Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Spiritual Harvest of the Ant

Are you familiar with Aesop’s Fable of “The Ant and the Grasshopper”? It’s a morality tale about hard work and planning ahead, and it might just have you picturing the original version of Disney’s Jiminy Cricket. But the moral of Aesop’s Fable is actually one that can be found in one of Judaism’s ancient texts, The Book of Proverbs, that is attributed to King Solomon.

Lazybones, go to the ant; Study its ways and learn.
Without leaders, officers, or rulers,
It lays up its stores during the summer, Gathers in its food at the harvest.
How long will you lie there, lazybones; When will you wake from your sleep?
A bit more sleep, a bit more slumber, A bit more hugging yourself in bed,
And poverty will come calling upon you, And want, like a man with a shield.
(Proverbs 6:6-11)

Quite obviously, this set of verses can speak to every person about the importance of diligence, hard work and not procrastinating. (Indeed, it would not be surprising if this verse were quoted to not a few difficult-to-rouse teenagers.) Wise as this advice may be for practical living, the words of the Tanach (24 books of the Bible) are meant to provide spiritual guidance.

Very often people postpone spiritual matters for later. In their youth, they are concerned about immediate results and in their early adulthood they are focused on the everyday business of earning a living. These verses serve as a warning not to neglect one’s spiritual needs. Just as an ant gathers its nourishment and stores it over time, so too must people gather their mitzvot and increase their Torah knowledge throughout their lifetimes.

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