Thursday, June 23, 2011

Shark Attack

Question of the Week:


My partner says I should spend more time chilling out, relaxing, and just enjoy life. And that I should do stuff purely for entertainment/leisure value.


I'm the kind of person who does things to improve myself (really, not my imagination). 


Everything I do is for the purpose of education or self improvement. All I ever do is read self help books, learn Torah insights, watch lectures, or listen to them.


Apparently that's my problem. I take life too seriously.


What do you reckon?




There is no question that Jewish wisdom abhors time wasting. "The day is short, and we have a lot of work to do," say our sages. The Talmud warns, "Remember that the day of death approaches," which Chassidic masters explain to mean, "Remember that each day dies and never returns. Don't waste even one day."


And then there is the famous saying:


"People worry about losing money, but don't worry about losing time. Yet money can't save you, and time can't be recaptured."


Clearly, we are in this world to achieve. And yet, there is a concept of meaningful rest. Sometimes we do need to chill out. This is not necessarily a waste of time. We are much more effective after resting. Just like we need to sleep to be able to achieve more when we wake up, we need to have down time so our minds can be more focused and energies replenished to get on with our mission.


Not that we should do things that will lower our moral standards, but we can sometimes just chill, take a walk, read something light, go to the zoo, fly a kite. This will refresh us and lead to more productivity. Not learning Torah is sometimes the best way to promote learning Torah.


If your reluctance to waste time comes from a true desire to serve G-d, then you have nothing to fear from relaxation. For that is serving G-d too.


But if something else is driving you, if it is psychological rather than spiritual, then this avoidance of time wasting may not be such a good thing at all. It could be compulsive, or an attempt to prove your worth by always achieving something, or an aversion to sharing time with others, or a fear to really face yourself. Ironically, addiction to self help can be a great way to avoid facing your real self and caring for others. There is nothing holy about that.


This has very recently been dubbed the shark syndrome. Sharks constantly swim through the water, even when they are asleep, because if they don't they will sink to the ocean floor and die. Perhaps you are scared the same will happen to you. If you stop for a minute, you will fall apart.


You are not a shark. You are a soul that needs to achieve its purpose. We do this through meaningful work, and meaningful rest too.


Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Moss


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