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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Martyrdom of fools

Daf Yomi Kesubos 70

Today's Life Yomi is dedicated in memory of Jonah Milner, Yona ben Shmuel z"l, in honour of the first yortzeit, by his granddaughter Sarah LaFreniere. 

Larry is fifty years old.  He still lives at home with his parents.  Actually, he hasn’t always lived with them.  For a time, he had his own apartment, took care of himself and rarely even called his parents.

 But Larry has a gambling problem.   Time and again, he has lost everything, getting deeper and deeper into debt and ultimately declaring bankruptcy.  Unable to cover his basic costs, ten years ago, he moved back in with his parents.   Initially, he was still working, but after a while, he got laid off and never got around to looking for a new job.  He just couldn’t be bothered.  After all, why should he?  He has a roof over his head; he gets three meals a day.  He has cable TV and internet.  What more could he ask for?  Meanwhile, Larry’s parents Jim and Maryanne are in their late seventies and still going to work every day to ensure they have enough money to take care of themselves and Larry. 

Maryanne’s sister, Jill comes round from time to time.
“Why don’t you kick him out already?” Jill asks her sister, wondering why Larry does nothing all day.
“I would never do that, he’s my son!”

If a fellow was thrown into a pit and shouted, ‘Whoever hears my voice, please write a gett for my wife!’ they should indeed write it and deliver it. 
Rashi explains: Even though the fellow did not explicitly instruct the scribe, it is nonetheless valid.

Why does this fellow not scream for help for someone to come and save him?  Instead, he’s so used to doing everything for everyone else that all he can think about it is, ‘How will this impact my poor wife?  Let me make sure she gets the gett so that she is not an agunah (chained wife)!’  It’s called martyrdom of fools.  He believes that he’s helping her.  But he’s not really helping her: the best way to help his wife would be to figure out how to get out of the pit and return to her!

And that’s what Maryanne is doing.  She feels bad for Larry and could never kick him out of the house.  So instead she goes to work each day and effectively supports his habit.  That’s not doing him any favours; it’s martyrdom of fools.  If she would force him to leave and get his life back on track, she would be helping him much more effectively than giving him dinner each night.  Her martyrdom is hurting herself and her son!

You were placed on this earth to help others.  But just make sure that you are indeed helping them and not simply providing a crutch for them to avoid helping themselves.  If you are suffering while others are living it up at your expense, you’re not doing them or yourself any favours.

It might be a child that you are giving money to way beyond the parental duty years.  It might be a friend who is dragging you down with their negative energy while you think you are helping them.  It might be an employee that is not pulling their weight: by constantly picking up the pieces and covering for their negligence, it might not be helping anyone.


Don’t be a martyr of folly.  Sometimes the best assistance you can give someone is to cut them loose and watch with consternation as they figure it out.  May you merit climbing out of the pit and watching others climb out of theirs!