Posted by: R Jonathan Gewirtz | July 7, 2015

Small Potatoes

potatoesThese are times which try men’s souls. Money is tight, jobs are hard to come by, and if you have a job, you should be thanking HaKadosh Baruch Hu for it. It’s easier to pray to keep a job than to pray for a new one after you’ve lost it.

Well, one young man was looking for work and a grocer, seeing the boy’s honesty and integrity decided to give him an easy job with good pay. “Your job,” said the grocer, “is to sort the potatoes for sale. You put the big potatoes in this bin, and the small potatoes in that bin.”

The boy began in earnest but after two days, the boy quit. “I don’t understand it,” wondered the boss, “Were the potatoes too heavy?” “No,” replied the boy.

“Well, was the pay too low?” queried the grocer. “Not at all,” came the reply.

“So what was it that made you give up an easy job sorting potatoes with good pay?”

“The potatoes were not heavy, and the pay was good. But the decisions were killing me!”

Often, we can feel like the boy in the story. We are constantly faced with questions, dilemmas, challenges, and decisions to be made. We usually know which are the big potatoes, and we can tell which are the small. Those are easy. The question is the medium ones. We don’t know how to categorize them and that wears us out.

Having to choose constantly, and second guessing ourselves, can be draining physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But what if the boss gave the boy a machine that sorted the potatoes for him?

Imagine he had a job sorting potatoes where all he had to do was put the potatoes in the machine and the smaller potatoes fell through a hole into one bin and the larger ones rolled down the track to the large bin? They do it for coins and when you dump a jar full of them into the machine it shakes them around and gives you cash. I bet he’d never give up a cushy job like that, especially with such good pay!

Well, guess what. You are a potato sorter. So am I. We face decisions every day and have to make determinations about what we will do in each situation. Getting tired yet? Don’t worry. We have a sorting machine.

That machine is called the Torah and it guides us in making the decisions we face each day. If we had to rely on our own intellect and intuition, we’d get ragged rather quickly. We’d second-guess ourselves after every failure, and after every success we’d question whether we could have done something differently to have even more success.

But not when we have that amazing sorting machine working for us. Now, we take our decisions, and run them through the Torah. If it says we should do it, we do, and know that our success or failure is out of our hands. Just as the grocer couldn’t complain that the boy put a big potato in the small bin, or vice versa, because it was his machine that made the determination, so too HaShem will have no complaints on us if we follow the Torah and we will get our ample reward.

R’ Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld z”l once dreamed he knew the winning lottery numbers. He only had enough money either for bread for that day for his family, or the ticket. He couldn’t do both. He said, “HaShem promises to gives us our parnasa each day. This money is for that. He will take care of tomorrow.”

The numbers came up. Had he bought the ticket he would have had a fortune. Someone asked him if he regretted not having bought the ticket. “Not at all,” he replied. “I did the right thing. The rest is up to HaShem.”

Can you imagine the equanimity a person has to have to be that blasé about something like that? How many of us would have gone around despondent for weeks, kicking ourselves for not acting upon it, and then spending the next twenty years running after every lottery opportunity and pouring so much money down the drain? Most of us, I’d venture, unless you’re using the sorting machine.

The Torah isn’t a list of suggestions, or even a “hot tip” on what to choose. It is an actual piece of hardware, designed to accurately measure each question placed in it, and respond with the correct answer.

Imagine you are faced with the following dilemma: Someone told you some information about a neighbor. If it is true, they did a horrible thing. You wonder if you should go tell them off. What to do?

Put it in the sorting machine.

Can I believe it? <BEEEEP> Nope. Not allowed to believe Lashon Hara.

OK, but can I suspect it’s true to protect myself? <WHIIIIRRR> Yes. That’s OK.

Now, on the chance that it’s true should I say, “I heard that you did such-and-such” and try to correct him? <BUUUUUUZZZZZ> No. That could lead to rechilus if you mention who told you but what you can do is…

And so on down the line it goes. Do I take this job where the people use foul language or I have to do dishonest things? <ZIIIPP> No, HaShem can provide for you in an honest and proper way. No need to sully yourself.

Should I eat this food? <CHUKA-CHUKA> Sorry, not good for you.

Now, why should you listen to the machine? Because it’s good for you. If you make a decision on your own and it’s wrong, you will pay the price. The Torah has given us rules for many reasons, but one of them is because the world was set up in such a way that if you follow them you’ll be healthy and strong, but if you don’t, get ready for spiritual swine flu which most often presents with physical symptoms as well.

And no, you don’t get paid extra if you make the right decision on your own. Even if you are lucky enough to make the right call, you’ve been foolish because you took a chance of erring when the Boss gave you all the tools you needed.

Of course, sometimes He throws in tests. He wants to see if you will use the machine properly or just follow your own feelings on the matter. That’s dangerous. Someone could lose an eye! If we follow our own feelings instead of the Torah’s guidelines, the results will be disastrous and we will regret it. Maybe not today; maybe not tomorrow. But someday, and for the rest of our lives… and beyond.

The truth is that having this machine called Torah makes life pleasant and peaceful. You will never again have to wonder whether you made the wrong decision and you can go to an expert sorter for advice and help. Best of all, you will always be able to be confident that you will enjoy a cushy job where you don’t have to make tough decisions and at the end of the day you are sure to get your pay with bonuses. And that’s no small potatoes.

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