By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Yevamos 93 – Does That Mean You’re Wrong?
Rabi Yanai had an arrangement with his sharecropper that the latter would bring him a certain amount of produce every Friday that Rabi Yanai would use on Shabbos. One Friday, close to Shabbos, Rabi Yanai’s sharecropper had still not shown up. It’s forbidden to tithe on Shabbos, so Rabi Yanai took un-tithed produce that he had in his house and designated it as the terumos and maasros for the produce that the sharecropper would wind up delivering probably after Shabbos had already begun.
This, says the Gemara, proves that Rabi Yanai holds that one can make acquisitions on a davar sheh’lo bah la’olam, on something that has not yet “come into the world”. Although the produce yet to be delivered was not in Rabi Yanai’s possession at the moment that he effected the act of tithing, he nevertheless held that such a procedure works.
Later, Rabi Yanai came to his rebbi, Rabi Chiyah, to ask him if what he did was acceptable. Rabi Chiyah replied in the affirmative, quoting a pasuk as evidence thereto. “But in my dream that leil Shabbos,” Rabi Yanai unburdened himself, “I heard the pasuk of kaneh ratzutz being said to me. Isn’t that an indication to the pasuk, ‘Behold you relied on the support of this shattered reed’ (thus indicating that the heter I relied on was inappropriate)?”
“No,” answered Rabi Chiyah, “it is this pasuk [of kaneh ratzutz] that was being indicated, ‘A shattered read shall not break.” The end of that pasuk, explains Rashi, reads “justice will bring forth truth”, which is an indication that Rabi Yanai had paskened correctly.
What exactly happened over here? Apparently, after the fact, Rabi Yanai was having second thoughts – possibly directly because of his dream – and was concerned that perhaps his personal bias (to be able to use the produce on Shabbos) had influenced his psak and caused him to err. Therefore, he assumed that the meaning of the dream was negative. Rabi Chiyah, though, who had no personal partiality, assessed the matter from a purely objective standpoint and determined that what Rabi Yanai had done was completely in line with the correct interpretation of the halacha. As such, he determined that, clearly, the dream must be a positive inference to the latter pasuk of kaneh ratzutz.
There is a general rule when it comes to weighing what is the proper course of action: whichever option towards which you are biased must be subjected to a heavy dose of suspicious scrutiny. You need to be extremely careful to examine such an option thoroughly before deciding on that approach. The reason is simple. Since you are biased to that option, you are inclined to not think about it in an objective manner. Your bias is very likely to convince you that it is the correct decision even if it really isn’t.
However, equally important to recognize is that you should not write off such an option either. Just because you are biased to a certain mode of behavior or approach does not automatically indicate that that approach is for sure wrong. It may very well be that it really is the right approach. Just be very careful before you come to that decision.
Likewise, it can often occur, after we have already made a decision, that something happens which causes us to second guess ourselves. Perhaps some undesirable or unpleasant repercussion evolved from that course of action, and it makes us wonder if we really made the right choice. Like Rabi Yanai, we may be inclined to interpret things negatively and think that, yes, it must have been a mistake.
What we need to do, though, is remember, “Not so fast!” Even if you ultimately chose the course of action to which you were initially biased, and even if it now seems that it is causing problems, don’t make any rash decisions to make an about-face. Instead, do what Rabi Yanai did. Go to your Rav or Rebbi and ask him. He doesn’t have your bias. He is not personally involved. And, of course, he has Daas Torah. Sure, it’s possible that you did in fact make a mistake; in which case your Rebbi will be able to help you decide what is the best thing to do now. It is also wholly possible that he may determine that the approach you chose was in fact correct, and provide you with a totally different angle on how to understand what evolved as a result thereof.
The main thing is to realize that, at the end of the day, we are human and the best we can do is try our best. That we will sometimes, or even oftentimes make mistakes is inevitable. As one wise person said, “Someone who never makes mistakes means that he is not doing anything.” (In Hebrew it sounds better: mee sheh’eino to’eh einoh oseh). So, try your best to carefully assess what the best course of action is, and know when to ask Daas Torah, as in when you’re not well-informed enough or not sure. With that formula you can’t go wrong, even if you do make mistakes from time to time.
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 (in Hebrew) for the advanced Daf Yomi learner, and weekly words of inspiration from the Parsha. Rabbi Berman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.