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Sunday, 4 October 2015

Near enough just ain't good enough

Daf Yomi Nazir 42


Australians are notorious for ‘bludging.’  One of the meanings of bludging is seeking every opportunity possible to avoid work.  As a result, we Aussies have a saying, ‘Near enough is good enough.’  When I was growing up, the government mounted a TV campaign with the effort to dispel that notion.   One scene showed a fellow building without measuring and the house collapsing.  In another scene, the guy can’t be bothered to stick around long enough to put the right amount of air in his tires, resulting in a blowout in the middle of the outback.  The commercial would always conclude, “Near enough just ain’t good enough.”

Is near enough ever good enough?

It is stated in a Mishnah: There are three who must cut off their hair and their hair-cutting is a mitzvah, the nazir, the metzora (leper) and the Levites.  If any of them cut without a razor or left two hairs remaining, they have not accomplished anything.
Rav Acha the son of Rav Ika taught: That means that the concept of ‘doing most of the job is like doing the whole job’ is Biblical.  How so?  The fact that the Torah declares that a nazir “on the seventh day must cut (all of) it” implies that this case is singled out as an exception.  Hence, in all other cases, the majority would suffice to be considered as if the entire job were completed.

While “near enough just ain’t good enough” in the realm of physical building, when it comes to spiritual building, our Sages tell us that ‘doing most of the job is like doing the whole job.’   In Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Tarfon teaches, “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the task, nor are you free to desist from it.”  The Almighty wants you to do your very best and He promises to complete the job.

In the Hadran prayer that we recite following the conclusion of a tractate of the Talmud, we praise G-d for the fact that “we (who study Torah) toil and they (who occupy themselves in worldly pursuits) toil.  We toil and receive reward, whereas they toil and do not receive reward.”

Rabbi Avrohom Stulberger asks: What do you mean they don’t receive reward?  Have you checked out the latest compensation packages of movie-stars and professional athletes?  Millions of dollars a year!  Sounds pretty much like a decent day’s work!

He offers an incredible answer from the Chofetz Chaim who explains that they are only rewarded if they succeed at completing the task.   For every Michael Jordan, there are millions of young men who never make the cut, despite years of hard work training to get there.  They will never be rewarded.  By contrast, when it comes to spiritual toil, G-d doesn’t judge your success based on the completion of the task.  Near enough is good enough, as long as you made the effort.  We toil and are rewarded for our toil, no matter the eventual outcome.


G-d doesn’t need you to be the next Rav Soloveitchik.  He wants you to strive to be your best and together we can change the world.  As long as each one of us is out to do the majority of the task, we will more than complete the job!  May you merit the strength to always make your best effort, no matter the apparent outcome!