Minute #481: Busy, Busy

If you were to ask someone who doesn’t attend shiurim (Torah study classes) on a regular basis how come he doesn’t participate, he would probably answer that he is too busy at the time the classes are held. A woman who declines to join in a chessed project may excuse herself by delineating her overbooked calendar.

People who cannot participate in spiritual pursuits because of conflict with other activities are said to be “in the hands of the yetzer hara — Evil Inclination.” This assessment is based on the allegorical view of the wicked king of Egypt, Pharaoh. When Moshe Rabbeinu pleaded on behalf of our enslaved ancestors, Pharaoh said, “They are lazy” (Shemot 5:8) and he decreed an increase in the work load. His solution for keeping their minds off spiritual pursuits was to keep them busy. Our mussar sefarim say that we can learn about the hidden enemy called the yetzer hara by studying the techniques employed by Pharaoh. “Too busy,” therefore, is attributed to his success in preventing the Jew from being available for lofty pursuits and activities.

In today’s world we see immorality and dishonesty spreading throughout society. Things that were unmentionable or even illegal not so long ago have become accepted as alternate lifestyles that deserve tolerance. Leisure time has created a generation that does not pursue true wisdom but rather increasingly more trivial pursuits — fun and games that distract from valuable intellectual discourse.

Although a Jew may try to insulate and protect himself and his fellow Jews from these influences, the moral danger is wont to seep in despite honest attempts at shielding oneself and others. Rambam (Hilchot Issurei Biah, 22:21) says: “Thoughts of immoral behavior only arise in a heart that is devoid of pursuit of wisdom.” The solution? Keep busy! Not with Pharaoh’ s distractions, but with Torah study and positive actions.