Daf Yomi Nazir 32
After a long battle with lung cancer, Barb Tarbox died at the age of 43. Having taken her first cigarette at the age of 11, she became a heavy smoker until she was diagnosed with her terminal illness. At that point, she decided to dedicate the remainder of her life to campaigning against tobacco and convincing young people to quit or never start. With superhuman effort, she would crisscross the country, lecturing and campaigning. By the end, she could hardly move on her own, but she would gather every ounce of strength and utilize every last breath to save one more child. At the end of her life, she agreed to have her sickly face emblazoned upon the nicotine warnings on cigarette packets.
Mishnah: When the nazirs came to Israel from the Diaspora to offer their sacrifices only to find that the Holy Temple had been destroyed, Nachum Hamadi said to them, “Had you known that the Temple was already destroyed, would you have taken the nazirite vow?”
Gemara: Rav Yosef said: If I had been there, I would have said to them, “The verse in Jeremiah states, ‘They are the Temple of G-d, the Temple of G-d, the Temple of G-d,’ referring to the First Temple and Second Temple (which will be destroyed, versus the Third which is eternal). And so they should have realized that the Temple would eventually be destroyed.”
The Gemara responds: True, they knew it would be destroyed, but who knew when?
Abaye taught: Did they not know when? But the verse states, “Seventy sevens have been decreed upon your people and upon your holy city,” and that time had arrived.
The Gemara answers: Still they did not know the exact day it would be destroyed and so they none the less took the nazirite vow.
What incredible souls! These righteous men and women knew that the Temple was about to be destroyed and yet they still took their nazirite vows! Most other people would have been moping about, thinking ‘Woe is to us!’ But these awesome individuals were thinking, ‘We don’t have much time left to do this. Let’s make every last moment count! If we don’t become nazirs now, we’ll never get the opportunity to do it properly, sacrifices and all!’
Sometimes Heaven sends us challenges that are insurmountable. We don’t understand why, in real life, the story doesn’t always have a happy ending. We simply say the blessing, “Blessed is the true Judge,” and accept the Divine decree, knowing that G-d’s way are humanly unknowable. Those are the situations that are beyond your control.
But what you can control is how you will deal with the time you have remaining. Will you mope about feeling sorry for yourself? Or will you pick yourself up and make every last moment count? Will you become a victim of your circumstances or will you rise above and become the stronger person the Almighty has destined you to become?
Some misfortunes happen in our lives due to poor choices we make; others occur due to circumstances completely beyond our control. Either way, it’s your choice whether you will make lemonade out of the lemons. Barb Tarbox didn’t tell herself that it was all her own undoing and that she should just disappear. She was determined to make amends and do whatever she could to repair her final moments on earth.
Barb found redemption from within her self-inflicted wounds. If she could pick herself up from her self-inflicted wounds, then certainly if the misfortune is completely Heaven-sent, such storms in life should inspire you to grab your surfboard and ride the mighty wave. Just like those inspirational individuals who knew the end was nigh for the Jewish people and yet were not deterred to become nazirs at the eleventh hour, we must never give up on our mission even when the hour is darkest!
Sometimes in life the writing is on the wall. Heaven has decreed and there’s nothing we can do. May you merit picking yourself up with superhuman strength when life is at it bleakest!