I hope you all had a meaningful Yom Kippur, and having made Havdalah, had something to eat, checked in with all those whom I advised before Yom Kippur, and spent some time building our sukkah, it is so wonderful to turn to Daf Yomi on a Motzei Yom Kippur as an expression of starting the new year on the right foot (nb. see below for a link to join my Daf Yomi whatsapp group or to book a spiritual coaching or Torah study session with me)!
A story is told in today’s daf (Ketubot 91b) of a certain individual who owed 100 zuz who died but who left a small field worth 50 zuz as well as some other money. Soon after, the creditor attempted to take possession of the field. However, seeing this move and given their interest in maintaining possession of the field, the children of the debtor gave the credior fifty zuz from their fathers’ estate in order to prevent him from taking the field – with their intention being to pay the further 50 zuz in the near future. However, since this individual was owed 100 zuz, and notwithstanding him having been given 50 zuz by the orphans of his debtor, he again attempted to take possession of the field to recoup his entire debt. Unsure as to what to do, the orphans approached Abaye to seek guidance from him, to which he replied: “There is a mitzvah upon orphans to pay the debt of their father, therefore the first sum of money that you gave was a fulfilment of this mitzvah, and the fact that the creditor [has taken possession of your fathers’ field] is also his right [because it was used as collateral for the debt].”
However, the Gemara then concludes by noting how Abaye’s ruling only applies when the orphans didn’t say to the creditor when they first gave him money that the 50 zuz was in lieu of the field. However, had they said this, the field would have been released from being collateral for the debt and the creditor would not have been allowed to take possession of the field. Sadly, it seems that this advice came too late to these orphans and that because they did not say these words, the creditor was permitted to take the field.
Reflecting on this story it makes me think of all the instances when I realize, in hindsight, how I should have sought advice before making a big decision. However, the fact is that many of us don’t even realize that we need advice about particular choices until it is too late. Moreover, those who are experiencing challenges or who have recently suffered a loss – like the case here involving orphans – often don’t have the stillness of mind to make long-term decisions which means that, in some instances, they can be taken advantage of by others who are aware of their vulnerable situation.
As someone who does at times give advice to others, I take very seriously the Torah prohibition of giving bad or misleading advice (nb. if you are someone who has ever called me to discuss going into Chinuch or making Aliyah, you will remember that I’ve always highlighted the challenges along with the incredible blessings that come with each of these choices). At the same time, also included in this prohibition is the failure to proactively offer people, and especially vulnerable people, the necessary advice that they need to help them avoid immediate and future pitfalls.
Given this, if there is knowledge that we have that could save others time, effort, stress or money, we should use the platforms that we have to share our knowledge and thereby help others. Additionally, if we have friends or relatives going through challenges who – due to their situation – may not have the stillness of mind to make wise long-term decisions which are beneficial to them, let us be a resource to them or find others or can support them to avoid them making decisions that they may regret in the future.