By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Yevamos 68 – Accepting One’s Limitations
A woman who is a Bas-Yisrael married to a Kohein is allowed to eat terumah. However if her husband is a cheireish, she may not. Why? His kinyan is only m’drabbanan. Strictly speaking, a cheireish does not have daas and cannot generate the kinyan of marriage. As the Gemara says later, a special takanah d’rabbanan was enacted since it is feasible for a cheireish, despite his d’oraysoh status, to have a harmonious relationship. When it comes to his wife eating terumah, though, this takanah d’rabbanan does not suffice.
This is not a trivial point or mere technicality. From yesterday’s daf we saw clearly that this was a big part of how a woman would assess the strength of her marriage to her husband the Kohein.
“What’s wrong with my marriage? Why should we be considered different from anyone else? Look, we are managing just fine despite my husband’s handicap, so why should I be barred from eating terumah?” These thoughts may very well churn through this Bas-Yisrael’s mind. And understandably so.
It is human nature to not want to consider oneself or one’s situation less-than-perfect. Regarding whatever we deem important, we don’t like to think that we are living a b’dieved. Make no mistake, this is not just some annoying human idiosyncrasy emanating from a hopelessly egoistic drive. Hashem put us in this world to strive. To achieve and accomplish. A lot. A whole lot. Chazal go so far as to say that each and every one of us ought to constantly be urging ourselves with the thought, “When will my deeds reach those of my Avos?” We are meant to aim high. Real high. Hashem helped us out by programming us in a way that makes us wholly dissatisfied with mediocrity.
It is such a strong part of our nature to abhor less-than because we are supposed to be forever reaching for the stars – trying to make every facet of our lives as l’chatchila and mehudar as possible. But sometimes we have no choice but to face the reality that our situation is what it is even if it doesn’t seem to be the glick first-rate that we so badly wanted; and that is also ratzon Hashem. This is no easy task. At all. Particularly so when our perception tells us that we have been deprived of that which all our peers were not.
It’s helpful to recognize that acceptance of our limitations is not only the right thing to do in terms of emunah and bitachon; it is also in our own best interests. What would happen, for example, if a boy who is not up to it, is placed in a Yeshiva with an extremely high level of academic standard? If he or his parents stubbornly insist on enrolling him in the institution that all his friends will be attending, it could literally spell disaster for them. Trying to be that which we are not, or do that of which we are truly not capable doesn’t do ourselves any favors. All it does is set us up for failure and heartache. In order to achieve his maximum, he needs to be realistic with his abilities and his limitations. This is just as important, if not more so, when it comes to one’s life situations.
Yes, a person can strive for greatness, even to the extent of going beyond his inborn talents. There were Gedolim who as youths refused to capitulate to their naturally slow intellect or very weak background. They nurtured the burning flame within and broke through their own constricting boundaries, and went on to achieve singular greatness. Yes, it can be done. And the same applies to the various situations in which one finds oneself in life. There is nothing wrong with trying to improve and make things better. On the contrary, that is a very healthy, positive approach.
Nevertheless, at the end of the day, ha’kol bidei Shamayim chutz mi’yiras Shamayim. Ultimately, our talents and life-circumstances are in Hashem’s hands, not ours. That requires us to temper and balance our burning drive for everything great, with a mature sense of realism. Understanding that sometimes “this is it” is ratzon Hashem, is the key to enabling us to overcome the difficulty of accepting what we perceive as b’dieved in our lives. For, ultimately, if this is the situation in which Hashem wants me to be, even if I cannot understand why, then there can be no greater l’chatchila than that.
Rabbi Yehoshua Berman serves as the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Reshet HaDaf in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. Driven by a passion to generate true kinyan Torah, both for himself and others, Rabbi Berman develops innovative tools to getting the most out of what we learn. In addition to having authored the warmly acclaimed Reflections on the Parsha, Rabbi Berman regularly delivers shiurim whose topics range from Halacha to Hashkafa, sends out daily emails of comprehensive chazara questions for the advanced Daf Yomi learner who really wants to retain his learning, and weekly emails of words of inspiration based on the Parsha. For more information on Reflections, to subscribe to receive these emails, or request a speaking engagement, Rabbi Berman can be contacted at email@example.com.