Born to Work

October 9, 2015 at 4:43 PM , ,

“…And G-d took the man and he placed him in the garden of eden to work it and to guard it…” – beraishis 2:15

וַיִּקַּח ה’ אֱלֹקִים אֶת הָאָדָם וַיַּנִּחֵהוּ בְגַן עֵדֶן לְעָבְדָהּ וּלְשָׁמְרָהּ – בראשית ב, טו


“Man is born for toil,” says the verse in Iyov (5:7). Therefore, already from the very beginning of man’s existence, G-d placed him in the Garden of Eden and gave him a task: “to work it [the Garden] and to guard it.”

Why is toil so central to man’s existence? Why is happiness contingent on hard work, and not attainable without effort? After all, G-d is the ultimate source of goodness; why does He require man to endure the the pain and difficulty of toil?

Granted, it is man’s nature to enjoy the work of his own hands, more so than he enjoys what is given to him without any effort on his part. As the Talmud (Bava Metzia 38b) puts it, “A man prefers one kav [a measurement] of his own, to nine kav of his neighbor’s.” But still, one can ask, why did G-d cause man to have a natural preference for the fruits of his own labor, instead of allowing him to enjoy that which comes without any effort or challenge?

Born to Work

In truth, however, the necessity of toil exemplifies the ultimate gift and goodness that G-d grants humankind. For by requiring man to toil, G-d gives him the ability to reach not only the height of human potential, but also to experience what is truly in the realm of the Creator. Man was created in a manner that his needs are not provided for on their own, to give him the opportunity to emulate the Creator, without whom nothing would exist on its own.

And because of man’s ability to emulate G-d, to “contribute” and to be a creator, he is inherently uncomfortable with being a “taker”, a beneficiary of the labor and creations of others. In the words of the Talmud Yerushalmi (Orlah 1:3), “One who eats from the food of another is ashamed to look at his benefactor’s face.” For man naturally senses that his purpose and wholeness is to be like G-d, to make a difference through his own efforts and not to be dependent on others.

—Haggadah shel Pesach im Likutei Taamim Uminhagim, vol. 2, pp.

641-643; Likutei Sichos, vol. 15, pp. 94-95


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