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Monday, 31 March 2014

A bird in the hand isn't always worth two in the bush

Sukkah 56

“Adam wants to drop out of school.  Rabbi, could you talk some sense into him?”  Jay had brought his teenage son to see me to talk about his future.
“How are you doing in school, Adam?” I inquired, “Are your marks okay?”
“Yes, I’m doing well.  I just feel that school’s a waste of time.  The economy is great here in Alberta.  I could be making a good wage already.  Why should I bother finishing my studies?”

The kohanim were subdivided into twenty-four groups of families.  Each group would serve in the Holy Temple for a period of one week.  At the end of the twenty-four week cycle, the first group would be back on to serve and the cycle would begin anew.  Service, of course, meant not only offering the sacrifices, but partaking of them as well.    

Since the changeover of shift took place over the weekend, both the outgoing and incoming groups were present over Shabbos.  Therefore they would split the rights to the weekly lechem hapanim ­– the showbread, each group receiving six out of the twelve loaves. 

According to Rabbi Yehuda, the outgoing group would only receive five loaves, while the incoming group would get seven.  Rabbi Yitzchak asserts that this bonus was compensation for closing the gates that had been opened that morning by the former group.

What kind of a bonus is that?  At the end of the week, they ended up with the same total number of loaves!  Whether they get seven now and five later or six now and six later, it’s ‘six of one, half a dozen of the other!’

Abaye offers a psychological explanation for the rationale.  “A small squash [now] is better than a large squash [later].”   Rashi elucidates this “simpleton’s metaphor.”  If your friend offers you a small unripe squash now or the choice to take it next month when it ripens, most people will opt to take it now, for fear that your buddy might change his mind in the future.  And thus, the kohanim would rather take seven loaves this week and five next week, because the immediate gratification is compelling.

Rashi calls it a “simpleton’s metaphor,” because wise people understand that delaying gratification generally leads to greater pleasure in the future.  Yes, they might have seven loaves today, which are more than enough to go around.  But next week, they’ll only have five and they’ll have to ration their portions.  Yes, I get a squash today, but if I can withstand the temptation for immediate gratification, I should end up with a much bigger, riper, juicier squash next month.

Wise people invest time and money into attaining a solid education.  Yes, you could start working at fourteen, but if you stay in school and go on to university, then chances are you will end up with a much healthier salary in the future.

And if this is true for material reward, then how much more so for spiritual reward!  This world offers us no shortage of temptation to satisfy ourselves immediately with worldly gratification.  But the Almighty promises us that if we withstand earthly temptation and seek spiritual pursuits, the ultimate reward in the World to Come will be so much greater than we could ever imagine!

You are not a simpleton.  You could be reading anything right now.  You have chosen to read this because you are wise and you value spiritual growth.  Don’t settle for a small squash!  You deserve the most tremendous award-winning pumpkin ever imagined!  If you could picture all of the pleasure of a lifetime packed into a room, that wouldn’t hold a candle to the pleasure destined for you in the World to Come.  Every time you resist the temptations of this world that deferred reward just gets bigger and bigger.  B’teavon!

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