How many times do we sink into the traps of self-blame, just because we can’t see the fruits of our labor? How many times do we fall into the abyss of despair, just because we were so consumed by our expectations to "see results?" Don't get me wrong: results are important, and setting goals and 'destinations' are a vital part of almost every endeavor. But we ought to remember that the journey is, in and of itself, also a destination; that the results are also in the labor itself; that light can be found within the walls of our life's tunnels too - not just at their end.Rabbi Allouche
A few years ago, I visited with my beloved mentor, world-scholar, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, to express my frustration and seek his advice, after the seeming failure of a project I had launched in my community.
Rabbi Steinsaltz’s words, which were full of love and empathy, surprised me. I was expecting him to analyze the project itself, yet instead, he analyzed my perspective on it.
First, he mentioned that my demand for immediate results is unfair. In his words: “Sometimes the fruits of our labor don’t appear for many years.
Then, he lamented that our generation is so focused on “reaching destinations,” that “we forget that the journey itself is just as important, if not more, than the destinations we set for ourselves.”
Finally, he urged me to substitute my “work-for-results” approach with a “work-for-work” approach, because, “you were appointed to labor; not to reap the fruits of your labor.”
When I asked him, “appointed by whom?” He replied, with his characteristic smile that lit up his face: “By G-d Himself. He wants you, Pinny, and I, Adin, to labor. Let someone else enjoy the fruits…”
As we read Moses’ heartfelt plea to G-d in this week’s portion, to appoint for the Jewish People a leader, Rabbi Steinsaltz’s advice re-appeared in my mind. Moses knew that he wouldn’t live to see the ultimate “results” of his painstaking labor of leading the Jewish people for 40 years in a barren desert. He knew that the delicious fruits of his labor, soon to be enjoyed by all in our holy land that flows with milk and honey, would be left for others to enjoy.
Yet he remained as devoted as ever to his work, to his journey, to his calling. And he continued to devote himself to G-d, and to His people – with equal passion and enthusiasm – until his very last breath.
The lesson is clear. And it begs the questions: How many times do we sink into the traps of self-blame, just because we can’t see the fruits of our labor? How many times do we fall into the abyss of despair, just because we were so consumed by our expectations to see results?
Don’t get me wrong: results are important, and setting goals and ‘destinations’ are a vital part of almost every endeavor. But we ought to remember that the journey is, in and of itself, also a destination; that the results are also in the labor itself; that light can be found within the walls of our life’s tunnels too – not just at their end.
And we ought to know that each of us too was appointed by G-d Himself to work and partner with Him daily in making our world better, each in our own way, each with our own Mitzvahs.
This type of Divine work will undoubtedly prove itself to be more precious and more valuable than any “result” that any human being can ever produce. For, as the Sages teaches us in the Ethics of our Fathers, “the best reward for a Mitzvah – is the Mitzvah itself.”