December 16, 2018

Day 2543 – What is a Person Worth?

We just finished Tractate Arachin, in which we studied the law of monetary vows made for the sake of the the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Because the Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E., we are no longer able to fulfill these laws, but we do study them, and they can be perplexing.

All persons can declare an ” target=”_blank” title=”from”>hekdesh, the Temple treasury. If, however, the person chooses to make a specific kind of pledge known as an erech vow, he or she becomes legally obligated to donate a specific amount to hekdesh.

The pledge is usually worded, “I undertake to give my erech,” or “I undertake to give my worth.” The actual amount the person has promised to give is the subject of some lively Talmudic debate. Broadly speaking, the person has either promised to give a fixed, statutory amount based on age and gender (” target=”_blank” title=”from wikipedia”>siyum for Arachin.

A siyum is a celebration marking the completion of a tractate – when we complete the whole Talmud in August, ” target=”_blank” title=”from”>siyum at Metlife Stadium (Giants Stadium to me). They expect 100,000 teachers, students, spouses, relatives, and friends.

Saturday’s siyum was held at Etz Chayim, the shul where I study with Rabbi Blau and the other half dozen members of our ” target=”_blank” title=”from”>yartzeit, or anniversary, of his son’s passing. Shaya Twersky died in a car accident nine years ago. Baruch feels the loss as keenly now as he did then, and yet he found the strength to prepare a teaching for us. He said Arachin is a difficult tractate, one of those volumes of Talmud whose lessons feel distant to our modern lives. When he realized, however, that Arachin’s completion and Shaya’s yartzeit would coincide, he found a connection.

Why did the Torah assign specific values to people, and highly specific laws for pledging the worth of those values? Because every person does indeed have a specific worth. How is it measured? By the work that person is able to perform in an allotted time.

How often we hear, “Time is money.” We must never waste either.

Shaya only lived for 20 years, but he filled them. He was quick to do chesed – loving kindness. He worked as a counselor for kids with serious illnesses. He composed a ” target=”_blank” title=”How my voyage into Talmud began”>Daf Yomi, I did not think I had time for it, but I tried anyway. Right now, I am so deep in work that I don’t have time to write this blog. But I’m doing it anyway because Shaya inspired me via his father, Baruch.

None of us has enough time to do all we are called to do. Do it anyway. That is the greatest gift we can give G-d and each other. “> More pieces like this at