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Sukkat Shalom B'nei Noach




Develop yourself to the best of your ability

In the Netherlands, we have a proverb that goes, “The best helmsmen are ashore.” This is often used when people who are outside a situation offer criticism and commentary. For example, spectators at a football match always seem to know better than the referee.

This expression often carries a negative connotation, with those who have no direct involvement in a situation being seen as know-it-alls. However, there is also a truth in this proverb. Individuals who observe from the sidelines, without personal involvement, can sometimes provide a more objective judgment and valuable advice.

Life is full of daily choices, from simple decisions to quandaries that life presents where the line between good and evil is not so clearly defined. Everyone can think of examples where the moral assessment is complex.

Imagine stealing bread to feed yourself when you are poor and hungry. From your perspective, it is an act of necessity to survive (good), but from the perspective of the shopkeeper being robbed, it is considered an evil act (bad).

Or consider a situation where you take a parking space reserved for a doctor in a busy city. You are in a hurry and don’t want to search for another spot. It might seem justified from your viewpoint (good), but from the perspective of the doctor who needs quick access to patients, it could be seen as an evil act (bad).

What’s intriguing about the “best helmsmen ashore” is that we can always consult them in our minds when facing a choice. We can imagine what they would advise, often bringing valuable insights. It’s like holding up a mirror to ourselves and honestly reflecting on the situation.

If we truly get stuck in our own considerations, we can always turn to those “best helmsmen ashore.” They may not have direct experience, but they have navigated the turbulent waters of life and overcome challenges. Their advice can help us safely reach our “harbor,” even through all the obstacles we encounter along the way.

By Angelique Sijbolts

Inspired by: Mesilat Yeserim with Commentaries, translated by Yosef Sebag, chapter 2 and 3.

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