“Can you go to the pantry and get me a bag of sugar from the shelf, please?” Mrs. Sutton asked her daughter.
“Sure, mom,” the little girl said, and ran off to do her mother’s bidding.
A few minutes passed and the eager messenger didn’t return. The concerned mother went to see what was holding her up, and was surprised to find a frustrated little girl staring at the bags of sugar on the top shelf of the pantry. When she heard her mother approach, she jumped up with her arms extended, but once again the sugar was just too high for her to reach.
Mrs. Sutton brought over the stepladder and calmly explained, “There are many things in life that will be beyond your reach, my darling daughter, but you don’t have to reach them in one jump. We have ladders in all sizes to enable people to reach high places, step by step.”
Sometimes one decides not to undertake a spiritual task for fear one isn’t good enough at present to succeed. Guilt may then set in as one realizes that one is, in fact, not at a level to achieve a goal that’s obviously praiseworthy. The guilt may be magnified if contemporaries have succeeded in doing that which one sees as impossible.
One should accept that growth is a matter of steps. The Gemara teaches (Pesachim 50b): “One should engage in Torah study and mitzvot even with impure motivation, since it will ultimately lead to good deeds with pure motivation.”
Ruach Chaim explains (3:1) that it’s impossible to reach the level of lishmah — pure motivation — unless one starts with selfish intentions. A king who sends his servant to the attic to fetch something doesn’t expect the servant to jump from the ground to the attic in one leap; he expects a ladder to be used. Similarly, we’re expected to start our service to Hashem selfishly and climb to serving selflessly.
One More Second: Another Thought for the Day
When a person envies another person’s beauty, physical strength, or wealth, he manifests a lack of acceptance of what the Alm-ghty decreed he should have. One who recognizes that the Alm-ghty is just and fair does not envy any other person. (Reisheet Chochmah, Shaar HaAnavah, chapter 7)
Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He lectures to audiences all over the world. He has distributed over 500,000 recorded lessons free of charge. He is author of the book 1 Minute With Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement, Sephardic Press, 2008.