Wisdom of Rabbi Tarfon

- א נ י -

You are not obligated to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it.

“He [Rabbi Tarfon] used to say: You are not obligated to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it. If you have studied much Torah, you shall be given much reward. Faithful is your employer to pay you the reward of your labor. And know that the grant of reward unto the righteous is in the age to come.”

Tractate of Avot 2:21

Every person has a purpose and many missions in life. We must constantly strive to move forward, improve, repair, cope with crises, perform kind deeds, study, and grow wiser as we age. Nevertheless, it is not our duty to fulfill everything and neither are we expected to accomplish everything. Our job is to do our best. Others will carry on where we left off, just as we continued what others did before us. A person’s life is judged by their efforts and their reward is set accordingly. All our earthly years are part of a journey towards righteousness. Their value is determined by the strides we make in that direction.

Realization is transforming ideas and plans into concrete results-in the same way that God has the power of creation.

“Rabbi Tarfon said: The day is short and the work is plentiful, and the laborers are indolent, and the reward is great, and the master of the house is insistent.”

Tractate of Avot 2:15

A person’s life is extremely short. We must accumulate an immense amount of good deeds and wisdom-and this contrasts with our natural tendency to laziness, even when great reward is at stake. A righteous individual must always and unconditionally cleave to their life mission.

The critical roles of precision and punctuality are clear in nature and apply equally to our own lives.