​​​​​​​"All beginnings are difficult" except for what isn’t

The Sages teach that “all beginnings are difficult”. But in spirituality the goal is the spiritual progress made on the way to a goal.

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol ,

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Daniel Malichi

After the Exodus from Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea, the children of Israel are ready for the main objective, receiving the Torah. On the eve of the giving of the Torah, G-d says to Moshe: "And now if you will surely heed my voice and observe my covenant you will be chosen from all the nations because the whole land is mine and you will be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation."

Rashi quotes the words of the Mechilta: "And now - if you now accept (the Torah) it will be sweeter (easier) for you from now on because all beginnings are difficult". G-d is saying to the people of Israel: “Although 'all beginnings are difficult' and therefore it may be tough for you to accept the Torah at the outset, if you do accept it despite the hardships at the beginning, in the end the Torah will be sweet and pleasant for you.

Are all beginnings really difficult? Not necessarily. If one decides to eat a bar of chocolate every day, we wouldn’t think that the first few days would be challenging for them, because in the world of material pleasures beginnings are not necessarily difficult. Sometimes even the opposite is true: the beginning is smooth and pleasant, but in the end the person gets sick of the pleasure because of the lack of inherent value in it.

When the Sages teach us that “all beginnings are difficult” they seem to mean in the realm of spirituality. When one needs to correct bad character traits, to overcome the evil inclination, to improve relationships with family and friends or with G-d, that is when the beginning will be difficult because of the need for soul searching and self-improvement. Therefore, even in the observance of mitzvot and the study of Torah, the beginning will be difficult, since following G-d’s will requires tremendous spiritual strength.

So how do we deal with difficult beginnings? Here are three tips:

The first is knowing that “all beginnings are difficult”. When we know that a rough start is normal, it aggravates us less, and we feel more relaxed. For example: a couple getting married, or a child beginning a new school year, when they remember that it is natural that the start may be rocky, it will make it easier for them to deal with the initial hurdles.

The second is to ask for help. There are many educators and professionals who can help a person discover strengths with which to deal with difficult beginnings. It is not a shame to ask for help from people with experience and wisdom of life. On the contrary, getting guidance when it is needed is part of the wisdom of life. In addition, the very fact that a person shares what is on his mind and talks about what they are going through may in itself help them to relax. The hardships may seem like a heavy burden which they carry alone, and once they share them with another, then there is someone else who is “carrying the burden” along with them, and they feel like some of the weight has been lifted.

The third piece of advice is to focus on the journey and not the destination. In the material world the end result is what determines whether or not one succeeds. For example, when one builds a house, as long as he has not completely finished it, there is no house. In contrast, in the spiritual world, the opposite is true. There is worth just to the will to improve and to every step along the way. For example, when one decides to correct a negative character trait, the very desire to be a better person has value in and of itself, even before the person begins taking the steps necessary to correct their flaw. The desire to improve is precious and beloved in the eyes of G-d, regardless of the outcome. And man must also value in his own eyes the desire to be a better person.

And if, in addition to the desire itself, the person struggles and manages to take small steps to realize their wish, that is something tremendous. Every little step is wonderful. If, for example, a person who used to get angry twenty times a day, now gets angry only nineteen times that is a victory. He has now changed his reality and the desire to do even better will linger in his heart.

We have been taught that in the spiritual world the goal is not the end result, but that man live a life of spiritual progress. There is no finish line which needs to be crossed, the goal is to live a life in which the will to do good is present, and it one takes steps to make that will the reality, all the better. "All beginnings are difficult" but equal

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol is the head of the Barkai Rabbinical Organization and the rabbi of the Shaarei Yonah Menachem community in Modi'in