Posted on | December 19, 2006 | By Neil Harris | 9 Comments
Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv (the Alter of Kelm) is quoted as saying that the whole world is a house of Mussar (ethical instruction) and that each person is a mussar sefer (book). If we look around there are lessons everywhere.
Here are two T-Shirt slogans that contain mussar vorts.
I once was on a subway going from Queens to Brooklyn erev Shabbos. As I was sitting, (yes I got a seat) I couldn’t help but notice the t-shirt of the man standing in front of me. It was a “Champion” brand shirt. I will never forget what it said. The shirt simply stated: It takes a little more effort to make a Champion.
It has been twelve years since that subway ride and I haven’t forgotten. In my day to day life I often find that, as I trek forward with tasks, responsibilities, and spiritual pursuits I sometimes lose momentum. On the rare occasions that I am consciously aware of this (usually it’s well after the fact) I think of that T-shirt. In my life as a Torah observant Jew there are plenty of times when just a little more effort will produce a more substantial result. Whether the effort is applied to getting up 10 minutes earlier, going a little out of my way to do a chessed, or even speaking softly to someone in my own family. There is a fine line between getting by and rising about our own mediocrity. For me, it’s as thin as a T-shirt.
Last year, while sitting in the Jewish Community Center of Indianapolis, I saw another great T-Shirt. This one was from Nike (the folks that came up with “Just Do It”). It said: You’ve got to start to finish.
This echoes the line from Lecha Dodi: sof ma’aseh bemachshavah techilah translated as “last in deed, but first in thought” or the final outcome has been thought out at the beginning. Often the biggest struggle I face is just starting something. When it comes to Avodas Hashem (serving our creator) it’s easier to be ho-hum about coming up with all the ‘right’ reasons why we should take upon ourselves a new mitzvah, start being a little more careful about a particular halachah, or open up a particular Jewish book. Saying or thinking about doing something is only the beginning. The next step is coming up with a plan and taking action. In order to finish, one first has to actually start.