Enjoyment or Achievement?
By the Grace of G-d
11th of Nissan, 5732
To the Sons and Daughters of
Our People Israel, Everywhere
G-d bless you all
Greeting and Blessing:
In these days on the eve of Pesach, the festival that marks the "birth" and initiation of our Jewish people, one's mind turns to reflect on the question: What and how should be this nation's way of life in order that it realize, in the surest and best possible manner, the purpose and goal of its existence?
This is a broad and multi-faceted subject, and only one aspect of it will be dwelt upon here: Should this nation strive toward a state of life in which it can enjoy the maximum pleasure with the minimum effort; or - should it prefer a life of toil and maximum achievement, a life of much action and much accomplishment?
The question is just as pertinent to the individual and his personal life as an individual.
Needless to say, this is not an abstract question, for in resolving this question one way or the other, the foundation is laid for the individual's concept of the pattern of his life. and how he will respond to what is happening to him and around him, even in matters not directly relating to him, and certainly in matters which directly affect his life.
At first glance, and on the basis of our faith and our Torah, called Toras Chaim and Toras Emes ("Law of Life" and "Law of Truth"), by which we are committed to the principle that the Creator and Master of the world, - including the "small world," namely, man - is the Essence of Goodness, and that "it is the nature of the Good to do good," it would appear reasonable to suppose that the highest perfection is to be found in a state where the maximum pleasure - true pleasure - is obtainable without difficulties and without travail; for in such a state "the nature of the Good to do good" would be perceived in fullest measure.
Yet, the Torah, which is Torah-Or (showing things in their true essence), declares, "Man is unto travail born." Even the first man (Adam), and before his downfall, was placed in the Garden of Eden with the assigned task "to till it and guard it," and only after that did G-d tell him "of all the trees of the Garden you may eat."
The explanation of the matter, which also resolves the apparent contradiction indicated above, is also given in the Torah:
Precisely because G-d desires that man should enjoy the good in its perfection, and human nature is such that a person derives true pleasure only if he is a partner in its attainment, through his own exertion and travail; whereas, on the contrary, if he receives it entirely gratis it is degrading to him, as though he was receiving charity ("bread of shame") - precisely because of this, the good in its perfection in enjoyed only when a person earns it through hard work, and the harder the effort, the sweeter tastes the fruit of achievement.
This is how it was at the birth of our Jewish nation. The plan of Yetzias Mitzraim (liberation from Egypt) was revealed in G-d's words to Moshe Rabbeinu: "When you will take out the people from Egypt, you (all) will serve G-d at this mountain (Sinai)."
To be sure, Yetzias Mitzraim itself was an act of Heavenly grace, and in a manner of wonderful and obvious miracles. However, it was conditioned from the start on serving G-d (as a hard-working servant). This was the contribution of the nation, its participation in its newly won liberty from Egyptian bondage.
And as it is with the Jewish nation as a whole, so it is with the individual. A person's striving should be to act and to achieve results; and not merely to act, but to do so with exertion, in terms of "travail" as defined by Toras Emes. Only in this way does a man rise from the state of "Man (adam) being dust (adamah)" to the state of "Man (adam) emulating G-d (adameh l'Elyon).