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Sunday, 10 January 2016

Stop worrying about what could go wrong

Daf Yomi Gittin 26


The Children of Israel finally reach the Promised Land.  In an effort to plan and strategize their entry into the land, Moshe sends twelve spies to check out the situation.  But tragically, ten return with an evil report; and manage to convince the entire nation – against the protestations of the two good spies, Yehoshua and Calev – that they should not attempt to enter Canaan.  As a result, Hashem sentences the nation to forty years of wandering in the desert, until that generation is gone and their children, who did not rebel, are ready to enter the Promised Land.

If one purchases wine (say, 100 litres) from a Samaritan (who had probably not tithed his produce) and wants to drink it now, he should say, ‘Two litres that I intend to separate in the future belong to priestly tithes; ten are the levite first tithe; and nine are the second tithe.  He may then drink it immediately, according to Rabbi Meir.  Rabbi Yehuda, Rabbi Yossi and Rabbi Shimon prohibit this method.
They said to Rabbi Meir: Aren’t you concerned that perhaps the wine flask will burst and he will be unable to tithe as promised, meaning that whatever he has already drunk is retroactively untithed, unkosher wine?
He responded:  Let’s worry about that when it bursts.

Why were the Children of Israel unwilling to enter the Promised Land?  Because it was too risky.  Sure, it was a land flowing with milk and honey.  But there were also giants there.  Who knows what might happen in the new, strange country?    And so, the safer position was to stay put.

Thank G-d for Yehoshua and Calev!  Without them, who knows where we would be today?  On Pesach, we say, “Had we not been redeemed from Egypt, then we, our children, and our children’s children would still be slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt.”  Without Yehoshua and Calev, we would probably still be wandering in the desert today!

I know what you’re thinking: ‘That’s ridiculous!  Eventually we’d have entered the Promised Land.  We wouldn’t still be wandering in the desert thousands of years later!’  But, when you think about it, it’s not really not so far-fetched.  Even today, in the twenty-first century, there are many nomadic peoples still wandering in the desert.  Just look at Afghanistan: every time it looks as though order will prevail, the people go right back to tribal life.  Some people just can’t enter their ‘promised land.’  Why not?

The problem is that they are stuck in their desert mentality.  They are stuck in a state of inertia.  They may have dreams and aspirations, but they think, ‘What if the wine flask bursts?  What if something goes wrong and it doesn’t work out?’  And so they don’t take the chance.  They stay mired in mediocrity while the world passes them by.

Instead, they should be thinking like Rabbi Meir, the optimist.  He doesn’t ask, ‘What if the flask bursts?’  No, he asks, ‘What if the flask doesn’t burst?!’  He doesn’t ask, ‘What if something goes wrong and it doesn’t work out?’  No, his question is, ‘What if something goes right and it does work out?!’  If you take that risk on fulfilling your dreams, the worst that might happen is that it doesn’t work out.  But if you stay put and don’t take that chance on your dreams, you will never know what the Promised Land even looks like!

Might there be issues when you set out to fulfill your dreams?  Maybe, says Rabbi Meir.  But worry about the problems when they present themselves.  No use worrying ahead of time – you can’t change what hasn’t happened yet! 


Stop worrying about what could go wrong if you try.  Start thinking about what could go right if you try!  May you take that leap into your ‘promised land’ and believe that with the Almighty’s help, it will all work out!