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Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Life is full of knots to untie

Daf Yomi Kesubos 93

Henry was complaining to Bill about his marriage.
“All we do is fight, we never do anything together, we don’t even vacation together.”
“So why do you stay with her?” asked Bill.
“Oh, at this stage it’s just way too complicated to get divorced.  Our lives are way too intertwined.  It’s not worth all the hassle.”

Abaye taught: If Reuven sold a field to Shimon without a guarantee and then claimants arose contesting ownership of the property, if he has not yet taken ownership, he may renege on the deal.  Once he has taken ownership, however, he may no longer renege, since Reuven may say to him, ‘You recognized and accepted a bag full of knots.’
Rashi explains: He agreed to put his money in a risky investment.

Some people avoid making changes in their life because there are just too many knots in the bag and it’s reached a point where it’s too much of a hassle to untie all the knots and reopen the bag.  And so they go through life plodding along unhappily but not willing to face up to their issues.  Certainly, in Henry’s case, the answer isn’t to get divorced; he should make the effort to get his marriage back on track instead of kvetching.

But unfortunately, the same goes for many people in their spiritual lives.   Deep down they recognize the truth of the Torah but their lives are such a knotted bag that it would be too disruptive to untie all the knots and start fresh.  Just the thought of turning your kitchen and diet around is scary.  Just the thought of completely transforming one day a week into Shabbos is daunting.  Just the thought of becoming “observant” – what would that mean to your social life and relationships?

When you think about it like that, it truly is overwhelming.  But that’s not the right way to think about spiritual change.  It’s not about untying all the knots in the bag.  It’s about loosening one knot at a time.  G-d doesn’t want you to suddenly let all the air out of the bag – you’re right that it would leave you in a vacuum.   No, He wants you to go about spiritual change one knot at a time.  Now suddenly it doesn’t feel so crazy.

Transformation is a big word.  Step is a much smaller, manageable word.  May you merit taking small steps in your spiritual life – all the Almighty really desires of you is that you constantly move in the right direction!