When the well-dressed businessman knocked on the door and asked for Yankel, it was his wife who answered the door.
“May I speak to your husband? I would like to purchase some goods from him,” he explained.
“He went to town to run some errands,” she replied. “Why don’t you sit down and wait for him? I am sure he will be happy to do business as soon as he returns.”
The visitor reluctantly followed her advice, showing his impatience by glancing at his watch every few minutes. Finally, when an hour had passed with no sign of Yankel, the frustrated visitor rose to leave.
“Your husband isn’t the only merchant in the area who sells these goods,” he explained.
When Yankel finally came home, he was distressed to learn that he had lost out on a potential customer.
“Next time,” he instructed his wife, “don’t let someone wait around. Please send someone to call me immediately.”
When a different stranger knocked on the door a few days later asking for Yankel, who was again running some errands in town, his wife didn’t even bother to ask the visitor what he wanted. Instead, she assured him that Yankel would be returning momentarily and then immediately sent her son to call her husband.
“Run as fast as you can, and tell him that someone is waiting for him,” she urged.
Panting heavily, Yankel dutifully arrived home less than ten minutes later — only to discover that the man waiting to see him wasn’t a potential customer. It was someone whom Yankel had been trying to avoid for weeks — one of his creditors, who had come to collect an outstanding loan that Yankel simply didn’t have the money to pay.
The attribute of zerizus — acting with diligence and alacrity, is a vital component of avodas Hashem. All too often, the yetzer tov “visits” a Yid and suggests to him a mitzvah. If he fails to follow the dictum of Chazal “mitzvah habaah l’yadcha al tichmetzena,” “When a mitzvah comes to your hand, do not delay fulfilling it,” and instead procrastinates, the yetzer tov may decide to seek his “purchases” elsewhere. Soon the window to perform this mitzvah will have closed, and this opportunity will be lost forever.
On the other hand, there are other times when it is actually the evil inclination knocking on our door, and even if we lack the wisdom or courage to slam door in his face, the next-best step is to procrastinate as much as possible. With the passage of hours and days, the enthusiasm for doing the wrong thing wanes, and one is able to extricate oneself from this insidious trap. Otherwise, we will be emulating the hapless man in the parable, who rushed to greet the individual whom he sought to avoid at all cost.
This is true in regard to mitzvos bein adam laMakom, as well in interpersonal relationships. So many bitter disputes would have been avoided if an offended party would have waited until emotions cooled down before responding.
This week, the Torah teaches us that the Kohen should throw the blood of a korban on the mizbeiach, and the fats of the korban should be burned on the mizbeiach.
Why davkah these two parts of the animal?
Blood represents warmth, energy and zerizus. Fats represent coldness, laziness and atzlus. When a korban is brought to seek forgiveness for one’s sins, one seeks to address the fact that these two attributes were inappropriately used in the past. When it came to performing a mitzvah, we procrastinated, and when it came to sinning, we rushed into things. (Based on a teaching of the Ben Ish Chai)
By offering the blood and the fats, we seek to commit ourselves to rectify this in the future: To dedicate these contrasting middos to avodas Hashem, and to know when to use zerizus and when to use atzlus.
The key is to be able to differentiate between the two visitors, and to be able to tell when one should act with alacrity and when procrastination is in order.
It is often a very challenging endeavor to dig deep enough to discover the truth, and to recognize when the knock on our hearts and the urging of our emotions is coming from the good inclination and when it is from the evil inclination. There are times when we are too biased even to know the difference, and must seek the advice of a trusted friend or a spiritual mentor.
One thing is certain, by properly applying these attributes we will enrich our lives enormously.