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Thursday, 20 August 2015

Seeing the forest for the trees

Daf Yomi Nedarim 88


It was forty degrees in the hot Israeli summer.  We had just made the trek from the yeshiva in our small town out to the highway to find a ride to hitch to Jerusalem. 
My buddy, Ariel, suddenly pipes up, “Isn’t this great?  If you had a ton of money, do you guys think you’d take the bus?  Me, I would always continue to take this hike looking for a tremp (hitch), no matter how much money I had!”
Moshe shook his head, “Nah, if I were rich, I’d definitely take the bus.” 
They looked at me, “How about you?”
It was boiling hot, my feet were aching and nobody was stopping for us. I had to be honest. 
“The bus, seriously?  If I were rich, I’d buy a car!”

Concerning one who killed his friend inadvertently and must escape to the Cities of Refuge, the Torah states, “And he who goes with his fellow into the forest.”
Rabbi Yehuda taught: Anyone who has the ability to enter a forest would be covered by the law, including a blind man since he too could enter a forest.  Nevertheless, the Torah continues, “without seeing, he cast a stone,” which comes to exclude the blind man who could not have seen what he did.

We’re all familiar with the adage, ‘not seeing the forest for the trees.’   When it comes to the proverbial forest, many people walk into the forest blinded by the trees.  All we see around us is tree after tree after tree and we are blind to the fact that all these trees actually add up to something greater, called a forest.

The trees represent our narrow vision.  When my friend, Moshe, decided that if he had money, he would definitely take the bus, all he saw was trees.  Life presented him with a transport problem and he longed to have just a little more gelt to be able to take the bus.  His greatest dream was simply to have enough money for his bus-fare.

But, of course, his dreams were too small.  All he could imagine in life was a better tree, a bigger tree – if he could just get past this tree he was stuck on, he thought, he could have a leafier, bigger tree to climb.  Had he only been able to rise above the tree, thought, he’d have discovered that the tree was just a small element of the grand forest that he could start dreaming of conquering.

Often in life, we get bogged down by our day-to-day trees that blind us to the grand forest.  You’re just trying to make ends meet, to be there for your friends and family, to make it through to tomorrow, to next week, next month, next year.   We struggle to keep our heads above water.  ‘If I make it through this year, I’ll be doing well!’ you tell yourself.

Friends, it’s time to rise above the everyday trees.  What does your forest look like?  What is your grand vision for life?    Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?  In ten years’ time?  In twenty years?   You need to start taking a bird’s-eye view of life and asking yourself how your life looks as a whole forest!


Stop being blinded by the trees.  Dream big.  Start thinking in terms of the forest of your life.  May you merit living in an incredibly vast and beautiful forest!