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Cutting Corners

By Rabbi Raymond Beyda

Following procedures exactly is oftentimes a cumbersome ordeal. One buys a new toy for the kids or a piece of knock down furniture which has “some assembly required” and the detailed instructions starting with checking the box to insure that none of the parts are missing or laying out the components to place them in one’s reach in the order that they will be needed to complete the job just seems so unnecessary and such a waste of time that many are tempted to just skip it. Besides, experience has shown that when one is traveling and is aware of a “shortcut” it will invariably save time in reaching the destination.

But cutting corners in unfamiliar territory can lead to disaster. When one does not know the “ins and outs” of a technique then it is probably better to go with the program even though it seems so tedious. I read about a safety procedure installed in an industrial cutting machine that required the operator to press 2 buttons in order to get the machine to operate. An impatient employee, who did not understand that the “2 button method” was a safety procedure designed to keep both hands busy and away from the blades, ingeniously “jammed” one of the buttons so that he would only have to press one button to drop the cutters on the product. One day he pressed and was not careful in keeping his other hands away from the blades with disastrous consequences.

Most people are not well versed in the “safety” valves that our Sages instituted in the body of Jewish law in order to protect everyone from serious transgressions with serious consequences. Today when you are about to “cut corners” by eliminating one of the safeguards of our Rabbis because you feel it is not going to hurt you -- stop. Remember you are entering into areas that are dangerously unfamiliar. It only takes a minute to go with the program as outlined by men much greater and wiser than us and to benefit from their safety procedures.


If one wakes up in the night and wants to drink some water to quench thirst there is an issue as to whether Netillat Yadayim ­ritual washing of the hands ­ is necessary before saying the blessing on the water. The prevalent opinion as well as the opinion of Maran Shulhan Arukh is that a regular washing is not necessary. One may rub one’s hands on the blanket or sheets and say the blessing. One should be careful not to touch the water with one’s hands. [Source Yalkut Yosef, Vol. 1, page 13, Halakha 14]


Rab Dimi said that the Shekhinah -- G-d’s presence ­ rested in three places in the Holy Land ­ 1) Shiloh, 2) Nob and Gibeon, and 3) Jerusalem. All housed the Tabernacle or the Bet HaMikdash at some time in our history -- and all three were in the portion allotted to Binyamin. Rab Yosef objected showing that verse in the Psalms [Tehillim] attribute the resting place of the Shekhinah to the portion of Yosef not Binyamin! Rab Ada defended Rab Dimi’s position by suggesting that perhaps there was a geographical positioning of the Temple in Binyamin with the Great Court the Sanhedrin adjacent to it in the portion of Yosef [at other times we see the Temple in the land belonging to Binyamin and the Sanhedrin in the portion of Yehudah adjacent to Binyamin ­ both the Temple and the Court demonstrate G-d-s presence on Earth]. The Gemara does not resolve the issue. The Talmud says that some hold that G-d’s holiness rested only in the portion of Binyamin and another opinion is that Binyamin cries over the loss because the potential permanence was not achieved. [Zebahim 115b]

Raymond J Beyda

Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Raymond Beyda and

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