Follow by Email

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Are you a spiritual sheep?

Daf Yomi Nazir 20


The Mikvah campaign was underway.  Plans had been drawn up and the committee was hard at work raising the requisite funds.  Moshe, the campaign chairman, knocked on the door of Jimmy Goldberg, one of the wealthiest members of the community, an individual who had the means to singlehandedly underwrite the entire project, if he would so choose. 
Jimmy listened to Moshe’s spiel and then shot back, “What did Freddie give?”

Mishnah: If a person declared, ‘I am hereby a nazir,’ and his friend responded, ‘Me too!’ and the next guy chimed in ‘And me!’ they are all nazirs.
Gemara: Reish Lakish was sitting before Rabbi Yehuda Nesiah and said, ‘As long as they all got their response in within the time of an utterance. How long is an utterance? The amount of time it takes to offer a greeting. How long does it take to offer a greeting? The length of time required for a student to greet his teacher.’
Rabbi Yehuda replied, ‘You have not granted any opportunity for a student to become a nazir!’
Tosfos explains: If a student hears his friend declare a vow of nazirism and wants to respond ‘Me too’ but suddenly his teacher passes by and he must greet him, he will miss the opportunity to join the nazirite vow.

Why would he miss the opportunity to become a nazir?  If he wants to be a nazir, let him simply declare a vow on his own; he doesn’t need his friend to initiate the vow!  Once he has greeted his teacher, he may then proceed to take his own nazirite vow! 

The answer is that many people will only take on a religious commitment when other people are likewise dedicating themselves.  In the heat of the moment, he may follow his friend’s lead; but once he has been distracted by his teacher’s appearance, he is likely to cool down and choose not to become more religiously committed.

What difference should it make to Jimmy what Freddie gave to the mikvah campaign?  Would he inquire whether Freddie invests in certain stocks before he buys them?  Would he investigate how much Freddie is spending on PR and advertising for his company before determining his own outlay?   Of course not!  In matters of business, Jimmy wants to lead the pack not follow his competitor!  So why when it comes to giving must he make his decisions based on Freddie’s?

It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing for G-d.  You’re not running their race.  The only person in your spiritual race is you.  For all you know, the Freddie’s of the world don’t even exist; they were simply placed there as actors in your ‘Truman Show’ of life to test your response when the Almighty calls.  You don’t need to wait for your friend to take that ‘vow of nazirism’ to choose to become more spiritually committed.  You should be leading the pack, not following.


In business, you wouldn’t be happy being a follower.  So why would you choose to be a sheep when it comes to your spiritual service?  May you merit being a leader in every aspect of your life, from the material to the spiritual!