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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Never shelve your imperfections

Daf Yomi Kesubos 19

A couple of years ago, I was out in New York with a friend of mine.  We were meeting his cousin for dinner at Dougies.  I miss Dougies, it was a meat and potatoes guy’s paradise.  The first thing they’d give you was a huge bib so that you could check your inhibitions at the door and just dig into your meal.

Anyway, our meals came and my buddy and I got up to wash.  I mentioned to his cousin that we were going to wash and he responded, “Oh, I’m Social Orthodox, we only wash on Shabbos.”

The Prophet declares in the Book of Job, “If iniquity be in your hand, put it far away; let not crookedness dwell in your tent.”
Rabbi Ami taught: One may hold on to an unedited holy book for up to thirty days.  Henceforth, it is forbidden to retain. 

One of the most incredible aspects of our tradition is the fact that we have been flung to the four corners of the world and have maintained the same practices, texts and liturgies.  Other religions have multiple versions of their scriptures, but we have always been so precise in our copying and editing, to the extent that it is forbidden to retain an unedited copy of Scripture!

Note that Rabbi Ami doesn’t say it’s forbidden to hold on to the unedited texts for even a day.  Sometimes it takes time to get that material up to scratch.  It can’t be done overnight.  But you can’t simply put it away on the shelf and say ‘I’ll get to it eventually.’  Certainly, one should never put it aside and just accept the status quo.  Thirty days and no change is unacceptable.

We all have imperfections in our ‘tents.’   Our job in this world is to constantly strive to improve upon those imperfections and never settle with the status quo.   It goes without saying that ‘Social’ Orthodoxy has the same Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) as everyone else and we wash for bread every day of the week!  If you’re not yet up for the task, don’t just accept the status quo, commit to attaining eventual improvement!

G-d doesn’t expect you to become an overnight tzaddik (holy man), but He wants to know you’re committed to constant improvement.  It’s forbidden to shelve those unedited volumes.  You put them on the shelf and you’ve accepted that the status quo is the best you can be.  You can be so much greater!  You can be spiritually uplifted!  Just as long as you never accept things the way they are!

Nobody is perfect.  Your job in this world is to grow.  May you never settle with the status quo and merit a lifetime of constant improvement!

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