, they do His word, to listen to the voice of his word." They do His word even before hearing his word. "And the living creatures (i.e. angels) ran and returned, as streaks of lightning." True, man is no angel, and it is therefore impossible for him to ever attain the sort of strength that an angel possesses, yet certainly he must strive to come as close as possible to reaching this level. When it came to zerizut, King David would take great pride, saying: "I was quick. I did not delay in keeping Your mitzvoth,"
Zerizut, as we have mentioned, can be learned from the angels. It can, though, as a matter of fact, also be learned from the animals. This is evidenced by the words of the sages: "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."

Yet how does one actualize this quality, the quality of zerizut? The answer is that one should make a principle of never putting off a mitzvah. As the sages say, "When a mitzvah presents itself, don't put it off." When it comes time to perform a particular mitzvah or a mitzvah happens to presents itself - if one even considers performing a particular mitzvah, one should hurry and act quickly to carry it out without any delay and not put it off for even a short amount of time. In every hesitation there lies the danger that perhaps some delaying factor will suddenly appear, preventing the performance of the good act. Concerning this the sages have already noted, with regards to the crowning of King Solomon, that when King David told Benayahu the son of Yehoyada to crown Solomon his son under him - to take Solomon down to the Gihon River and anoint him there as king over Israel - Benayahu answered, saying: "Amen, let God say so." The sages asked: "What was this prayer? Had not it already been said that Solomon would be the one to rule?" The sages, though, explained: "Many a prosecutor will appear between here and the Gihon." That is, if an act is not carried out immediately, who knows what sort of disturbances will appear and prevent it's being carried out at all.

The quality of zerizut, then, means that every mitzvah which presents itself must be carried out immediately. "When a mitzvah presents itself, don't put it off."
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