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Sunday, 10 January 2016

Read this tomorrow

Daf Yomi Gittin 27

Our Patriarch Yitzchak calls over his son, Esav, to offer him his final blessings.  In preparation, he asks him to hunt food and bring him to eat.  Rivkah overhears the conversation and instructs Yaakov to do the same. 
‘But my father will touch me and I will be in his eyes an impostor!’ Yaakov cries.  Rivkah tells him not to worry; she will bear any iniquity.  She tells him to hurry and sure enough, he manages to enter Yitzchak’s chambers, give his father food to eat, receive the blessing and leave – all before Esav has managed to return.  What took Esav so long??

Our Sages tell us that every time he would capture animals, an angel would come and let them loose.   Well, then why didn’t he simply take his hunted animals straight home, instead of waiting for the angel to set them free? 

Mishnah: If an emissary was bringing divorce documents from the husband to the wife but lost them en route: if he found them immediately, they are still kosher.  If not, they are invalid.
Rashi explains: Perhaps they fell from someone else (with identical names), and these are not his documents.
Gemara:  What is the definition of not immediately?  Rabbi Nasan says: The time it would take for a caravan to pass, having camped overnight.  Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar says: It is not clock-time dependent; rather he should stand up and ascertain whether anyone else had passed through the area.  Rebbe says: The amount of time needed to write a bill of divorce.  Rabbi Yitzchak says: The amount of time it takes to read a bill of divorce. 

Success is all about how immediately we fulfil our tasks in life.  This emissary was on a mission.  All he had to do was deliver the documents intact.  And yet not only does he manage to lose them, but somehow he can’t get his act together to find them immediately. 

Esav could have received the blessings, but he missed out, because he didn’t come home immediately.  What was stopping him?  No doubt he figured that once he was out hunting anyway, he might as well have some fun hunting other animals.  What was the rush? 

But while he was finding ways to procrastinate and distract himself from what he needed to do, an angel was going around untying his father’s dinner.  And every time he came back and found the animal gone, he probably shrugged his shoulders and thought, ‘Look, I’m busy doing stuff.  That’s the main thing.  I’ll get the supper home eventually.’

Why don’t we do things immediately?  Because it’s much easier to flick on the smartphone and check Facebook and Twitter for the umpteenth time than take care of the important things in life.   We know what we need to do, but we look for distractions in life to put off taking care of what’s really important.

But, let’s be honest.  Nobody does everything at the first available opportunity, do we?  After all, we’re not robots.  So how much wiggle room do you have if you want to be successful?  What constitutes procrastination?  What is the definition of not immediately?

According to Rabbi Nasan, procrastination means putting it off for the ‘time it would take for the caravan to camp overnight.’  As Ben Franklin would say, ‘Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.’  If you can do it today, and the only reason you are not is because you are finding an unnecessary excuse or distraction that is the definition of procrastination.  In other words, if putting it off means it won’t get done today, that’s a bad sign.

Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar says: Don’t even think about tomorrow.  Just get up and do whatever needs to be done.  Rest assured, if you don’t take care of the task, someone else will beat you to it.  The sooner you do it, the less chance that you will lose the opportunity.  In other words, if you want to be successful, bear in mind that it’s a tough, competitive world out there.  Unless you get a move on and do what you need to, someone else will get to it first.  If you don’t fulfil your work tasks in an acceptable time-frame, your boss will find someone else who will.  If you sit around not getting your business plan off the ground, your competitor will get there first.

Rebbe says that people spend too much time thinking about what they need to do instead of just doing it.  All that time that the messenger spent looking for his lost documents, by now he could have written up completely new papers!  Stop lazing about thinking what you need to do, just go and do it already!  The time you’ve taken thinking about whether or not you should proceed, you could have done the whole thing already!

Rabbi Yitzchak says: It’s about reading.  Reading is a good thing, right?  It all depends what you’re reading.  There’s a big difference between information and knowledge.  To gain access to either, you need to read.  But one is useful while the other’s use is more limited. 

What does that mean practically?  Most things you read on the internet are informative.  They keep you up-to-date with what’s going on in the world, and that’s certainly important.   But they generally don’t increase your solid, real knowledge.  That you get from books.   Books increase your knowledge. They teach you by giving you a proper, clear understanding of ideas, not just a quick bit-size snapshot, like you get from the internet.

What was the last good non-fiction book you read?  Maybe you have books sitting on your shelf waiting to be read.  The problem is that you keep procrastinating.  You tell yourself, ‘I’m not wasting time; I’m reading informative web-sites.’  Just remember: Most of the material you read online is information, not knowledge.  And gathering information is, all too often, nothing more than a great cover for procrastination. 

Stop finding distractions.  You know what you need to do to become the incredibly successful individual the Almighty has ordained you to be.  May you rise to the task and never convince yourself that you are busy unless you are truly on track to accomplishing your dreams!

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