("Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
Mike was a brand new customs agent working on the border. “Watch out for the regulars,” he was reminded by his supervisors “ if they seem to be crossing too much, they are probably smuggling. Search them well and bring them to justice.”
Sure enough, Mike noticed a certain man who seemed to be crossing the border into the country in a suspicious manner. Mike asked him to open the trunk of his truck. “What do you have in here?” he asked.
“Nothing” came the quick reply, “only some sand – two sacks worth. Nothing to really write home about.” Mike search the bags again and again for contraband. He could not find anything. He searched the driver’s person and again, nothing. With no proof of a crime, Mike let him cross.
Two days later, Mike saw the same fellow trying to cross the border again. Suspicious, Mike asked him to open the trunk again. Once again, he saw two sacks of sand. Again, he searched them and again he discovered nothing. He allowed the man to pass through again.
The story repeated itself every two days for the next two weeks. Mike even called his supervisors and they too, could not find any crime though they all agreed that it seemed that one was certainly taking place. The lack of evidence though, prevented them from acting on their hunch. Mike put the man on a list that required him to be searched each time he went through the border but as the years went by, the records only showed one thing – that a man crossed the border with no contraband and only two sacks of sand in his truck.
Years later, after he had long retired, Mike met the man at a ballgame. “You gotta tell me how you did it,” Mike pleaded. “Tell me how you outsmarted the Customs patrol all those years.” “It was simple,” came the response. “You all thought that I was smuggling things through the sacks of sand. You even searched ME each and every time. The only thing you forgot to check out was the truck.”
“I don’t understand,” said Mike. “we went over that truck, each and every time and only discovered sand.”
“Yes,” said the man. “But what you forgot to look at, was the fact that each truck was a different truck. You see, I was smuggling trucks across the border. You were so focused on what was IN the truck, that you forgot to check the truck itself.”
The Mussar masters often note that the battle mentioned at the beginning of Parshas Ki Tze Tze is actually an internal battle we regularly wage with our own Yetzer HaRa. One of its favorite moves is to divert our attentions from our real goals by making us think that what is important is not really as important and that we need to focus on trivial matters. The truly victorious in this battle, are those who know what is important and know how to keep their eyes on the real mission.
We are often side-tracked in life in our quest for success. We often tell ourselves if we only earned that extra bonus or received that extra promotion then it “would all be worth it” but is that so?
We often argue with colleagues, friends and neighbors over things that in the long run are not really worth the stress that we put into it. How can we be more “in tune” with ourselves and our ultimate life goals in order to succeed in life’s battles? How and in what way, do we reboot?
Our children too, often deal with challenges and hurt feelings and limitations that to us seem inconsequential to the big picture. How can we get THEM to see what WE see?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and communities.