By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Yevamos 83 – Your Unique You
If Reuvein trails his grape vines over top Baruch’s growing stalks of wheat, the Tanna Kamma says that it is kilayim and becomes assur. Rabi Yosi and Rabi Shimon, on the other hand, hold that it does not become assur because of kilayim. The reason? Ein adam oser davar sheh’eino shelo, one cannot make forbidden that which is not his. This yesod, which it is clear from today’s sugyah that we pasken in accordance therewith, is one of those concepts that you could call a Shas-musag. Its ramifications ripple throughout many, various halachos.
So much so, that Tosafos is bothered by the following question. Why is it that if Reuvein plunks a chunk of cheilev or neveilah into Baruch’s cholent, we do not say ein adam oser davar sheh’eino shelo? The cholent, as we all very well know, is most certainly assur. M’doraysah. But why? Why should the halacha of mixtures of forbidden foods be any different from the halacha of forbidden mixtures of vegetation?
The answer, says Tosafos, is that we only apply this concept ein adam oser davar sheh’eino shelo when it comes to issurim that are to a great extent a function of thought. Only regarding those prohibitions that are inextricably bound to one’s intention do we say that someone else cannot cause your things to become assur.
Tosafos proves from a Mishna in Maseches Kilayim that this is in fact the case regarding kilayim. The Mishna says that if someone is working his vineyard and notices a vegetable growing there, and he thinks to himself “When I get to it I’ll uproot it”, it does not become prohibited even if it grew more than a 200th by the time he got there. However, if he noticed it in the section where he already finished working and thought, “On my way back I’ll uproot it”, then it does become assur if it grew that amount in the meantime. The only difference between these two instances is in the owner’s thoughts. Therefore, says Tosafos, we clearly see that kilayim is one of those “thought-oriented” issurim.
It is a fascinating thing to ponder, this fact that one’s thoughts and intentions so often make all the difference in the world. A person can do the exact same action; with one thought it is an issur d’oraysah, and with a different thought it is mutar l’chatchila!
Consider the halachos of borer, for example. You take the good from the bad, and you make sure to do it with your hand. If your intention is to use it immediately (for the definition thereof see the Mishna Brurah in siman 319), the action performed is completely permissible. If the intention, though, was to leave it for some later usage, it is a full-fledged issur d’oraysah! Truly phenomenal. Particularly so considering the fact that the laws of the Torah are actual realities, and not mere legalistic modalities of popular consent.
In so-called mundane matters as well, a person’s intentions can drastically alter how a particular action is classified and qualified. Take, for example, a mother-in-law who helps tidy up during her visit to her son and daughter-in-law. If she means it genuinely, and really is just trying to help, usually her overture will be taken kindly because that is precisely what it is: an act of kindness. However, if inside the mother-in-law looks down with disdain on her daughter-in-law’s dysfunction in managing a home – and it is with that thought-pattern that she “helps” tidy up – it almost certainly will not be taken well at all; because, truly, what it is, is a shtuch, an unkind snub.
What this means is that our internal reality is inseparably bound to the actions which we perform. No, not every action is necessarily so drastically affected by one’s thoughts, but they do not exist separately from one another.
Now, think about it for a moment. Assuming the template of compartmentalizing human expression into three major divisions – thought, speech, and action – which of these would you say most closely reflects the essential you? Probably, most of us would not hesitate to say that the division that is the most critical in defining “me”, is thought. Speech and action, to a great extent, is but an outgrowth – an outer manifestation – of one’s inner world of thought. How you think and feel about things is who you really are on the most elemental level.
The implication, then, of the powerful impact and wide-ranging influence that thoughts and intentions have on action – both in general and in particular concerning Torah law – is that the One who programmed this whole system has invested enormously in you. The essential you has been designated and demarcated as a crucial fulcrum in the system of activity that transpires in this world.
And greatly underscoring this point is the fact that no one can touch that inner world of you. Ein adam oser davar sheh’eino shelo. That which has been designated as being within the range of influence of your you cannot be affected by anyone else. Just as your you is yours and yours alone, so too that which is within the reach and purview of your individual you is completely out of bounds and untouchable for everyone else in the world.
Every individual is an entire world, as Chazal say anyone who saves one Jew is as if he saved an entire world. That world was created and arranged just for you – bishvili nivra ha’olam. That microcosmic world is, in a very real sense, just as precious to the Borei Olam as the macrocosmic world. The internal and personal world of each individual is singularly unique – as Chazal say, k’sheim sheh’ein partzufeihen shavin kach ein deioseihen shavos, just as there are no two human faces exactly alike so too are no two minds exactly alike – and thus carries within it an importance and significance that is irreplaceable.
A critical component – practically a prerequisite – of understanding one’s inner world is recognizing that character deficiencies and flaws do not comprise a blemish on the essential you. On the contrary, it is precisely the challenge of those deficiencies that provides us with the fertile ground of self-expression through the lifelong journey of self-growth.
It is told about one of the great baalei mussar that he was once on a train when the power suddenly went out and the train came to a full stop. Exacerbating the ordeal was the location where the train stopped. It was in the middle of a long tunnel. Everything suddenly went pitch black. By the time the malfunction was finally corrected, the lights came back on, and the train continued along its way, all the passengers were unnerved and agitated. Save for one individual. Upon inquiry as to his strikingly calm demeanor, he responded that, for him, the brief time in the dark was a relaxing, enjoyable, and welcome incident. Why? Because it afforded him the opportunity to be completely alone with his thoughts.
Appreciating one’s inner self – in all its variegated facets – is a fundamental part of being human; certainly of being a Jew. What we may sometimes not realize, though, is that we should not necessarily take this sense of appreciation of self for granted. The macro-world in which we live often presents challenges if not outright attacks on this sense of self. In a world wherein the ever-increasing pace of connectivity pulls us further and further away from being connected – both from others and more importantly from our own sense of self – it becomes an urgent need to regularly check the pulse of self to ensure its vitality and health. Your unique, individual you is of infinite value to the One who has invested so much into it, and one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself is that very you.
Rabbi Yehoshua Berman serves as the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Reshet HaDaf in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. In addition to having authored Reflections on the Parsha, Rabbi Berman regularly delivers shiurim on Halacha and Hashkafa, writes comprehensive chazara questions for the advanced Daf Yomi learner, and weekly words of inspiration from the Parsha. Rabbi Berman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.