Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not wise to ask such questions. — Ecclesiastes 7:10
We’ve all been there. At the start of a diet — and then several weeks into it. At the beginning of a new initiative — and then a few months later. The moment we make a decision to make a significant change — and then a year down the line. When we start something new, whether it’s a do-it-yourself home project or a change in lifestyle, we are filled with excitement and motivation in the beginning.
However, the inspiration is hard to sustain, and we often find ourselves out of steam later on. The initial excitement has worn off and all that’s left is the hard work. Yet, truly, that moment is the most defining of all. If we can persevere when inspiration has worn off, we will conclude with even more excitement and joy than when we began.
There was a student who had recently discovered the Bible and his Jewish roots. Excitedly he began to live an observant Jewish lifestyle and dedicated his time to the study of Torah. But as could be predicted, months into his new life, he lost that initial passion. Depressed, he approached his rabbi for encouragement.
The rabbi opened up the book of Ecclesiastes and read: “Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions.” The rabbi commiserated with the student and said, “What’s wrong with asking why things were better for you in the past then they are now? Why isn’t that wise?” Then the rabbi suggested that they read the verse a little differently and that by doing so, they would find the answer.
The rabbi re-read the verse in the following way: “Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ those days were not out of wisdom.” The rabbi explained: “Those first days of inspiration were a gift from God – to get you going and started. However, those actions were not the product of hard work and thought. Now, it’s time to reclaim those ‘good days,’ but this time through your own sweat and perseverance based on your wisdom and determination.”
When the passion wears off and we get depressed, that’s precisely when it’s time to press on. God might gift us with excitement at the start of something new in order to get us moving, but it’s up to us to carry on when things get tough.
If you are going through a slump or feel that you are lacking the passion you once had, don’t get down. Instead of acting from passion, lead with wisdom until you reach your goal and reclaim even more inspiration than before.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President