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Sunday, 22 January 2017

Does your Judaism feel inconsistent?

Daf Yomi Bava Metzia 119

Mar Yehuda and Beau-T bar Tuvy were sitting with King Shapur, and they were brought an etrog.  King Shapur sliced off a piece and ate it, and then sliced off another piece and gave it to Beau-T to eat.  He then thrust the knife ten times into the ground to kasher it before cutting a piece for Mar Yehuda.
Beau-T then asked the king, “What, am I not Jewish enough?”
Shapur responded, “Well, I know that Mar Yehuda is pretty religious.  You, on the other hand, we both know where you were last night!”

Mishna: If two gardens are situated one above the other and vegetables grow between them, Rabbi Meir says: they belong to the upper garden; Rabbi Yehuda maintains: to the lower garden. Rabbi Shimon says: as far as the owner of the upper garden can stretch out his hand and take belongs to him, and the rest belongs to the owner of the lower garden.
Gemara: They related this matter before King Shapur.  He said to them, “We extend our grace to Rabbi Shimon.”
Rashi elucidates: King Shapur was the king of Persia.  He was an expert in Jewish law and hence praised Rabbi Shimon for his position.
Tosfos further explains: We know that King Shapur was an expert from the story at the end of Tractate Avoda Zara, where he plunged the knife ten times into hard earth before cutting the etrog for Rav Yehuda. 

At the end of the day, even the wisest of kings are still mere mortals.  King Shapur may have been an expert in halacha, but that didn’t stop him judging Beau-T.  From his perspective, he knew that Beau-T wasn’t exactly Moshe Rabbeinu, and so he assumed that he was pretty lax all round.  Beau-T took offense to such judgment; he might not have been a perfect Jew, but that didn’t mean he didn’t care about his kashrus!

The good news is that the King of Kings doesn’t pass sweeping generalizations on people.  The Almighty knows what’s in your heart and He knows that nobody’s perfect.  We all have areas in our spiritual lives that we need to work on.  Hashem is well aware of our strengths and weaknesses.  Just because you’re not perfect in one area of your life, that doesn’t mean you can’t be perfect in another.

Unfortunately, many people who struggle with their imperfections tell themselves, “Why should I try to be a good Jew in this area of observance; I do all these other things wrong.  Who am I kidding?”  And so in their zeal to avoid coming across as inconsistent, they don’t do anything.  “Everybody knows how I get to shul on Shabbos; I would look like a hypocrite if I told them I can’t go to the treif restaurant with them!”

But that’s not how Hashem works.  He can see past the apparent inconsistencies.  He knows what’s in your heart.  In His eyes, each mitzvah is a separate opportunity for you to connect with Him and He knows that when the time is right, you’ll be ready to work on those other areas.  Meanwhile, just keep doing as many mitzvos as you can! 

You have a special, unique, personal relationship with the Almighty.  It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about it, your Father knows exactly what’s in your heart.  May you always focus on the positive aspects of your relationship with Heaven and with time, may you add more and more to your portfolio!  

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