May 20, 2024
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The Very Best Version of You: Moed Katan Daf 9

People who had the privilege to meet the Chazon Ish were overwhelmed by his originality in all areas of Torah interpretation and of life. His opinion on any subject was totally the result of his own thinking, based on the way Torah filtered through his soul. There was no influence in the world that affected his decisions. As he once left the Chazon Ish’s home, a sensitive visitor recalled being struck by this profound quality and its stark contrast so vividly portrayed by King David, “Not so the wicked; rather they are like chaff that is carried by the wind” (Psalms 1:4). The wicked do not think for themselves; their opinions are formed by the wind of the times (Pirkei Avot Treasury (ArtScroll), p. 202).

כְּתִיב פַּלֵּס מַעְגַּל רַגְלֶךָ וְכׇל דְּרָכֶיךָ יִכּוֹנוּ וּכְתִיב אוֹרַח חַיִּים פֶּן תְּפַלֵּס לָא קַשְׁיָא כָּאן בְּמִצְוָה שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר לַעֲשׂוֹתָהּ עַל יְדֵי אֲחֵרִים כָּאן בְּמִצְוָה שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר לַעֲשׂוֹתָהּ עַל יְדֵי אֲחֵרִים.

רש“י: פלס מעגל רגלך—כלומר שקול מצות ועיין בהן איזו מצוה גדולה ועשה הגדולה. וכתיב ארח חיים פן תפלס—דמשמע כל מצוה שתבא לידך עשה אותה בין גדולה בין קטנה ואל תניח קטנה מפני הגדולה.

It is written, “Weigh the path of your feet and all your journeys will be directed.” And it is written, “Lest you weigh the path of life.” These are not contradictory statements. The former refers to a mitzvah that may be performed by others. The latter refers to a mitzvah for which there is no other person to perform it.

Rashi: Weigh the path of your feet: When faced with two mitzvot, weigh them up and calculate which is greater, and perform the greater one.

Lest you weigh the path of life: This verse implies that you should perform every mitzvah that comes your way, great or small, and do not forsake the small for the big.

Life is full of choices. Sometimes we’re asked to choose between right and wrong. Such decisions should be fairly straightforward. The harder choices to make in life are between two right decisions. How do you determine which path to prioritize when both appear to be proper and important?

On the one hand, Shlomo HaMelech teaches that you should perform every mitzvah that comes your way. On the other hand, he says that when faced with two mitzvot, you should strive to fulfill the bigger mitzvah. The Gemara resolves this contradiction: When it comes to a mitzvah that anyone can do, don’t take the easy route in life; choose the big mitzvot, the ones that take greater effort. If, however, you come across an easy mitzvah, but you’re the only one who can do it, then don’t start telling yourself that it’s beneath you to do it. The mitzvah has come your way; now do it.

For example, anybody can learn Torah daily. But not everyone will learn Torah daily. It’s probably easier to find volunteers to help stuff envelopes for the shul bulletin mailing. And so, the bigger mitzvah here is to learn Torah, as most people aren’t prepared to dedicate their headspace to it after a long, hard day of work.

Sometimes, however, you find yourself in a situation where there’s nobody else to stuff the envelopes for the shul annual dinner. It might seem like a little mitzvah to you, but if you’re the only one who is available to take care of it, then you must put down your sefer and take care of the community’s needs.

When we’re young, we think that we can do it all and have it all, but the truth is that it is impossible to do everything in life. Every time you choose to do one thing, you are at the same time choosing not to do other things. If you choose to dedicate your life to learning in kollel, then you are simultaneously choosing not to become a school rebbi. If you choose to become an accountant, then you are simultaneously choosing not to study medicine or law. Every decision is a choice in favor of one path over the competing options.

Saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to something else. Yes means no.

The goal of life is to figure out how you can maximize your potential on earth. While it’s true that every positive decision that you make will have a positive impact on the world, that’s not the ultimate accomplishment. The ultimate accomplishment is to ask yourself whether you are achieving the maximum possible positive impact with the choices that you are making.

And so, King Solomon’s advice is: Constantly ask yourself two questions. The first is, “Could anyone else do what I am doing?” If the answer is no, then you must take care of it, no matter how trivial it may feel. If the answer is yes, then you need to ask yourself the second question, “What else could I be doing in this world that might be a better use of my talents, skills and expertise?”

The answer to these two questions is not static. It will change throughout your life, just as you change and the circumstances around you change. As you grow, your environment must grow. As you thrive, so should those you are impacting.

Few people in any generation are on the level of the Chazon Ish. Most of us cannot blaze a trail that is completely unique and distinct, but that doesn’t mean that we should just follow the pack. As the visitor to the Chazon Ish noted, the wicked don’t think for themselves. The mark of a righteous person is his constant re-evaluation of his path in life to make sure that he is doing the very best that he could be doing.

The great chassidic master Reb Zushe of Anipoli famously related: After 120, when I reach the Heavenly court, they won’t ask me, “Why weren’t you as great as Avraham Avinu? Why weren’t you as great as Moshe Rabbeinu?” No, they will ask me, “Were you as great as Zushe had the potential to be?”

Our time on this earth is short. Each of us is tasked with maximizing every day, every hour, every minute. The way to accomplish your mission is to constantly check in with yourself and assess whether you are achieving the most ideal, effective life of positive influence that you possibly could. The world needs you and your unique God-given talents. May you maximize your potential today and every day of your entire life!

Rabbi Daniel Friedman is the author of The Transformative Daf book series.

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