The Bible Says What? ‘Working hard doesn’t always bring rewards’

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

The Bible Says What? ‘Working hard doesn’t always bring rewards’

Rabbi Deborah Blausten takes a controversial topic from the Torah and offers a progressive perspective

Torah scroll (Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash)
Torah scroll (Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash)

When Adam is punished by God in the Garden of Eden for eating from the tree of knowledge, he is told by God that he will now have to toil
for everything he needs throughout his life.

The notion that we need to work for the things we have is so simple and obvious it perhaps goes unquestioned, yet in the image of perfection that the garden represents, man’s meaning does not come from work, but rather from existence.

Does Torah really suggest that having to work for what we need is bad? Surely that’s how we learn to appreciate things? What does that mean for those of us who derive value from our vocations? Or who enjoy the fruits of our labour?

Perhaps Shabbat can help us look differently at this, because Shabbat is understood as a glimpse of the world to come, a return to a more perfect world, and on Shabbat we cease from all work.

Rabbi Gunther Plaut wrote of this, saying: “We must once again understand that doing nothing… can be as important as, and sometimes more important than what we commonly call useful.

“Formerly a person who did not work was considered useless; what we need now is a purposeful uselessness, an activity (or non-activity) which is important in that it becomes an essential protest against that basic unrest which comes from competition without end.”

Plaut’s teaching is that we humans have inherent value even when we’re not working, and when we’re not defined by our ability to produce or toil. Work can give us joy, but we must not make our joy, or our sense of our value, dependent on our work.

Rabbi Deborah Blausten serves Finchley Reform Synagogue

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: