Daf Yomi Nedarim 5
For millennia, human beings have sought the fountain of youth. As science and technology progress, we have not yet discovered the fountain, but we have found many ways to enhance our beauty. From creams to botox to cosmetic surgery, it is becoming harder and harder to discern a person’s true age. My mother-in-law insists, however, that while you may not be able to tell someone’s age by the wrinkles on their face, if you want to know how old they are, there is still one trick: look at their hands.
Mishnah: One who says to his friend, ‘I am vowed from you,’ or ‘I am separated from you,’ or ‘I am distanced from you;’ ‘which I eat from you,’ or ‘which I taste of yours,’ is forbidden by the terms of his vow.
Shmuel taught: In all of these cases, the swearer is only forbidden if he combines two of the above-stated clauses, e.g. he says, ‘I am vowed from you in that which I eat from you.’
The Gemara explains: Shmuel is of the opinion that hands that do not demonstrate are not hands. (Hands or handles here refer to partial oaths. Shmuel is teaching that if a partial oath is inconclusive, it is not binding).
One’s actual hands say a lot about a person – from their age to their profession to whether they’ve put on tefillin that day! But on a deeper level, hands of course allude to our faculty of action. When we recite the confession on Yom Kippur we beat our heart with our hands, as if to say, ‘these hands acted inappropriately, as they were led astray by the desires of the heart.’
There have always been deiah zogers – opinionated people, particularly among our nation. The advent of the internet age, however, has taken the phenomenon to previously undreamed-of heights. Now every man and his dog has an opinion, whether on blogs or twitter or article comments. The marketplace of ideas has truly exploded.
But how do you know whose opinions are valuable? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff? The emes (truth) from the fluff? The answer has always remained the same: hands that do not demonstrate are not hands, i.e. actions speak louder than words.
Anyone can express an opinion. True leaders are people of action. There are a lot of good ideas out there; the way to tell if it’s a great idea is if the opinion-maker can become an opinion-macher, a doer. When they can follow through and demonstrate proven results, then you know that their ideas are worth listening to. It costs nothing to formulate an opinion; it costs blood, sweat and tears to act upon it and become a true leader.
Leadership requires action. It requires mobilization. Everyone has an idea, an opinion, but the leaders are the ones who transform their ideas into reality. May you merit becoming a true leader, by demonstrating hands that have accomplished amazing things!