Let me write this article before the response cards are expected to come back for our upcoming simcha. This way, I am not pointing any fingers. I know that I have been guilty myself of delaying responses, which ultimately led to finding the card in my drawer just in time for the people’s anniversary. In fact, as I am writing this article, I realize that I need to take out a response card from my pocket, fill it out, and mail it. So I cast no judgment.
Here is the question: Why would a person irresponsibly handle a response card? After all, someone spent time and energy to invite you, and was even willing to pay for your meal, so wouldn’t we all agree that sending the response card back sooner than later is a basic act of derech eretz? Where’s the mental block?
I believe that the answer lies in our warped way of viewing things. We think of doing the “extra things” as most valuable, while doing what is incumbent upon us as less important. Presumably, the reason for this is because doing what’s right doesn’t raise our esteem in our eyes. After all, it is something we ought to be doing. How ironic it is that we can neglect what we must be doing, while paying far more time and attention to things we are not obligated to do.
This is applicable to so many areas of our life. People give tzedakah before paying back debts. People neglect their family to help others outside their home. People may pay more attention to segulos than the actual tefillos designated by Chazal. This list will go on and on, for every person in their own way.
Chazal teach us that we need to have the opposite approach to life. “Gadol metzuvah v’oseh mimi she’aino metzuvah v’oseh – Greater is the one who is commanded and does than the one who is not commanded and does” (Kiddushin 31a). We need to prioritize that which we must do over any “bonus” activities.
Let me add the following: We should give ourselves credit for doing that which should be done. After all, Hashem rewards us even more for these mitzvos. If we can take care of the response card right away, we should pat ourselves on the back. If we take care of our family and our other obligations, we should recognize the value in what we are accomplishing. Otherwise, we are in danger of shirking responsibilities because they are not valuable enough to us.
We need to be self-aware of where we are mistakenly prioritizing what is secondary over what is primary. We need to be very loyal to our obligations, as tedious and unglamorous as they may be at times. This is the core of an ehrliche person who is loyal to Hashem and what is right.
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Rabbi Kestenbaum is the rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Gedola Ohr Yitzchak. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for private appointments, speaking engagements, or parenting and teacher workshops. His daily shiurim and past articles can be found on TorahAnytime and his website, Olamhamiddos.com. Rabbi Kestenbaum is the author of “Olam Hamiddos,” “Olam Ha’avodah,” “Run After the Right Kavod” and “The Heart of Parenting.”