Mrs. Dina Schoonmaker, well-known speaker in Eretz Yisrael, is offering an inspiring series of in-depth classes on the sefer Mesilas Yesharim by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, the Ramchal (1707-1746). The following is a summary of some of the key points from the shiur on Tuesday, October 25, that focused on Z’rizus in the sixth chapter of Mesilas Yesharim. Z’rizus means alacrity. This includes alertness, being time-conscious, and being focused on what you are doing. We are all supposed to strive to possess this midah.
She explained that in every midah there is chomer, which is the natural inclination to a certain midah, and sorah, which is the way to work on yourself to have a sophisticated form of the midah. She shared the example of simchah. Some people are naturally happy, and this is their chomer, while others may not be that way, but they derive simchah from ruchniyus. She offered the example of a child in the park on a swing who is naturally happy, and a person who appreciates Hashem and all that He gave him. The former is chomer, and the latter is sorah.
Some people are naturally quick and efficient, and that is their chomer. It is a gift from Hashem. The sorah of z’rizus is being focused and caring about what you are doing. It means putting your strength into doing it right. It’s about getting the job done in an efficient way. Speed is not always the best thing, she added. Speed should manifest that you care about what you are doing. Razza is an impetuous person. A person needs to think about what his or her motivation is for being quick. She explained that speed is a component of z’rizus.
The first midah in Mesilas Yesharim is Z’hirus, which means being careful not to do the wrong thing. Z’rizus is about doing the right thing properly. “It means that when you do the job, you do it well.”
Z’rizus is about how you perform the positive commandments. First, you have to remove the bad thing so you can do the good; that is why Z’hirus comes first in the sefer. She taught that Z’rizus is a prerequisite for performing mitzvos. You need to be in a dedicated and enthusiastic frame of mind. This relates to getting going and doing it properly. People who are z’rizim do mitzvos early.
She then shared the parallel between Z’rizus and Z’hirus. They both need similar components. Just as you need intelligence and a perspective to stay away from danger from the yeitzer ha’ra, so it is necessary to have the same elements to perform mitzvos properly. You need both insight and the proper outlook to avoid the yeitzer ha’ra and you need insight and the proper outlook to perform mitzvos properly.
She explained that it is important when you perform a mitzvah to think about it and to understand and focus on how you can do the mitzvah better. Ask yourself what your relationship is to the mitzvah. She taught that we need to understand ourselves. “You need to employ seichel to grab a mitzvah and to not lose it on the way.” She shared a basketball analogy: You have to grab the ball and not drop it until you reach your goal and make a basket. The Ramchal teaches that we need to think about why we are dropping the ball.
Rav Shlomo Wolbe teaches that a plan of action must be formulated with seichel. This is a skilled eved Hashem. You discover a problem with emotion, and you solve it with intellect. Ask yourself how you can strengthen yourself to have a positive attitude when doing mitzvos. Just as the yeitzer ha’ra has strategies to make you avoid mitzvos or to drop them, you can use your seichel to plan and say I am going to do this and then follow through.
Mesilas Yesharim teaches that if you become a little loose and don’t strengthen yourself to run after mitzvos, then you end up with empty hands. This is the yeitzer ha’ra to avoid productivity. You need to outsmart this as it can prevent you from performing mitzvos or entice you not to finish.
She shared that the Mesilas Yesharim is written for men, although, of course, women have to work on their midos; but women have a different relationship to time than men. Sometimes we have a plan but something else comes up that we have to do. This is not the yeitzer ha’ra. Women are not in control of time.
She spoke about the concept of urgent versus important. She then read in the text that the nature of a person is to be heavy. We are created from dust, which is the heaviest of the four elements of creation: fire, water, dust, and wind. Laziness comes from dust. Heaviness can be a physical exhaustion or feeling of an emotional weight. All human beings are fighting some sort of heaviness as this is part of the human condition. Most people have some sort of inertia or resistance.
Mrs. Schoonmaker then shared that there are different types of Z’rizus. There are physical, spiritual, and psychological forms of Z’rizus. You need to ask yourself in which area the Ramchal is talking to you. Most people have things they like to do. You need to ask yourself what things you always say you will get around to do. What do you push off completing? This can include not wanting to invest in a relationship. If you allow yourself to rest in your heaviness, then you will end up not succeeding. In other words, you have to take a proactive stance.
She then shared a connection to the mishnah in Pirkei Avos that states that you should be brazen like a tiger, light like an eagle, run like a deer, and be courageous like a lion. Rav Wolbe analyzes how these apply to mitzvos. There are four components to Z’rizus. Step one is being brazen like a tiger. You need chutzpah to want to do something different. That is the springboard for the mitzvah of Z’rizus.
The next stage is to be light like an eagle. An eagle is actually a heavy bird, but it has wings to rise up despite its heaviness. You may have physical and emotional heaviness, but you need to find what is going to help us get going. You have the ability to rise above the heaviness.
In the second stage, you need to not become bogged down by the details. Raise yourself above it. Refuse to be discouraged.
Stage three is to run like a deer, and this means to actually run with a plan and do it. She shared that this can be an issue for many people. Ratzon and ratz have the same root. To run, you have to keep the desire burning.
Stage four is to be courageous like a lion, and you need courage to finish the job. Many people run out of steam before they hit the finish line, she pointed out. It takes courage to finish.
She left everyone with a question to ponder. Where do you need z’rizus. Why am I not doing some things or dropping the ball, so to speak? What is my relationship to those mitzvos? Once you realize what your relationship is to the mitzvah, then you can look at the four stages mentioned above.
By Susie Garber