Everyone Needs a Push
Tzav (Leviticus 6-8 )
"Command Aharon and his sons [by] saying, this is the teaching of the olah, it is the olah on its fire on the altar the whole night, and the fire of the altar will burn in it (Vayikra 6:2)."
Rashi explains that the Hebrew word "tzav," command, implies ziruz - encouragement and urging - for that time and for all generations. Particularly when it comes to situations involving loss of money (because the Kohanim do not receive anything from a burnt offering other than the hide), is there a need to encourage and urge.
Rav Yaakov Weinberg pointed out that the above verse is discussing Aharon Ha'Kohein, one of the greatest Jewish figures of all time; so we see that even he had a need for ziruz, encouragement.
This, explains Rav Weinberg, does not mean that without the ziruz Aharon would not have put forth his full effort. It goes without saying that Aharon would have certainly put forth his utmost effort despite any lack of external ziruz. Rather, what it means is that every person has untapped strengths that are often only manifest as a result of the prodding pressure of ziruz.
"One time", recounted Rav Weinberg, "I was arranging chevrusos (study partners) at the beginning of the zman (semester), and there was one bachur for whom I just could not manage to work out an appropriate chevrusah. I tried numerous different ideas, but nothing worked. Unfortunately, he began the zman having to learn on his own without a chevrusah.
About two weeks into the zman, I received a desperate phone call from his father. He said, 'Please! Please find a chevrusah for my son! He is suffering so much from not having a chevrusah!'
So, I tried again and, lo and behold, this time I managed to find a suitable chevrusah for him!
Don't think that I didn't try my hardest the first go-around. I can assure you that I truly did. But the desperate urging of the boy's father extracted a latent energy without which just would not surface." We all need and can benefit from ziruz, concluded Rav Weinberg, no matter how great we are or how hard we are trying.
What is very interesting to note, is that we see from Rashi's explanation that in situations where the individual stands to gain some monetary benefit there is not nearly as much of a need to have other people providing the ziruz. The monetary gain in of itself provides the lion's share of the external push that is needed.
Now, obviously, Aharon Ha'Kohein (or any of his sons, or other tzaddikim for that matter) were certainly not carrying out the avodah (service) for the sake of personal monetary gain. To even suggest such a thing would be absolutely preposterous; it is safe to assert that the thought of monetary gain did not enter his conscious thoughts at all, even for one moment. Certainly, his sole motivation for carrying out the avodah was his drive to fulfill the Will of God. Nevertheless, we see that the monetary aspect would play at least a subconscious role of ziruz even for an Aharon Ha'Kohein. And, for people of a much lesser stature, it could very well occupy a place in the conscious thought process. However, it is still just a ziruz, not the main motivating factor.
As an illustration of this idea, imagine an athlete competing for the gold medal. In the midst of the race, he begins to feel tired and weak and his pace begins to slow down a bit. Upon seeing this, his fans start cheering him on to give him a boost. And it works! He surges forward with newfound strength and achieves his goal of winning the medal.
Now, would you say that his primary motivating factor was the momentary cheering that occurred in the middle of the race? Of course not! What was motivating him from beginning to end was the accomplishment itself of winning the gold. So, what function did the cheering fulfill?
Ziruz is that external push that helps propel us towards our goals without supplanting the actual motivation of our actions.
That is why it is not inappropriate that monetary gain act as a ziruz in the realm of Torah and mitzvos. One may wonder why there are many monetary incentives involved with various learning programs and endeavors, whether in the Kollel system or otherwise. Based on the above, though, it should become perfectly clear that there is in fact nothing negative about this whatsoever. On the contrary, we see that using monetary incentives as a ziruz is actually a positive thing to do. Those that are engaged in serious learning are clearly not doing so for the sake of money, God forbid.(1) They are motivated to learn for the sake of carrying out the loftiest endeavor that Hashem charges us with. The paltry bits and pieces of monetary incentives that they receive here and there are merely a ziruz. And ziruz, as we have learned, is a very positive thing!
So, for others and for oneself, find that positive, encouraging, and urging force of ziruz. As we have seen, ziruz can take the form of cheering someone on, a desperate plea, or a monetary incentive. The truth is that it doesn't really matter what particular form the ziruz takes, as long as it will have a beneficial, positive effect given the situation. So, for others and for oneself, find the one that works.
1. And, in fact, it would be utterly ridiculous to suggest such a thing, because if it is money that people want, there are much, much better ways to get it. All the monetary incentives that exist in the Kollel world and otherwise do not amount to more than relative peanuts for each individual. So, if it was money that they were truly interested in, they'd look for it elsewhere. As an aside, this is akin to how Rav Yaakov Weinberg explained that the Kollel system is not at all in contradiction to the Rambam's statement that it is a chillul Hashem to take money for learning Torah (Hilchos Talmud Torah, 3:10). The Rambam's statement, explained Rav Weinberg, is referring to someone who is learning in order to get money. Avreichim in Kollel are doing the exact opposite - they are willing to subsist on a measly amount of money in order to be able to remain in full time learning!