You do it. I do it. We all do it. We find ways to avoid doing those tasks in our lives that will really make a difference. They might be unpleasant, hard, boring, perhaps even frightening. Often, they are the very ones we have to identify and tackle.
There’s the aspiring sales professional who does almost everything except the one task that will make most difference in his life—completing his quota of calls every single day.
There are the parents whose toddler is getting out of control. The time is overdue to introduce him to the wonderful world of discipline. They’ve let things go for a bit too long and now every attempt to introduce boundaries and insist on appropriate behavior is met with tantrums. The parents focus on good nutrition and creative play times—anything in fact, in order to avoid doing the one great task that will make the most difference in their lives and that of their child.
There’s the student who dreams of playing at Carnegie Hall. She needs to sit down, play the same piece repeatedly, and start the cycle again with a more difficult piece.
The Lord’s language has a word for an activity which might be staggeringly difficult to confront but which also might be the single most important assignment for any given moment of our lives.
That word is AVoDaH and one revealing example of its usage is this:
And they (the Egyptians) embittered their (the Israelites) lives with hard work,
with mortar and bricks, and with all work in the field;
all their work at which they worked them was with harshness.
Every instance of the word ‘work’ in that verse, employs the Hebrew word AVoDaH. It suggests subjugation and servitude and certainly doesn’t sound like a positive word. It actually sounds like something you desperately want to avoid.
Don’t be too quick to jump to that conclusion. Let’s learn another Hebrew word for work – MeLaCHaH. Understanding it will make all the difference.
We find both words for work combined in the Fourth Commandment, instructing us to remember the Sabbath day.
Six days shall you work(AVoDaH) and do all your work (MeLaCHaH)…
Why do we need both words? God is giving us a tremendously significant message. MeLaCHaH is the creative work that transforms our world and uplifts our lives, while AVoDaH is work that lacks that exciting element. Yet we do not get to do MeLaCHaH if we don’t first do our AVoDaH.
Life in Egypt was tough precisely because slaves have only AVoDaH with no possibility of MeLaCHaH. If you have AVoDaH without hope of it leading to anything greater, any form of MeLaCHaH, it can indeed be an arduous ordeal. But don’t dream that you can enjoy MeLaCHaH without Avodah. Integrating the two types of work makes everything possible.
There is little as exciting as seeing one’s toddler blossom into a responsible youth and thriving adult with whom you share a close relationship. Achieving that requires many hours of consistent and sometimes unpleasant parenting (along with much prayer and blessing).
Making the big sale is thrilling. Hours of application, hard work, disappointment and dedication precede the excitement. Playing to a full house is thrilling, but years of perseverance lead to that moment.
Fortunately, we don’t need to wait years for the fulfillment of MeLaCHaH. Each of our days—and as the Fourth Commandment reveals, our weeks—holds both types of work. However, we do best knowing that the way the world really works, we should tackle the mundane and difficult with zest, for without it we will never achieve MeLaCHaH. We should rejoice in AVoDaH rather than resenting it.
reprinted from January 2013