Most people have, at one time or another, dreamed of winning the lottery, quitting their jobs and sitting lazily in front of a pool all day. It’s a fantasy that for most people, if they ever really won the lottery, wouldn’t last long before they grew bored. Yet, we’ve all met one or two people who really do appear to be living the “lazy life.”
Not surprisingly, this is not a lifestyle that Judaism encourages. In fact, in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), Rabbi Dosa ben Hyrcanus specifically addresses the lazy life: “Sleeping away the morning, drinking at noonday, childish playing and sitting in the meeting houses of the unlearned, remove a person from this world” (Pirkei Avot 3:14). What does it mean that such actions “remove a person from this world”? Obviously, there are many elements of wisdom that one might derive from Rabbi Dosa’s statement. It might be simply stating that a person who sleeps all morning and who spends his days at the meeting house not engaged in the real world, cannot possibly understand the life that the vast majority of the people live.
Judaism is a religion of action. The Torah even has a verb that means to get up early in the morning, l’hash’kim. The sages also note, in Pirkei Avot 1:2, “On three things the world is sustained: on the Torah, on the service [prayer], and on deeds of loving kindness.” These are not passive acts. All these acts require people to push themselves – and that is a central objective in Jewish life. Judaism places great value on personal growth, and Pirkei Avot provides excellent guidelines on how to continue growing and actively participating in Jewish life.
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