The Keys to Life

There are no Shortcuts – Rabbi Yitzchak Fanger

A Useful Short-cut

Kid: “Mummy, I want a bike!”

Mum: “We're not buying a bike now! Show some seriousness about your studies like we said and then we'll think about it.”

Kid: “But you bought one for Moshe…I also want one!”

Mum: What do I care about Moshe?! If Moshe will jump off a roof, will you jump as well?!”

Kid: “No, if Moshe will jump off a roof – I will take his bike.”


There are no shortcuts in life!

Ok, the truth is that there are sometimes shortcuts, but one can't rely on them.

A person has to do what he has to do. Sometimes G-d decides to ease his ordeal, but that is usually after a person has done the maximum on his part, without shirking or slackening.


The Ant, The Grasshopper and the Farmer

Who doesn't know the story of the industrious ant?

All the months of spring and summer, the ant worked diligently and gathered food for the freezing cold winter months. Even in autumn it exerted efforts and gathered the last of the seeds. When the cold winter winds blew and thick snow covered the ground (this was probably not in Israel, maybe in Europe…) – the ant sat in its warm house, surrounded by bountiful food resources.

The grasshopper however enjoyed hopping around and wasting time more than doing hard work. Every day it knew that there was still time… tomorrow or the next day, or in another month or two it would be possible to prepare a stock of food for the winter. The winter however came “suddenly” and the indolent grasshopper could continue to jump around and even sing and dance, but it had no inclination to dance and sing. The poor lazy creature had no food to eat and somehow didn't have any way of protecting himself from the cold.

And what will happen to the farmer, who neglects to sow and to plant in the spring and passes the summer in total idleness? At the last minute he will try and fix the damage and hope to somehow harvest some fruits, but it is much more likely that he will discover that it was all too little and too late.

He who sows will reap, but only on condition that he goes through all the stages of the process properly, at the right time and at the write speed.

People like to dream of getting rich quickly without any effort. A person may wish to invest as little as possible time and effort and to achieve the most effective results with ease, but generally this does not happen. There aren't many magical short cuts in life.

Climbing The Ladder- Step by Step

In the book Mesilat Yesharim, written by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato (one of the great Kabbalists of the 18th century, died 1747) , he quotes a Beraita ( an external section of the Mishna) of Rabbi Pinchas Ben Yair, who was Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai's father-in-law.

The Beraita teaches and instructs a person about the way to achieve spiritual growth. It says:

“Torah leads to  watchfulness; Watchfulness leads to alacrity; Alacrity leads to cleanliness; Cleanliness leads to abstention; Abstention leads to purity; Purity leads to piety; Piety leads to humility; Humility leads to fear of sin; Fear of sin leads to holiness; Holiness leads to prophecy; Prophecy leads to the resurrection of the dead”.

There are no shortcuts in service of G-d. A person must put in effort and dedication in order to climb the ladder step by step.

Over the course of a person's life, there are progressive stages of growth and development. A baby learns to turn over and then to sit and to crawl, after which it learns to stand, walk and run. Every stage is important and requires a certain period of time. One cannot jump over any stage. The same is true for all passages in life, in any sphere of development and in any type of study.

Many of us search mistakenly for shortcuts. We live in a world of the instant- a wide range of sophisticated appliances do our work for us fast and sometimes even instantly. We use a microwave, washing machine, dryer, dishwasher… and we can obtain immediately without any delay an assortment of information on any topic of interest.

Because of this our ability to be patient and to defer immediate gratification has become rusty and even defunct. We would be happy, seemingly, if even the most basic personal activities could be done for us by others.

We Just Can't Be Bothered

A mother asked her daughter: “What are you doing?” The daughter answered: “Nothing.” The mother got annoyed and chastised her: “That's exactly what you did yesterday!” The daughter answered: “Yes, I haven't finished yet!”

Lack of patience can manifest itself when we are trying to build ourselves and improve our personalities. We tend to turn to all kinds of easy crash courses which can help us to achieve our goals rapidly.

A workshop for positive thinking may be a good thing in itself. The power of thought processes is without doubt huge and immutable. However what would happen if we tried to shorten the natural process of our growth and development?

In order to clarify this question, we will focus on a specific point: Imagine that you are an average tennis player. This is not bad, but what if one day you decide to play at the level of the California State team (If there is such a team). Would it be enough to think positively in order to attain that goal?

The answer is obvious – it is of course important to maintain positive thinking, but you must additionally practice and spend a lot of hours and effort in improving and achieving progress.

This is true of any topic or area in life. If a person is at level two of ten levels on a scale and he wants to advance to level five, he must first advance to level three. It is impossible to jump effortlessly and bypass important stages.

There is nothing to do about it , one needs patience… but there is really what can be done- one can take the first step forward, since any thousand kilometer journey begins with the first step.

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