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Pirkei Avot 2:15 – I’ve Done Nothing All Day, is that Ok?

Pirkei Avot 2:15

רַבִּי טַרְפוֹן אוֹמֵר, הַיּוֹם קָצָר וְהַמְּלָאכָה מְרֻבָּה, וְהַפּוֹעֲלִים עֲצֵלִים, וְהַשָּׂכָר הַרְבֵּה, וּבַעַל הַבַּיִת דּוֹחֵק

Rabbi Tarfon said: the day is short, and the work is plentiful, and the laborers are indolent, and the reward is great, and the master of the house is insistent.

“The day is short”: The life in this world is short[1]. As written in Psalm: 90:10

The span of our life is seventy years,
or, given the strength, eighty years;

When we are aware of this, we are less likely to squander time on frivolous activities.

“and the work is much”: The Torah’s ‘measure is longer than the earth.1

This is because there is much work to be done to make the earth a suitable place for G-d to dwell. We have a lot to learn and put into practice.

“and the Master of the house is pressing”: as it is stated, (Joshua 1:8), “and you shall contemplate it day and night.1

Rabbenu Jonah makes an interesting parable[2]. He teaches that when Moses went up to Sinai he did not sleep at all. Compare this to a king who said to his servant: “Count gold pieces from now until tomorrow, and whatever you count off will be yours.” How can such a person sleep? Why the time he spent in sleep he would be losing a fortune! So said Moses, “If I go to sleep, how many precious words of Torah I would lose!”

We must not waste our time. We should use it to learn correct behavior, and we should absolutely use it to help our neighbors, visit the ill, assist the destitute, and so on.

Use your time wisely.

By Angelique Sijbolts


[1] Bartenura on Pirkei Avot 2:15:1,2,3
[2] English Explanation of Pirkei Avot 2:15:2


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