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Friday, 2 October 2015

Remember the KISS rule

Daf Yomi Nazir 41


I heard a radio conversation between two DJs discussing whether or not you should dance with someone other than your spouse.  The first DJ suggested that it was no big deal and socially acceptable.  The second DJ countered as follows:  Life is challenging enough as it is.  Marriage is challenging enough as it is.  Why would I want to complicate my life by doing something that either my spouse or dance-partner could misconstrue?  Why would I want to place myself in a situation like that?  I want my life to be as simple and straightforward as possible, sans complications.  Why would I ever need to dance with anyone other than my spouse?  What would I want to accomplish by asking any other person onto the dance floor?  I am married; this dance and every dance belongs to my spouse.

Reish Lakish taught: Anytime you have a positive commandment and a negative commandment, if you can fulfill both, that is good.  If not, the positive commandment overrides the negative.

One of the best examples of a positive commandment that overrides a prohibition is tzitzis.  Strictly speaking, tzitzis may consist of a wool garment and linen threads.  How so, isn’t that the Biblical prohibition of shaatnez?  It is permitted because we have the positive commandment of tzitzis that overrides the negative commandment, or prohibition, of shaatnez.

Nevertheless, the Rambam (Maimonides) rules that one should not make tzitzis from a mixture of wool and linen.  Why not?  His concern is that you might accidentally wear them at night.  The Torah states, “and you shall see them (the tzitzis),” from which we derive that the mitzvah of tzitzis is in effect during the day.  At night it is doubtful whether one is obligated to wear tzitzis.  If you happened to be wearing wool tzitzis and night fell, it would pose no problem.  

But what if you were wearing a mixture of wool and linen tzitzis and night fell?  It is now unclear whether you have an obligation to be wearing tzitzis whatsoever.  What is clear is that you are wearing shaatnez, which is forbidden 24/7.  And so by making tzitzis out of the combination of materials, you’ve complicated your life once it gets dark.  Therefore, Rambam urges us to keep things simple and make your tzitzis out of either wool or linen, but not a mixture of the two. 

Life is challenging enough without seeking opportunities to further complicate your life.   Remember the KISS rule: Keep It Simple, Shlemiel.  The less complicated you make things, the greater chance you will succeed at life. 

Obviously the dancing question is not even a conversation halachic Jews need have.  But there are no shortage of similar situations throughout your day-to-day life when you get to make the decision whether to complicate your life or KISS.  The colleague that has asked if you’d like to get lunch together.  The boss that wants you to share an office so that you are always at their beck and call.  Your college student that calls you at home.


Don’t complicate your life. Make those boundaries abundantly clear.  May you merit a marriage that is rock solid because you’ve made every effort to make it impenetrable to the complications of any outsider!