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Sunday, 12 October 2014

Are you a repeat customer of G-d or a new customer?

Daf Yomi Yevamos 8

When it comes to fundraising, conventional wisdom says not to overtax one’s supporters.  There’s a certain element of donor fatigue and if you continue to ask and ask, at some point your supporters will have had enough.

In Harper’s Team, Tom Flanagan tells the story of the Canadian prime minister’s approach to fundraising.  If someone gave once, then he would ask them again.  And again.  And again.  Anyone in sales will tell you that the best customer is someone who is already a customer.  Repeat business is much simpler than soliciting for new business. And so Harper said to himself: Why should fundraising be any different?  And sure enough, the strategy pulled in millions of dollars from donors who kept giving over and over. 

Three laws must be introduced:  Firstly, a metzora (spiritual leper) must leave the city until he heals.  Afterwards, he must wait seven clean days and nights.  On the eighth day, he comes to the Holy Temple and is sprinkled with blood on his thumbs as part of his purification process.   Ordinarily, one may not enter the Temple in a state of impurity.  The fact that he may enter the Temple to be sprinkled is a special exception.

Secondly, a man who experienced a seminal emission must immerse himself and then wait until nightfall before his purification process is complete.  Only then may he enter the Temple.  Thirdly, on the eve of Passover, one must offer the Passover sacrifice in a state of purity.  A leper may not offer the sacrifice.  Our Gemara deals with a leper who had waited the seven days and was about to be sprinkled, when he suddenly experienced a seminal discharge.  Ordinarily, he would have to wait until nightfall but if it were the eve of Passover, his obligation to bring the Passover sacrifice trumps his obligation to wait until nightfall.

The Beraisa states: Concerning a leper whose eighth day fell on the eve of Passover who experienced a seminal emission and then immersed himself, the Sages determined that even though any other day-immerser may not enter the Holy Temple, he may enter.  Why?  The positive commandment of the Passover sacrifice whose penalty is spiritual excision overrides the positive commandment that he must be completely pure, which has no such penalty.

Ulla explains: What is the reason? Since he was permitted to enter the Temple despite his leprosy, he is permitted despite his seminal emission.

The Gemara rhetorically asks: Would Ulla not agree that if he experienced a seminal emission on the evening of the eighth that he may not enter his hands to have his thumbs sprinkled?  This is because he did not leave his state of impurity at any point when he could offer the sacrifice!  In other words, we only extend the exception to the leper to enter the Temple if he had completed seven clean days and nights.  In this case, on the final night, his seminal emission made him impure, and so he never entered into a state of purity.  Had he made it through the night and become pure and then had the seminal discharge, we would have overlooked it.  Since he never became pure, we do not offer the exception.

It’s much easier to stay pure than to become pure.

Despite all the challenges of serving the Almighty in the twenty-first century, those of us who were born into it have it much easier than those who are seeking.   Why? Because it’s much easier to get repeat business from an established customer than from new potential clients.  We’ve already bought into the product.

Despite growing up with precious little Judaism, my father chose to become a Torah-observant Jew.  That’s a huge commitment.   It meant an entire lifestyle-change.  He could no longer eat out.  He was practically housebound one day a week (at least compared to the ‘freedoms’ he had prior.)  Me, on the other hand, I was born into a religious environment.  It’s much easier for me to keep being a ‘customer’ because I’ve always been a customer!

The challenge then becomes to fill my father’s shoes.  How does my commitment to the Almighty compare to his?  He was willing to give it all up for G-d!  What sacrifices am I prepared to make?

If you are still seeking and have not yet taken that ‘leap of faith,’ it’s a huge bridge to cross.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  To reach that state of ‘purity’ is not easy.  It means questioning everything you’ve ever believed in and your entire upbringing and life’s experiences.   But never give up!

If you were born into it, then not only should you remain pure, you need to constantly ask yourself: What am I doing to achieve the level of spiritual greatness of those who are prepared to turn their lives around?  What sacrifices have I made for G-d?

Purity of purpose is an incredible feeling.  Strive to find it.  And if you were given it on a silver platter, don’t ever take it for granted!