For the week ending 2 September 2023 / 16 Elul 5783

Perek Shira: The Song of the Ant

by Rabbi Reuven Lauffer
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The Ant says: “Go to the ant, lazy one, watch its ways and become wise.” (Mishlei 6:6)

The ant is the epitome of industriousness. The wisest of men, King Shlomo, directed the lazy to go learn from the ant. Throughout the summer, it carries food many times its size in order to store it for the winter. Although it is a minute insect that requires as little as a wheat kernel and a half to live out its short lifespan, it hordes masses of grain with seeming foresight that perhaps it will live much longer. The ants’ methods of building their intricate colonies, tracking food, navigating their way back home, reproducing and expanding, attacking and defending, could put to shame the greatest of human armies.

Ants function with discipline, and they not steal from each other, even though no supervisors stand over them. The Sages teach that if the Torah had not been given, we would have learned from ants to abstain from theft. Its provision for its own sustenance precludes the necessity to steal. The ant thus sings of the virtues by which the Creator's perfectly-designed world thrives.

Productive usage of the human body and the mind is part of our natural function. Conversely, lazy unproductivity fosters unhealthy, negative emotions, and leans a person to dishonest gain. The more a person labors, the more he will become inspired to achieve yet more, and he will be both physically and emotionally satiated. Ants succeed in their relatively insignificant lives through their healthy work ethics. We, whose lives are truly significant, and who need to amass enough Torah and mitzvahs to last eternally, would be wise to learn from the song of the ant.

  • Sources: Tanchuma; Rashi; Eruvin 100b

*In loving memory of Harav Zeev Shlomo ben Zecharia Leib

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