Follow by Email

Monday, 10 August 2015

Never burn bridges

Daf Yomi Nedarim 76


Some time back, an extraordinary video did the rounds of a fellow who quit his job accompanied by a marching band.  He walks into his boss and tells him he’s had enough; and before the former employer knows what’s hit him, the marching band begins to play.  They then parade about the work-site for the camera, and the young man exits the building defiantly victorious.

Chiya bar Rav would shoot arrows and then examine a vow.  Rabba bar Rav Huna when sitting would stand.
The Rosh explains: When Chiya’s wife would make a vow, he would not annul it immediately and would respond with silence, giving the appearance that he was confirming.  He would then shoot an arrow into the wall to create a sundial, thereby determining the exact time of day, in order to annul the vow by the following day at the same time.  Similarly, Rabba would stand up and check his own shadow in order to calculate the time. 

Chiya and Rabba might not have been ready to annul their wives’ vows immediately.  Sometimes when someone says or does something rash or harsh, you want to just walk away.  But instead of accepting the situation, they chose to leave the door open to a future change of heart.  Determining the exact time of the vow allowed them to have twenty-four hours to cool off and decide whether to maintain or revoke the vow.  Did they want to confirm or change the matter at hand?

All too often people make rash decisions and end up burning bridges that they later regret.  Walking out on an employer accompanied by a marching band is probably not a great long-term strategy.  What happens when a future potential employer calls your old boss to ask about you?  What if you need a reference from them for another job or even for an apartment rental?

You always want to leave the door open to the possibility of a future change of heart.  Whether it’s job-related or in the realm of human relationships, you never know where life will lead you.  When you cross paths with that other person later in life, how will you feel if you acted inappropriately the last time you severed ties?

Initially, after six weeks of dating, the Rabbanit and I decided to part ways.  Could you imagine my disbelief at her incredible kindness - not only did she offer me a lift to the airport, but as I bid her farewell, she handed me a packed lunch!  
‘Just in case you don’t get your kosher meal; I wouldn’t want you starving all the way to Australia.’  We then went our separate ways and for nine months we were not in touch whatsoever. 

Baruch Hashem though, we left one another without burning bridges – we didn’t hurt one another, we didn’t act un-menschlich towards each other.  And so when it came time to reunite – when we were both ready to spend the rest of our lives together – we were able to pick up where we left off, painlessly. 


Never burn bridges.  Always strive to treat everyone with the utmost menschlichkeit and decency.  You never know when your paths may cross again in the future.  May you merit a shem tov – a good name – in the heart of everyone you meet in life, whether your relationship with them is lifelong or merely a passing-through rendezvous!