The husband went abroad and his wife is demanding that Beis Din empower her to sell some of his property. She needs money, she claims, to buy food. Rav holds that we give her the green light; but Shmuel says that, in the absence of information that her husband died, we do not authorize her to appropriate the husband’s property for this purpose. Why? Rav Zvid explains it this way: we have to be concerned that, before he left, the husband gave her money to buy provisions and staples while he’s away. Rav Papa, though, gives a different reason for Shmuel: we have to be concerned that, before leaving, he told her to use the profits of her own work for her food expenses, and she agreed.
Tosafos and the Ran explain that the basis of either pshat in Shmuel is that we do not assume that a man would leave his wife to starve to death. If we heard that he died, that is one thing – in that case, we can reasonably think that the husband intended on returning imminently to resume supporting of his wife. But now, so we heard, he is dead. Therefore, when she comes to Beis Din claiming she has nothing to eat, we give it credence. However, if we have no reason to believe that the husband is dead, then we also have no reason to believe that he would leave his wife to starve. Therefore, we really cannot lend validity to her claim that she has nothing to eat. We have no choice but to assume that the husband worked out some arrangement with her before embarking on his voyage.
And what exactly that arrangement was, is the subject of dispute between Rav Zvid and Rav Papa, with the former positing that the arrangement was a deposit of sufficient cash to tide her over, and the latter asserting that it was an agreement that she would fare on her own for the duration of his excursion.
What is the difference, asks the Gemara, between these two explanations of Shmuel’s shitah? What will be the nafkah minah between them? It’ll make a difference, the Gemara answers, in a case of a wife who is an adult but her work-profits do not cover her food bill, and in a case of a wife who is a minor but her work-profits do cover her expenses.
When it comes to an adult whose earnings do not cover her expenses, according to Rav Zvid, Shmuel will hold that Beis Din does not award her the claim she is making. She is an adult, and her husband may very well have entrusted her with plenty of cash to cover everything. Rav Papa, though, would say that in this case Shmuel will agree that Beis Din must accede to her demand since it is not possible that she agreed to fare for herself, seeing that her work doesn’t cover what she needs.
In the case of the minor whose earnings are enough to cover her food bill, it comes out the opposite. Rav Zvid would say that Shmuel agrees over here that Beis Din must pasken in her favor since it is not at all typical for one to entrust large sums of cash with a minor; whereas Rav Papa would say that Shmuel’s shita in such a case would be that Beis Din not award her the right to collect from her husband’s property since it very well may be that he made up with her before leaving that she’d use her own earnings for that purpose.
Although such scenarios may not be so frequent, it can happen. A mature, capable adult who really ought to have marketable earning power, but for some reason or other, it just doesn’t go. And then you can have that kid – either figuratively or literally – who you wouldn’t think should be able to generate that type of success, but look, he’s doing it!
Dichotomies such as these are not necessarily limited to the realm of parnassa either. In family life, as well, it can happen. You could have a truly well-developed personality, possessant of all the right qualities, who for some reason doesn’t have the most enviable marriage, or his children do not seem to reflect the expected results of such parentage. And then you’ve got a guy who comes across as somewhat immature – perhaps even a bit dull witted – and his personal life is flowing like a smooth river. His marriage is blissful and his children are turning out fantastic.
Whether in finance, family, social life, or otherwise, there can often be found examples of apparent imbalance between talent and success. It may not happen too often, but it does happen. And depending on which side of the coin you are on when it does, it can be a source of pleasantly-surprising joy or incredulous consternation.
It’s part of our topsy-turvy, upside-down “almah d’shikrah”, as Chazal call it. The world which we inhabit – and “world” means every facet of our existence here, the material stage and the intangible dynamics together – can be exceedingly deceiving. From a distance, one could be misled into thinking that the little girl over there – not yet even bas mitzvah – who is raking in a respectable living, is really the one who deserves our awe and respect; whereas that full grown woman – mother of nine – seems to be a piteous, hopeless case. Yes, but what if you had a wad of $200 bills, two inches thick, that you needed to leave with someone for a while? Who then? What say you, not the adult? Of course the adult!
“Well,” you may defensively retort, “that’s an entirely different matter.”
But is it really? Or is it a fantastic illustration of how we can easily pick up mistaken or inaccurate perceptions with such ease?
When it all comes down to it, what we need to remember is that there is a Boss who runs the show. And the way He thinks about things and sets the stage is not necessarily how we would understand it. “For My thoughts are not [like] your thoughts, and My ways are not [like] your ways.” We perceive a certain talent, skill, or capacity and assume that, naturally, this is how it is meant to be employed. Probably, more often than not, it’ll flow relatively smoothly. After all, He created a universe with a majestic, splendid order; not a haphazard mess.
But, sometimes it might not go. Perhaps in this particular instance, He has something else in mind. Like the stage director who instructs the props-people to leave one item behind. They cannot fathom what he wants. It so obviously belongs right over there with the rest of those items. What they don’t realize, though, is that this particular one is different from all the others. It was a special order and is rigged with a surprise peripheral. The director is saving it for a unique scene that is going to send the ratings through the roof.
In the stage of our Director, we need to remember that included therein is far, far more than just the relatively miniscule span and reach of one’s lifetime.
It can be quite frustrating, though. No-one likes to grind water. It just doesn’t quite afford any sense of tangible satisfaction. But that is where bitachon plays a critical role. Center stage, if you will. Maintaining cognizance of the fact that although it may seem topsy-turvy to us, really there is a beautiful master plan to it all, helps to infuse you with a sense of purpose to continue onward. Whether continuing onward means trying again or altering course, it is the underlying knowledge that “I am doing this now not necessarily because of assumed success – although that’d sure be nice! – but because this is what it is that Hashem wants me to be doing right now. In this place, and in these circumstances.”
We do not know Hashem’s secrets; what His plan is for each detail of our lives. “All” we can do is follow the instruction manual that he provided us – the guiding principles of Torah mandate – and leave the rest up to Him. And, ultimately, there is nothing more meaningful and satisfying. Because what is it that gives purpose to everything we do, if not the fact that it is part of the dynamic movement of fulfilling His will.
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.