Two visions of life:
The Pampered Employee: What I demand [of My
creations], I demand not in accordance with My capacity, but
in accordance with their capacity (Midrash Rabbah, Bamidbar
3:13). G-d gave us this Torah, it is a tree of life...
and He promised us that if we observe it with joy and gladness
of heart and pursue its wisdom constantly, He will remove
from us all that may prevent us from keeping it, such as illness,
war, hunger and the like, and He will bestow upon us all the
blessings that support our efforts to uphold the Torah, such
as abundance, peace, and wealth, so that we need not preoccupy
ourselves with the needs of the body but are free to study
the wisdom [of Torah] and observe the mitzvot (Mishneh
Torah, Laws of Repentance, 9:1).
The Driven Workaholic: The day is short, the
work is much, the workers are lazy, the reward is great, and
the Master is pressing (Ethics of the Fathers 2:15).
Which is it? Is life a comfortable job or an ever-elusive
obsession? The first perspective derives from the Midrash
and Halachah and describes the basic law of creation: G-d
is indeed a benevolent boss who never demands from his employees
more than their capacity, provides them with a supportive
work environment, and generously supplies their needs. The
second perspective is from Ethics of the Fathers,
which is the section of the Talmud that addresses the chassidthe
individual who endeavors to expand the limits of his potentials
and serve G-d beyond the line of the law.
For the chassid, the day is never long enough. The work is
always muchhis goals far surpass his natural capacity.
No matter how hard he works, he is always lazy
in his own eyes, for he can never rid himself of the feeling
that he could and should have done more. To him, G-d is not
a benevolent employer but a driving taskmaster he will never
The chassids path through life is fraught with anxiety
and frustration. His prevailing state of mind is one of self-doubt,
inadequacy and unworthiness. But for one who chooses this
path, the reward is great. For unlike his tranquil
brother, he knows the exhilaration of pushing himself to the
limit and beyond, of transcending his finite self to touch
the infinity of the Divine.
Based on an address by the Rebbe, Sivan 16, 5750 (June
. See introduction to Beyond the Letter of the
Law (VHH, 1995).
. Sefer HaSichot 5750, vol. II, pp. 512-513.