Daf Yomi Gittin 39
In 2011, Indian-British Fauja Singh became the first centenarian to ever run a marathon. The week he turned 100, he broke the world records for the 100m, 200m, 400m, and 3000m – all in the space of ninety four minutes! Three days later, he ran his marathon, the crowning glory of his record-breaking streak. You’d think that such an accomplished athlete was probably running his whole life. Actually, he took up marathon running after his wife passed away, when he was eighty seven years old. After his loss, he needed something to keep him going, he says!
If one consecrated his servant to the Temple, the owner is not liable if he subsequently made personal use of him. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says: He is liable if he uses his hair.
The Gemara explains: One maintains that hair has the status of being already cut, while the other maintains that uncut hair still has the status of the servant.
The Gemara asks: Shall we say that the debate is the same as the following?
For we learned: Rabbi Meir says some produce is like the land, but they are not land; but the Sages disagree. How so? Rabbi Yossi the son of Rabbi Chanina says they disagree over grapes that are ripe and ready to be harvested. Rabbi Meir maintains it is as if they are already picked; but the Sages maintain that they are not considered severed from the ground.
The Gemara responds: No, the debate is not similar. Rabbi Meir might aver that uncut hair is not like uncut fruit. In the case of the grapes, once they are ripe, the longer they remain on the vine the more they spoil; whereas in the case of the hair, the longer it remains on the head the more it improves.
Often in life, we believe that the longer we stick around, the greater the accomplishment. But most activities are like grapes – once they are ripe, it’s time to pick them. Any longer on the vine, they will simply spoil. If you’re still around, don’t ever become like grapes. You want to always be like that hair, growing stronger and stronger!
Maybe you’re the longest serving employee in your company. While everyone else has not lasted, you have stayed, dedicated to the company, holding the fort, a committed employee! Every morning you wake up, look in the mirror, and pat yourself on the back for your incredible, unparalleled dedication! ‘What a model employee!’ you tell yourself!
Here’s the thing: In life, there’s no prize for the last man standing. Simply sticking around is not laudable. What’s important is what you are doing while you are sticking around. You don’t get points for being the most dedicated conveyor belt worker when all your friends have long since moved on to better-paying, more lucrative positions.
Whatever you are doing in life, you must always be growing. If you’re stuck on the conveyor belt, find ways to pick up new skills so that you have what to show for the time you spent on the factory floor. It’s not always easy to move onwards and upwards in your career – the right opportunity must present itself and become available – but that’s no excuse to remain in a state of inertia. Every year that you can’t look back upon and clearly see how you’ve improved over the last twelve months is a wasted year!
And if that’s true of your professional life, how much more so when it comes to your actual life. As long as the Almighty has kept you here on Earth, it means you have more to accomplish. Some people think that the golden years are when you’re meant to gradually slow things down in your life until you’re eventually ready to pass on. Isn’t that ridiculous? They’re called the golden years because they’re the most precious years of your life. You’ve reached a level of maturity and self-sufficiency when you can reach your greatest goals!
Next time you’re lying in bed because it’s three o’clock in the morning and it’s not time to get up yet, but you can’t fall back to sleep, think about Fauja Singh, the centenarian marathon runner. I promise you, when he wakes up, it doesn’t matter what time it is, he jumps out of bed! He has a mission in life and nothing’s going to stop him. Age is not a barrier; on the contrary, age is his driving motivator! After all, it’s because he is over a hundred that he is winning medals!
They recently announced that the oldest man in the world is a frum Holocaust survivor living in Israel. He has been an observant Jew his entire life. I know what you’re thinking, but no, he’s not a rabbi – he’s a candy-maker, the son of a candy-maker. When I heard about this hero, I said to myself: I am sure this man is breaking world records, every day. He probably goes to minyan three times a day and sticks around for Daf Yomi. If he does, then he is the oldest ever Daf Yomi learner! For all we know, he’s been learning the Daf since its inception in 1923! Do the Guinness people have a Daf Yomi category?!
If you are at some point in your life where you feel that you’ve plateaued, it’s time to figure out what the next growth phase should be. It might be learning something new, writing something new, teaching others. The key to remember always is that the Almighty never intended you to be static in life. May you constantly grow throughout your short, precious time on this Earth!