ALACRITY: NEVER WASTE A SINGLE MOMENT; DO WHAT HAS TO BE DONE
I’ll let you in on a secret…it’s taken me a very long time to start this post (feel free to chuckle). As I sit at my keyboard and look at a list I made 15 year ago when I first read about Rav Yisrael’s 13 Midos, this particular midah has haunted me. I know it’s really a simple thing. In my younger years (18-24) I spent hours of hisbodidus, just thinking about this midah. The only conclusion I made is that thinking is useless, if not accompanied action. Nike made a whole campaign of this midah, JUST DO IT. Orchos Tzaddikim says that we learn alacrity from Avraham. Before the Akeida, he “woke up early in the morning” (Bereishis 22:3).
There have been times in my life when I’ve been so energized that I accomplish a multitude of things in record time. And, of course, there have been times when I can’t seem to finish anything. I think, for me, what Rav Yisrael meant by saying “nerver waste a single moment” was that when life or a task is precious to us we don’t want to waste any time. If I appreciate my life, and the opportunities I have (with family, mitzvos, my job, etc.) then why would I want to delay doing a task? There are things in life that I have not finished, goals I need to achieve. It’s the importance that we give to goals that allows us to do things with alacrity. I see this often. If someone asks me to do something for them, like turn off a light or get something at the store, and I don’t follow thru, then I’ve invalidated that person. To them, what they are asking me to do is important, so why wouldn’t I never waste a single moment. It’s not just doing things at the right time, it’s having an energy about me when I do it. “Whistle while you work.” The importance and passion that I ascribe to what’s important to me has an effect on others.
When it comes to doing what has to be done, it’s all about priorities. It can be dishes in the sink, papers on your desk, laundry, the leaves in the back yard, which emails to check first. Somethings are clearly not as important to do as others. Again, it’s not just about me. I can’t delay helping someone else. A true chessed for another towers over a cup of coffee. To miss an opportunity to do an act of kindness for another person is a waste of a single moment also. Especially my spouse (and I feel I often miss those opportunies. And no, I didn’t just type this because my wife occasionally reads Modern Uberdox). Do what has to be done, could have been the motto of Rav Yisrael (or anyone else who has accomplished something). He saw a need to counter the influence of the German Haskallah movement in Russia and the result was the Mussar movement. If I can internalize the approach of doing what has to be done with excitement and without delay, I know I will see a visible improvement in myself and that’s a good start.