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Tuesday, 10 November 2015

There are no shortcuts to success

Daf Yomi Sotah 15


Rabbi Yehoshua was once on the way to Jerusalem when his GPS stopped working.  Pulling over to a gas station, he asks the attendant for directions.
“Sir, would you like the short long way or the long short way?” the young boy inquires.
“Just tell me whatever’s the shortest distance from here to the city, would you, son?” replies the rabbi.
“Certainly, the short long way is just up that road that way and you’ll see Jerusalem in no time,” says the boy. 

Rabbi Yehoshua sets out in the direction described and sure enough, a little while later, he can see the walls of the city up ahead.  Strangely, however, it appears the path has ended; and to get to Jerusalem, he would have to cross a thorny, swampy area, with great difficulty, probably ruining his clothes in the process.
“This is ridiculous!” he cries, “and turns back around in the direction he had come from.

Returning to the gas station, he says to the boy, “Seriously?!  The way you sent me was impassable!  You’ve got to be kidding me!”
“I told you, sir,” responds the lad, “that that way was the short long way.  You desired the shortest distance to Jerusalem.  That way may at first be short, but ultimately it is long.  If you head along this other path, here, you will take the long short route. Distance-wise it will be a bit longer, but in the end you will arrive with much less difficulty, making it ultimately the shortest route.”

Mishnah: Continuing the ritual of the bitter waters, the cohen would bring an earthenware vial and fill it with half a log of water from the Temple basin.  He would then enter the Sanctuary and turn to the right, where there was a place that was an amah by an amah wide with a marble slate with a ring attached to it.   He would lift up the slate and take earth from beneath it and place it visibly in the water.
Gemara: What is the reason for turning right?  Anytime you turn, it should always be to the right.

In life, we make many choices.  We often come to a fork in the road and are faced with a decision: to the right or to the left?  It is tempting to choose the quickest, easiest route.  But that doesn’t always get us to the place we ultimately want to be.  Most of the time, it’s the long and challenging path that leads to our dreams.  That is the ‘right’ path to turn towards.

We live in a world of instantaneous gratification.  If we can’t have it now, many of us don’t have the patience or the strength of character to invest in the future.  But good things come to those who wait.   As Pirkei Avot teaches, “Commensurate with the effort is the reward.”  The long and winding, consistent, road is the long short way to accomplishing your dreams!

Nobody has ever become wise from reading Wikipedia.  True wisdom comes from the investment of time and effort in reading real books and researching real material.  Nor do you become a talmid chacham by consulting with Rabbi Google or reading Artscroll translations.  The path to Torah scholarship comes from years and years of delving into our holy texts, in the original.

And so too in your professional life.  As Malcolm Gladwell discovers in Outliers, nobody becomes successful overnight.  While people may sometimes appear to be overnight success stories, what really happened was that the world discovered them after their years of hard, consistent work.  You put in that time and effort and it will eventually pay off. 

Our Sages tell us, “If someone says, ‘I made the effort but was unsuccessful,’ do not believe them.  If they say, ‘I made no effort, but I was successful,’ do not believe them.  But if they say, ‘I made the effort and was successful,’ believe them.”


There are no shortcuts to success.  The only shortcut is knowing ahead of time that the short long path will not bear fruit.  May you work hard and travel the long road to success!