Prologue: After many years of being an Observant Jew and taking note of things, I’ve decided to kick it up a notch and make it a conscious effort to look at things that happen and try to learn from them. Thus we launch: Operation Inspiration, Eternal Lessons in Everyday Events.
Take It Easy – By Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz
While walking down the street one day, I saw a food wrapper on the floor. Not three feet away was a trash can. That mean that whoever dropped it there (unless it was blown there by the wind) could have easily placed it in the receptacle instead of littering which makes the statement that they don’t care about what mess they leave behind for others to deal with. Without breaking my stride I bent down and scooped up the wrapper, then dropped it in the bin and kept walking. Now, the wrapper was from a Kosher food product so I especially took note, and the street was in Yerushalayim which should be respected, but that wasn’t the only reason I did what I did. I think I did it because it was easy.
It’s not the first time I’ve done something like this and I’m sure it won’t be the last. While I may pick up Kosher food wrappers in a public place like a zoo to avoid a Chillul HaShem because non-Jews will think we don’t care about leaving a mess instead of the real reason which is that SOME of us don’t care of leaving a mess for others, in this case, had I not seen a place to put the wrapper, I don’t think I would necessarily have picked it up and carried it until I did. Rather, since it was easy to do, I took advantage of the Mitzvah.
Often in life, we look at Mitzvos as the big things. Going to the hospital to visit someone sick is a big Mitzvah, but so is calling them on the phone; or sending them a note; or even having them in mind in your prayers. It doesn’t have to be difficult to be meaningful.
Chazal tell us “The wise of heart will take mitzvos,” as we see that while the Jews were collecting the spoils of Egypt, Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him. In reality, by emptying Egypt of its wealth the Jews were also doing a Mitzvah, as HaShem promised Avraham that his children would leave with great wealth so it was important to HaShem that we take the money and possessions. They were just doing a much easier one.
When we do the easy ones, though, we can perhaps work up to the more challenging ones. There’s a famous question about whether a person should give 100 coins to tzedaka or instead give 1 coin 100 times. The Rambam suggests that giving 1 coin 100 times will help to habituate someone into giving tzedaka so its value is more than just giving 100 coins a single time. Perhaps this is like saving a life on Shabbos so they may keep many more Sabbaths in the future.
Sometimes we may not even think about something being a good deed. For example: the wrapper on the floor. Some people figure that there are paid employees to clean the streets and collect the trash. Let them pick it up. To that I will respond that there are also people paid to return shopping carts to the front of the store when people leave them in the parking lot, but it’s still a Mitzvah to return them. Not only is it thoughtful of other customers, and not leaving your mess to be cleaned by others, but it’s a relatively
easy thing you can do to make someone’s job easier.
One woman told me, “my husband was out of work for some time and I would NEVER return a cart. I don’t want to put those people out of a job.” Well, you’re in luck because many other people will NOT take the easy Mitzvah and will leave their cart wherever they please. Those people at the market are in no danger of being put out of work. Plus, you’re smart, dear reader. Like Moshe, you are on the lookout for Mitzvos and that’s an easy one.
You find the opportunities to make someone feel good by offering a smile. It’s easy, free, and very effective. Getting approval from others is a basic need or at least a basic pleasure, and by giving it to someone in even the smallest way you’ve done a great, easy Mitzvah.
You understand that you have been given talents and abilities by HaShem, but that they’re not for your own enjoyment. Rather, they are your tools for doing good things!
Just as a hammer makes it easier to put a nail into wood and a needle makes it easier to sew a piece of cloth, so are your skills perfectly suited to help you fix what you are meant to fix in the world and achieve your mission in life.
If you’re naturally queasy about illness, maybe you’re not cut out to visit sick people but if you’re very organized, maybe you help build up someone’s business or get their home in order. I don’t need to spell out each scenario because you’re smart enough to figure out that whatever your special powers are, you can use them for good and take the easy way out… or rather, the easy way up.