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D'VARIM-GOOD CREDIT

Friday, 24 July, 2015 - 1:49 pm

FOR D'VARIM

 

GOOD CREDIT

 

Earlier this week, I was settling into my seat on a plane as the rest of the passengers were still embarking. The three seats in the row behind me were already occupied.

 

A cry of “oh no!” was suddenly emitted from one young lady sitting behind us.

 

Naturally, all heads turned back towards this obvious yelp of distress. As it turned out, she had left her cell phone charging back in the terminal. What would she do now? Life without this critical instrument would be miserable.

 

Those in my row suggested that she simply return to the terminal and retrieve it. Ample time was still available to pull this off successfully before the scheduled time of departure. The passenger seemed confused or reluctant to make a run for it.

 

One of the flight attendants was standing nearby. While the people were continuing to file into the aircraft, the anxious passenger approached him at our behest. She asked for permission to run out to the terminal, and yes, she knew precisely where the phone was left.

 

This day was clearly not the best one for this flight attendant. He seemed exasperated, and this flight was just beginning. Wherever he turned, people were either violating some rule, or annoying him in some other way. He informed the troubled traveler that he could not allow her to leave her belongings on the plane while she left. “I would get into trouble if I did that,” he said. In order for her to leave the aircraft, she would need to find the couple of bags she had placed in different areas on the plane. This could not happen while passengers were continuing to board the plane.

 

The poor lady was going to have to wait until every passenger was seated on the plane. She was sternly warned by the stoic and way-too-serious flight attendant, that she would only have a very short time before the doors would close. It did not look good for her.

 

Getting involved with some personal matters, I did not follow the story through. I did, though, notice this woman returning to her seat with her phone in hand. She also carried a smile of relief that lit up the aircraft. The passengers who were aware of the aggravation broke out into an applause. The stern and somber flight attendant lightened up a little, gesticulating with his hands and directing her to her seat. It seemed as though he was taking credit for relief of a problem directly exacerbated by him.

 

As some passenger quipped: These workers are here to resolve crises, some of which are literally connected to life and death; their job is not to make things worse by citing rules and regulations with an unsympathetic demeanor.

 

It is fashionable to take credit, or at least to feel good, when a positive outcome follows an annoying or painful dilemma. While one usually ignores the antics of someone having a bad day, even he, in this case, was seeking some recognition for his supposed role.

 

And it makes sense: When one helps another, it normally causes a good feeling – even a joy. True, some people focus on taking credit for being the hero, and some take credit even when it is not due. The mere fact that people are looking to take credit, even when it is not due, demonstrates that helping others is a great trait which is appreciated by all.

 

Yet, taking credit when not due rubs people the wrong way – as it should. It seems, though, from this week’s Torah portion, “D’varim,” that Moses does just that. This portion, which begins the fifth and final book of the Torah, contains a recall of good times and not such good times from when the Jewish people left Egypt until the time they were poised to enter the Holy Land. Moses will pass away about a month prior to their entry into the Land. 

 

Mixed into some of the recalled episodes, in this portion and others, are disappointments and failures of the people. In his final weeks to the people, he calls on them not to repeat the mistakes made by those who left Egypt.

 

Along the way in the Torah’s fifth book, many of the commandments are revisited, various commandments receive additional critical details, and some only appear in this book.

 

One of the commandments receiving new critical details is the one to appoint judges and the general justice system. Details such as: “Listen (patiently) to your brother’s claim,” “Listen (with equal interest) to a case involving a small amount (of money), as you do one with a large amount (of money),” “On that occasion I gave you instructions about all the things you should do (i.e. how monetary cases differ from capital cases).” (D’varim (Deuteronomy) 1:16-18.)

 

None of the above details appear when the Torah originally records the setup of the justice system. What is more, the one who formulated the original idea of a justice system was Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law. Jethro gets the credit in the portion named for him, but gets no credit – not even a mention – in this portion!

 

The answer is in the details. The original idea was the brainstorm of Jethro but it was an idea that required an inordinate amount of work: A search for appropriate judges had to be organized; teaching of the system also had to be communicated, which included all the many details mentioned specifically in this week’s portion.

 

In other words: Jethro does, indeed, get the credit for the idea. The work, incorporating the many tedious details, required Moses to get on board, and assume full control of the idea, even expanding it beyond comparison to the original notion.

 

Taking credit can, therefore, also be acceptable if the implementation of the idea is more thorough and vastly expands upon the original germ of the idea. Moses definitely gets the exclusive credit in this portion for that reason: He took an idea and built it up way beyond the original thought.

 

In life, everyone is a judge. All people have the mandate to judge themselves, seeking new ideas to better themselves and improve their lives. Most people are incapable of being impartial to themselves, and they require honest and direct consultation with a peer, a friend, or a respected mentor.

 

Whoever it is, the advisor must always desire the appropriate outcome, who hopes to see a better and more improved life for the one consulting with him or her. The advisor has all the right to claim heroic credit for the idea.

 

Yet, without the one implementing the idea into his or her life, even the best plans go nowhere. Once the work has been carried out, and especially when taken to wider and broader plateaus, credit can then be taken in full by the one doing the work.

 

The flight attendant on our flight was very unhelpful, thus not carrying out his primary duties of helping passengers. He could be given credit for hindering the efforts, and making this story more compelling… Hopefully, he will also learn to take credit only when it is due: To actually work on helping another person…

 

 

SUMMARY: Credit is always due for one who invests effort to helping another. At the same time, if the outcome far exceeds the idea, the one doing the work takes the credit.

 

 

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