22 Aug I’m Bored
This past week, I gave my annual Q & A lecture for Irgun Shiurei Torah at the Bostoner
shul in Flatbush. One of the questions was: Rabbi Weiss, many people I
know suffer from bouts of boredom. Do you have any recommendations for how to combat this
prevalent problem? At first glance, it’s ironic. So many people today are under such time
pressure that they don’t have a minute to breathe, as Rav Shamshom Raphael Hirsch, Zt”l, Zy”a
says, this world is called ‘aretz’ for it has at its root ‘ratz’/to run, for people are constantly on the
run from the cradle to the grave. Yet, the questioner is certainly right; there are many people
who grapple with boredom, with long stretches of time that they can’t figure out how to usefully
fill. And, this is not merely a nuisance. The Gemora in Kesubos states categorically that batola,
idleness, leads to depression and promiscuity.
Upon giving some thought to the boredom problem, it dawned upon me a fascinating
anagram. The word batola, idleness, is the same letters as the word l’tova, for the good. This
seems mystifying since we just said that idleness can generate ugly consequences. I believe the
reason for this puzzling anagram is that, imagine if you would have long stretches of time to sit
home and do nothing and it wouldn’t trouble you. To the contrary, you’re completely
complacent just sitting and vegetating. The result would be that you would waste your life away.
So, Hashem implanted a yearning in your soul to be productive, to be fulfilled, which we call
boredom. Just like Hashem granted us toothaches as an alarm to let us know when to take care
of our teeth, and a stomach ache to warn us that the food is rancid, so too Hashem bequeathed us
with boredom to ensure that we get off our back-side and do something with our life. As we say
in the first part of Friday night’s Kiddush, “Asher bara Elokim la’asos – Hashem created man to
So what should a fellow do if he’s bored? Here are a few suggestions. The wonderful
organization Oorah has a branch called Torah Mates where you can hook-up with someone
somewhere in the four corners of the globe who wants to learn about Yiddishkeit. They will
pair you with someone who desperately wants to know the meaning of the siddur, or Kitzur
Shulchan Orech. Or, how to learn a Mishna. During my fifteen-plus years of doing the Oorah-
thon, I’ve heard from scores of these amateur mentors who testify that this weekly hour became
a highlight of their week and that they formed friendships of a lifetime. Here’s another idea: call
your local Tomchei Shabbos. Ask them if they need help preparing or delivering packages. Or
call the local Bikur Cholim. Ask them if they need help stocking the pantry at the hospital or if
they need someone to deliver hot soup before Shabbos. If you’re the sociable type, we have a
raging shidduch crisis out there. Start networking and make things happen.
Of course, there’s no better antidote to boredom than learning Torah. Find a rebbe who
speaks to you. There’s so many in today’s day and age. People like Rabbi Reisman, Rabbi
Wallerstein, Rabbi Frand, Rabbi Krohn, are both captivating and inspiring. And of course, if
you’re married, start dating your spouse again. That’s a good way to rid oneself of the boredom
blues. May Hashem bless us with much spiritual fulfillment and in that merit may we enjoy long
life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Please learn and daven for the refuah sheleima of Miriam Liba bas Devorah, b’soch shaar
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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