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  • Torah Reading: Naso
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Adar 1

If you eat of the labor of your hands, you will be fortunate, and the good will be yours (Psalms 128:2).

The Rabbi of Kotzk had a unique interpretation for this verse. "Yes," he said, "eat of the labor of your hands, but not of your heart and soul. Of course you must work with your hands to earn your bread, but while your hands must work, do not allow your entire being to be absorbed in work. Direct your heart and soul toward goals that are spiritual."

Some Torah commentaries note that when Adam sinned, he was cursed: "By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread" (Genesis 3:19). Since work was established as a punishment, why would anyone want to indulge in punishment? Any thinking person would try to get by with the very minimum penalty.

Today we witness the phenomenon of what happens when people who know nothing but work all their lives reach the age of retirement. Many spend these later years in misery, not having anything else to do; some turn to alcohol in their old age to escape from a burden of an empty life.

If people put their entire being, rather than just their hands, into work, they will not achieve happiness. People who develop spiritual interests have a much happier old age, for as the Psalmist says, "They will bear fruit in their old age, and will remain vigorous and fresh" (Psalms 92:15).

Today I shall...

try to realize that although I must work in order to live, I do not live just in order to work, and so I must develop the spiritual aspects of my life.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

May 21, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 1

(1) Dvirah, February 15, 2010 3:34 PM

Uplifting Work

While I understand that Rabbi Twerski means not to make our jobs the be-all and end-all of our existance, his comments are open to the misinterpretation of not doing one's best at one's job. So I'd like to point out that one can embue one's work with spiritual content, especially in the context of Mitzvot Bein Adam L'Havero (commandments regulating interpersonal interactions).

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