To find some of the most profound truths, sometimes we need look no further than a good ol’ fashioned children’s story. Remember the fable about the tortoise and the hare? In Aesop’s story, the hare ridiculed the tortoise for being slow, so the tortoise challenged him to a race and won. Sure, the hare had the “natural talent” (I mean, those legs! Those strides!). But because the tortoise happily did the work and remained focused on his goal, he was able to eclipse that talent with action. And let’s not forget “The Little Engine Who Could,” who climbed a daunting mountainous track–and not just because he believed in himself (“I think I can” is always helpful, but there’s more…). He kept on chugging with a smile on his engine face and his smokestack eyes on the summit, and so he got there.
Hard work is more than just a physical or mental act–it is a spiritual pursuit. Kabbalah teaches that only the things we invest time and energy into will bring the blessings fully back to us. More simply, we are most aligned with the Creator when we earn what we receive. This is because the nature of the Creator is to give. And, since we are made in the image of the Creator, we, too, have the same inclination. When we work hard, we receive some sort of compensation–be it a paycheck, a finished job, or a product. However, when we receive without effort, we risk experiencing what kabbalists call “the bread of shame.”