Have you ever asked yourself how it is possible to achieve a perfect scorecard in one’s lifetime? After all, there is an expression that says we learn through our mistakes? Indeed, it is written that “a tzaddik fall seven times …”
It might be worthwhile for us to revisit the possuk) in Bereishis that set the standard for this seemingly impossible goal. “When Avram was ninety-nine years old, Hashem appeared to him and said, ‘I am the Almghty G-d; walk before Me and be perfect.’” – Genesis (Bereishis) 17:1.
On a deeper level, if we understand that being perfect does not mean being flawless, then we we can appreciate what Rav S.R. Hirsch has taught. He points out that the word for walk in Hebrew is not telech but hesalech, which means “Go your way despite opposition [so that] your progress [is not ] dependent on external circumstances but [rather comes] from within yourself … from your own free-willed decisions.” Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski says this means that even though we cannot live our entire lives without flaw, we can still “be perfect
if I (we) make free-willed decisions to obey the Divine will.
To achieve this type of “walking before G-d consciousness,” we must relinquish our self-interest when it varies from the ways of the Torah, as our friend Yankel* found out. Yankel had a very large sum of money invested in the market in bonds. He decided to take the
entire amount and reinvest it in a more lucrative, albeit more risky, stock for two weeks.
On the very first day his new stock jumped in early trading because it was understood that the Federal Bank would lower interest rates that day. Before the Fed’s announcement the market was already up over 2% and Yankel began doubting his original strategy of holding the stock for two weeks. Therefore he decided, If the value of the stock goes up more
than 3% today, I will immediately return my money to the “safer” haven of bonds. The market ended the session up 3½%, increasing the value of Yankel’s stock many thousands of dollars.
At this point, making money was the easy part of Yankel’s challenge for the battle raged within him about a continuing strategy. His original plan to hold on to the stock for two weeks now seemed too risky for he could easily lose all his gains. An inner voice rationalized
that it would be better to cash in now, while another voice urged him to keep
the stocks for just one more day, since the interest rates had now just been
lowered, which usually raises the value of stocks.
Well, lessons in life often come with a sting in the tail. The stock market plummeted to a bit over 2½% the next day, and Yankel’s stock dropped accordingly. True, Yankel still remained with a modest profit, but now more importantly he felt an even greater loss in that
maybe he had compromised his personal integrity by wavering from his original decision.
To make matters worse, right after Yankel had the stock sold the value of that stock continued again rise over 1% on each of the next three days. Now Yankel realized that changing his mind twice had cost him dearly.
Part of following the Divine will is to cultivate within oneself the highest standard of integrity, which includes living up to one’s own decisions even when no one else is involved.
This is a mundane but clear application of the words of Rav Hirsch: “Go your
ways despite of opposition … do not depend on external circumstances, but …
[stick to] your own free-willed decisions.”
The story continues, however. Yankel had arranged to go back into the market for two days and then sell them before the fast of Esther, so as not to be distracted by thinking about them during the fast and on Purim. Amazingly on Shushan Purim when Yankel
checked the value of his account, which had gone up by leaps and bounds, did he
happily discover that his attempted stock sale before the fast had failed to go
through and all of the large gain of those few days were now part of his assets.
As we know, the concepts of mehapech hu and ad shelo yada are associated with Purim. Yankel’s pleasant surprise was a fulfillment of both. The Creator of the world has many ways to provide what is meant for us. We clearly see that Divine governance, not our own
reasoning, logic or ingenuity, has the final say.
P.S. The amount that Yankel received from the “gift” of Purim was almost the exact same amount that he had missed out on before.
*Name changed to protect privacy.
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