Daf Yomi Nedarim 27
Who is wise?
Ben Zoma says: One who learns from all people.
Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi says: One who sees the future.
Question 1. Let’s be honest, some people have useful information to impart. But there a lot of fools out there. Why would you want to learn from just anyone?
Question 2. Which one is it that makes you wise? Learning from everyone or seeing the future?
A certain fellow deposited his document of credit with the court with the instructions, “If I do not return within thirty days, I hereby relinquish my rights.” In the end, he was held up due to an emergency.
Rav Huna says: Tough luck. He has relinquished his rights.
Rava says: Emergencies do not count. He has not relinquished his rights.
The Gemara asks Rava: How is that case different from the following?
A fellow gave his wife a conditional gett (bill of divorce) and said, “If I don’t return within thirty days, this gett shall take effect.” On the thirtieth day, he arrived just as the last ferry was departing. He stood on the other side of the river waving and shouting, “I’m here! I’m here!” Shmuel ruled: He has failed to arrive as promised and the gett is in force.
Rava answers: Foreseeable emergencies are different. He should have thought ahead about the ferry schedule and so that is not considered beyond his control.
Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski explains how seeing the future and learning from every person are one and the same. Unless you’re a prophet, you cannot actually look into the future. But the wise man is one who can foresee the outcomes of his actions. How? By looking around at others’ successes and failures and not making the same mistakes they made and thereby failed; rather choosing the path that leads to success.
You can’t find success in a vacuum. You need to rely on others’ experiences to assist you in your decision-making. You could try driving without wearing a seatbelt, but if you’re smart, you’ll recognize from others’ experiences that that could spell bad news. You could try crossing a busy street while texting, but if you’re wise, you’ll know that others have tried that with unfortunate consequences.
You can’t foresee all possibilities. Some major emergencies and calamities are completely unforeseeable. Rava says that you’re never liable if an earthquake strikes. But when it comes to emergencies that you could have foreseen and expected, you must have a contingency plan. Famed motivational speaker Tony Robbins says that whenever you chart a course of action you need to create three backup plans!
We often complain that we didn’t do what we needed to because something came up. It was beyond your control. But emergencies only count if you couldn’t foresee them and plan for them. Foreseeable emergencies are not excusable. May you always have a plan B, a plan C, and a plan D, for when things don’t quite go as you originally planned!