Minute #484: Loose Ends

“I’ve got so much to do and so little time in which to do it,” Mr. Steinmetz complained to Mr. Nagar, his co-worker and friend. “So many of the projects that I’ve begun with the best of intentions are stalled at various stages of ‘incomplete.’”

“Take it easy, my friend,” Mr. Nagar said in a calming voice. “You’re not unique in the frustrating battle against time. So many of the desks in our office and in offices all over the world are full of piles of unfinished business.”

“Realizing that others haven’t completed tasks doesn’t solve my problem at all,” Mr. Steinmetz replied. “Will I ever catch up? Will I ever bring a good idea to fruition?”

The problem is widespread: good ideas don’t just become reality. The solution is zerizut — alacrity and zeal. According to Mesillat Yesharim (Chap 7–9), this is a combination of two components. First, begin a mitzvah right away — don’t delay. Second, once underway, see it through to completion.

The result of zerizut is accomplishment. The Mussar master suggests that aside from inborn laziness, a person has an unwarranted fear of failure which deters action towards completion of a goal. Rather than fail, don’t start — is the common belief.

The Chofetz Chaim had a worthy project that he felt was necessary for the sake of the klal. When he proposed it to the Gedolim of his day, all felt it was needed but none agreed to undertake the massive job. He decided it must be done and so he started. It was 26 years later that he completed Mishnah Berurah. His zerizut and his fearlessness produced results that benefit all.

Work on your alacrity. Don’t only clean up your desk, but also complete what you begin successfully.

One More Second: Another Thought for the Day

A Jew is required to always run; there is no appropriate time for him to stroll. Either he is running to perform a mitzvah or he is running away from a sin. (Ish L’rei’eihu, vol. 2, p. 172)