Daf Yomi Yevamos 38
Uncle Bernard Wolff worked for most of his career for Philips International. As chief sales executive, he and Aunty Susan, along with my cousins Michael and Debbie, moved from country to country every few years to establish new regional offices and relationships for the company.
In 2013, he published a collection of his incredible memoirs – encounters they’d had, people they’d met on their exciting journey around the world. The most striking feature of the book is that with each story of newly arriving in a strange city – from London to Stockholm to Amsterdam to Toronto to Hong Kong to Dallas to Boston – their first port of call was never to the real estate agent or the bank or the tourist sites.
It was to the local synagogue. In fact, none of the stories deal with business issues, cultural anomalies or culinary variances. It’s all about the journey of Jewish life in different lands and languages.
We learned in a Mishnah: If one travelled overseas and came back to find that the path to his field from the main road had been obscured by the surrounding properties, Adamon teaches that he may construct a new path that is most direct. The Sages teach that he is forced to purchase a new path for a hundred monies (an exorbitant sum) or else fly through the air to reach his field.
The Gemara explains: In what situation do they disagree? Where there is one current owner who purchased the surrounding fields from four previous owners. Adamon holds that the pathfinder, let’s call him Nisan, can say to the surrounding field owner, ‘Whatever the case (no matter which of the four was the original landowner), my path is with you (since you now own all the surrounding fields).’ But the Rabbis hold that the owner may say to him, ‘You’re better off just being quiet and I will sell you a path of my choosing at a decent price. For if not, I will return the documents to the original four owners and you will be unable to construct a case against them, since each will argue that the path was in the other’s field.’
Rabbi Aba would say to you: I would agree with Adamon, since he says to him ‘My path is one towards you.’
Adamon’s teaching, ‘My path is one towards You,’ should be your mantra in life. We are here on earth to serve the Almighty and we must strive to find the most direct path to get to our final destination. Any time you veer off course, you are being distracted from your mission on earth. Every place that life takes you is external to and a mere façade for the true spiritual path that you are on.
That’s why it didn’t matter where Susan and Bernard found themselves geographically. What was important to them was their spiritual journey: where they prayed, how they could get kosher food, how to keep Shabbos and so on. And sure enough, after travelling the world for over twenty years, they reached the ultimate earthly destination: Auntie and Uncle finally came home to Israel. Today they live in Netanya, where Susan is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and Bernard works in the hi-tech industry, helping Israeli start-ups to connect with the world.
Never veer off your path to Heaven. Strive to find the most direct route through the fields of physicality. Always ask yourself whether whatever you are engaged in is part of the journey to your final destination or if you’ve become distracted from your mission.