By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Kesubos 88 – A Big Job
In trying to figure out what exactly Rabi Shimon in the Mishna is referring to, the Gemara cites numerous machloksin from various Mishnayos that could possibly be the subject of dispute between Rabi Shimon and the Chachamim in our Mishna here.
One of those is the machlokes between Abba Shaul and the Chachamim regarding whether or not appointed custodians of orphans’ estates are subject to having to take a shvuah (in the absence of a firm allegation of impropriety -see Tosafos-). Both agree that it depends on the source of the nomination of custodianship: was he appointed by Beis Din or by the deceased father? The Chachamim maintain that an appointee of the father can have a shvuah imposed on him whereas an appointee of Beis Din not, and Abba Shaul holds the opposite.
Rashi explains, summarizing the Gemara in Gittin, that it all depends on whether or not there is reason to be concerned that no-one will be willing to accept the custodianship if they may potentially be subject to taking a shvuah.
The Chachamim hold that when the deceased father is the one who appointed the custodian, it must mean that the former provided benefit to the latter. It’s a “you owe me one” type of situation, and the nominee will therefore not refuse, despite lack of being absolved form having to take an arbitrarily imposed shvuah. If Beis Din is the source of the appointment, though, we cannot allow a shvuah to be imposed on him, because then perhaps no-one will want to accept the responsibility.
Abba Shaul, on the other hand, holds that people tend to view a Beis Din sanctioned appointment as a badge of honor. “Beis Din is investing their trust in me!” So they’re willing to take it on even if they may be subject to a whimsically imposed shvuah from time to time. But if the father asked him to do it, then it is just a personal favor. A favor that he may not be willing to do if he can be subject to taking a shvuah.
It seems pretty clear that an underlying assumption over here is that most people harbor a certain degree of natural aversion to accepting a heavy responsibility such as being the warden for orphans’ estates. He’ll only take the job if he feels a strong push to do so. He owes the father a big favor, it’s a great addition to his resume, and so on. So when the Chachamim say that a Beis Din appointment will likely flop if the appointee won’t be exempted from having to take a shvuah, we’re left with the question: well, why will he take the job if he is exempted? What’s in it for him?
The answer, apparently, is that everyone is in agreement that the basic premise of why a person would accept the Beis Din appointment is that it is a badge of honor. “Beis Din is trusting and relying on me!” It’s a big chashivus for him. The only difference between the Chachamim and Abba Shaul is whether or not people relate to it as such only if they are fully trusted and exempt from arbitrary shvuos, or even if they may have to take a shvuah. But the basic paradigm that we are working with here is that to get a guy to take on a big job, you’ve got to invest him with a sense of pride and chashivus in what he’s doing.
And that is a major, fundamental piece of life-wisdom.
We’re all looking to increase productivity. We want our employees to be productive. We want our co-workers to be productive. We want our spouses to be productive. Our chevrusos. Our children. Ourselves. Even our bosses! Whomever it may be that we are working with – irrespective of the particular, unique nature or extent of that co-operative relationship – we appreciate and desire that everyone involved should be emitting the maximum and highest-quality output possible.
That being the case, it’s not a bad idea to contemplate what conditions bring out the best in people. There is no question that clear guidelines, instructions, and at times even demands and strict deadlines have a role to play in driving people to work hard. However, and this is a big however, such mechanisms must be understood and calibrated properly. Because if the sum total of a person’s feeling towards what he is being tasked to do is a sense of being controlled, mistrusted, and belittled, he can very quickly lose any real motivation to function at a high production rate, if at all.
What really provides people with that strong internal impetus to shoot for the stars is an overarching sense of pride and importance in what they are doing. You could have two people that are tasked with the same, high-level, difficult job. One feels great – that he is really moving up in life; while the other feels used and perhaps even abused. It all depends on the presentation. Investing ourselves and the others we interact with in life with a sense of real trust and importance is what will really get things going. Because when people feel great about what they are doing, they are driven to generate great output.
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.