In this week’s Torah reading, Parshas Bo, when discussing baking Matzos for Passover, the Torah instructs us (12:17) to be careful that the dough should not sit and become leaven. Rashi quotes our Sages who tell us that with a different pronunciation of the Hebrew spelling of the word “Matzos,” it could be read with the meaning that we should be careful not to let “Mitzvos” (Torah commandments) “sit.” The Torah is hinting to us that we should not procrastinate any Mitzvah.
The Mesilas Yesharim (chapter 7) elaborates on the importance of attending to Mitzvos right away. One reason given is simply so that we don’t risk losing the Mitzvah. No one knows what time will bring, and an obstacle may arise which will prevent us from performing the Mitzvah. This would be a tremendous loss. An opportunity for a Mitzvah is an opportunity for eternal gain. The loss of a Mitzvah is a loss for eternity!
In addition, hastening to perform a Mitzvah expresses respect and appreciation for the Mitzvah. Procrastinating a Mitzvah signifies that the Mitzvah is not of such a high priority, and the risk of its loss is not that meaningful.
A distraught fellow once approached the Bach and said, “I lease a tavern and run it for a living. Recently, someone offered my landlord to lease it instead of me for a higher rate, and my livelihood is threatened.”
The Bach summoned a wealthy individual who had business ties with this landlord and asked him to intervene on behalf of the poor Jew. The man gave his word that he would do what he could to help. When he left the house of the Bach, he told the tavern manager that he had to run now to the fair in Leipzig, but he would take care of the matter as soon as he returned.
The rich man assured him that he would be gone for only one week and he would take care of it as soon as he gets back. He just couldn’t afford to miss the fair.
The tavern keeper was satisfied and went home to share the news with his wife. His wife, however, was concerned and upset, and she said to him, “If it was anyone else, he would have taken care of it immediately. But everyone knows you’re a pushover and they take advantage of you!”
A week later, indeed the wealthy man returned and succeeded in convincing the landlord of the tavern to keep the old tenant.
Many years later, the rich man died, and the following night he came to the Bach in a dream and told him the following: “When I died, I was honored with a very high place in Gan Eden (paradise). But when I reached the gates to enter, a large beautiful angel stood in my way and did not allow me to proceed. I begged to be allowed passage, and the angel responded, ‘I was created from the Mitzvah you did when you spoke to the tavern keeper’s landlord. However, it was not done the way it should have been done. You delayed taking care of it for a week and caused the couple distress and disharmony for that week. I request that you go back to be judged for this before I allow you in.’
I returned to the Heavenly Court, and the ruling was that I have to wait seven days to enter, corresponding to the seven days I delayed the Mitzvah. I am now standing and waiting to be admitted. The pain of being denied entry even temporarily is very great. Every hour feels like many years.”
The following morning, the Bach gathered the townspeople and shared this story to demonstrate how important it is not to procrastinate a Mitzvah. Tending to a Mitzvah with haste is not always easy. Laziness is the primary contributor to procrastination. But we cannot allow this principle to escape us.
In order to truly be loyal to G-d and the Torah, we must incorporate this attitude into our way of life. When we have an opportunity to help someone, we must not push it off for later. If you are inspired to study more Torah, don’t procrastinate the idea. Who knows if the opportunity won’t be lost forever or if the inspiration won’t fade? When you are presented with a chance to do a Mitzvah, grab it, and show God how the Mitzvah is truly dear to you!
Parshas Bo by Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber (email@example.com)