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Friday, 29 August 2014

Three Men Make a Tiger

Daf Yomi Moed Katan 18

Many, many centuries ago, Pang Cong, a minister of the Chinese King of Wei, asked the king, “If someone told you that a tiger was wandering around in the marketplace, would you believe him?”
The king replied, “No.”
“What if two people reported it?”
“Then I’d have my doubts, I guess,” replied the king.
“How about three?”
“I would probably believe it at that point,” was the king’s response.
Pang Cong, who had many enemies, warned the king not to believe false rumours about him while he was away on official business.  The king understood the parable.  Nevertheless, sure enough, once he was absent, the rumour-mongers began their insidious work and by the time Pang Cong returned the king refused to admit him into the royal chamber.

On Chol Hamoed (the intermediate days of the festival), one may not engage in unnecessary work including laundry.

The Mishnah states, “Only the following people may launder their clothing on Chol Hamoed: One who arrived from overseas, one who was released from captivity or freed from gaol. . .”

In the Gemara, Bar Heidi suggests that there are other instances when one may wash one’s clothes. 
“I personally witnessed the practice at the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), where the people would take out bowls of linen garments to wash on Chol Hamoed.”
Abaye interjects, “Who says that they were acting spiritually appropriately? Maybe they were out of line!”

Just because everybody is doing something does not make it right.  Just because everybody is saying something does not make it right.  In logical reasoning theory, this approach is called argumentum ad populum – appeal to the masses, or 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t be Wrong!

Of course, three men don’t make a tiger, and the fact that everyone might be washing their clothes on Chol Hamoed does not make it right.  The tragic story of the disappearance of the Jewish people is all about doing what everyone else was doing.  It is about our assimilation into the society around us, from our sojourn in Egypt to the Assyrian exile to Greek Hellenism to our modern brothers and sisters who are being swallowed up by Western life.

Doing what everyone else is doing is easy.  Going against the tide is extremely challenging.  But the Jewish people we see today are the children of those who didn’t just follow the pack.  Just like our forefather Abraham ha’Ivry – so called, because he stood on the other side of his contemporary worldview of paganism and idolatry – all our ancestors were prepared to stand up to the world and be different.  And we are still here today because they did. 

As a child of those Jews who stood up to the world, you have it in you to be different.  Don’t be a sheep.  Don’t just do what everyone else is doing.  Stand up to the world!  Be a proud Jew!  Follow the guidance of the Torah and your children and grandchildren will look to you as the forebear they in turn will seek to emulate!

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