Character Development

All Is According To the Amount Of Action

One of Guiness's records describes a person who ate a bicycle.

How could anyone eat a bicycle? He just cut up the bicycle into tiny pieces, melted them and ate them one after the other. Very simple indeed…

In order to achieve one's goal, one needs to dissect one's game-plan into little pieces and then begin.

We tend to highlight the goal we intend to reach (whether it is a goal of spiritual growth and improvement of character or a desire to lose weight etc.).

The final goal is indeed the desired outcome but it appears to us distant and unattainable.

As is well known, “the longest hike begins with one step”. One step is seemingly a very simple and small action, but in many cases one needs a strong “propulsion” to make that first step.

For this reason, after one has established one's goal, the next stage is to “act!”. It's preferable to fix a definitive plan for the next week or – failing that –for the next three days.

It's also important to divide up one's goal into small attainable parts. For example, “I take upon myself to devote five minutes a day, over the next three days, to reading a certain book which can help me in progressing to my goal” or alternatively: “I take upon myself to decrease my intake of sweet beverages at least once a day.”

While progressing towards the goal, one must identify and define the stages needed to enable one to achieve that goal. However it is not enough just to define them, or to stay at the planning and discussing stage, one must start climbing! Start to act!

In the Mishna in Avot (3:15) it is written: “All  is according to the amount of action.”

The Rambam comments on this: “All is according to the amount of action”- means that a person will not attain elevated status according to the greatness of their actions but according to the amount of actions they perform. Elevated status will be achieved by performing those actions many times which will give a person mastery of those good actions, which he would not attain if he just did one big good action.”

When a person does small actions time and again, this had a greater influence on his character than doing one significant good deed.

It is possible to see an example of this in a halacha dealing with the laws of charity:

If a person had 100 shekels which he wants to give to charity, should he give the entire 100 in one go, or should he give ten times 10 shekels?

The Rambam adjudicates that it is preferable to give ten times 10 shekels. Giving 100 shekels (or any other sum depending on one's financial capability) is a big and significant act, which may require overcoming one's evil inclination. Despite this, it is preferable to give a large number of small contributions, since the repeated donations even of small sums of money create a substantial and fundamental change in the character of the donor.

Thus, a person achieves elevated status according to the amount of good deeds he does rather than according to the size of each good deed.

(Rambam- Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon (d.1204- 4965). One of the greatest halachic codifiers of all generations, a doctor and great Torah scholar about whom it was said “From Moshe (Rabbeinu) to Moshe( ben Maimon)- nobody comparable to Moshe lived”.)

If this is the case, when a person wishes to change, it is not worth his searching for great and grandiose deeds which will make headlines. Rather, the way to transform is by performing small acts numerous times until the desired transformation has been achieved.

In the letters of the Chazon Ish (1:123) it is written: “You lack the feeling of empathy with another person's troubles, and the proper advice for this is to endeavor to improve his lot and save him from that trouble, and the action will have an effect on your heart. You should also pray about another person's troubles even though that prayer did not genuinely emanate from your heart”.

Maybe there is somebody in your family who you don't get on with…what should you do?

The Chazon Ish gives advice and instructions: Act upon this! To be more precise, perform many actions!

It is quite difficult to influence one's feelings directly. Actions are more in our control. For this reason, in order to improve our feelings towards a certain person, the best advice is to endeavor to perform actions which will be good for that person. The good deeds will influence one's heart to eliminate the negative feelings and replace them with positive ones.

(The Chazon Ish- Rabbi Avraham Yishayahu Karelitz O.B.M, died 1953-5754 in Benei Beraq. One of the greatest men in his generation and one of the most prominent halachic authorities of the 20th century, who fashioned the Chareidi community's approach to life in Israel).


·         Don't leave your desire as just a mere “desire”.

·         Convert that desire into action and actualize it!

·         Even if you do not see immediate practical results, and even if you get no positive feedback for your efforts- don't give up!  

Acting Without Fear

A story of two seeds

Two seeds lay next to one another in the fertile soil.

The warm spring sun caressed them and the blue skies smiled at them.

Said the first seed: “I want to grow! I want to send my roots deep into the ground. I want to open the way for my shoots to sprout out of the ground. I want to grow fresh leaves and buds, to announce the advent of spring…I want to feel the warmth of the sun on my face, the blessing of morning dew on my petals!”- and it grew and grew.

The second seed said: “I'm scared. If I send my roots deep into the ground, I don't know what they'll meet there in the dark. If I make my way to the light and air, maybe my small shoots will be hurt by the bright light. If I open my leaves, maybe a caterpillar will come and eat them. If I will produce flowers, maybe a child will pick them. No, it's worth waiting until I feel secure.” And it waited.

A hen pottering around the courtyard stuck it's head in the ground and found the seed which had been waiting and ate it.

The moral of the story: Those of us who refuse to take risks and grow may be swallowed up by life…


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