For the week ending 6 July 2013 / 27 Tammuz 5773


by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Monica

Dear Rabbi,

I have come to the realization, with the help of some of my friends, that I tend to make mistakes and then have to do things over, or buy things that break or don't suit me and then have to buy something else instead. Do you have any idea why this might be, and what I might be able to do to correct it?

Dear Monica,

The Talmud (Eruvin 53b) relates that once Rabbi Yehoshua was on a journey and came to a crossroads with paths going in several directions. The rabbi asked a young boy who was sitting at the junction which path led to town. The boy pointed to one route and said it's the short, long route; he pointed to another saying it's the long, short route. Wishing to save time, the rabbi chose the short route.

As he approached town, his path was barred with thicket and briars. Retracing his tracks back to the crossroads, he demanded to know why the boy had sent him down the wrong path. The boy replied that he had properly described both options, and that it was the rabbi himself who chose the short, long path.

We all have a tendency to look for shortcuts. Whether it's to save time or money or effort or embarrassment or whatever it may be, we're inclined to choose the shorter, easier path. But as the above story indicates, such shortcuts often cost more time, money, effort, or embarrassment in the long run.

So it sounds to me that you may be suffering from an acute case of shortcut-itis. That would explain why you attempt to do things, but make mistakes and then have to do things over, or why you buy things that end up not serving your needs, either because they break or are not what you should have bought in the first place. Either case would result from attempting to save time, money or effort at the expense of proper planning or prescient purchasing.

Some people are naturally careful and thorough. Although in extreme cases this may lead to paralysis, generally they will tend not to suffer from short-long routes or cheap-expensive purchases. On the other hand, while you might be easy-going, flexible and adaptable, such people may have to work harder on planning, prioritizing, defining what they want and need, and deciding when spending is saving.

To avoid being impetuous and precipitous, which exposes one to mistakes, before making any decisions, it might help you to remember the old carpenter's adage: "Measure twice, cut once!" Take a little extra time to think about what you're going to do, how you're going to do it, and what materials will best suit your objective – and then you're most likely to need to do so only once.

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