middot decisiveness torah choose well

choose well

Written by  rabbi michael schiffman

art-actnowMost people have had the experience of going to a restaurant with other people and having to wait on one person who can’t make up their mind over what to order. The person ordering agonizes over what to get, and meanwhile, everyone else is hungry and waiting, because their order won’t be placed until the indecisive individual comes to a decision. You just want them to order anything just to get the ball rolling.


There is an old Yiddish expression, “Tuchas Aufen Tish,” which literally means, “Your Butt is on the Table.” The implication is… that your tuchas doesn’t belong there, so “move it.” We spend an awful lot of time not making decisions. Either we are afraid of making the wrong choice, or we put things aside and forget about them. The problem is, making no decision is always the worst decision. It has been my experience that I agonize over what action to take, and to be honest, I don’t always make the wisest choices, but when I make no choice at all, I am left to whatever happens, and I am less prepared than if I made even a wrong decision. At least if I make a wrong selection, I can be prepared for the results.

When you procrastinate and make no decision, people don’t respect you as much as if you are decisive. It gives the sense that you are either wasting everyone’s time, or even worse, that you don’t know what you are doing. Also wasting everyone else’s time, is at best, rude.

no stalling

By nature, I’m a procrastinator. I enjoy putting things off and creating a less pressurized time and space for myself. It has been my experience that procrastinating is not a good thing. It frustrates people who love me, and I find it creates stress and agony for myself that is unnecessary. When it comes to things like home repairs, it can be costly. If you have a small leak in your plumbing, it’s not going to heal itself. It’s only going to get worse, so you are better off taking care of it immediately. If you have a project or assignment, getting it done on time or early is always appreciated. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and make some decision, just to get it out-of-the-way. You can always apologize if you made the wrong decision, and hopefully fix it later, but at least you get it done.

For someone who follows Torah, being decisive should be easier than for other people, because Torah is a guide for life and teaches right from wrong. God says to Israel in Deuteronomy 30:19, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today … that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;” Blessing and Curse, Life and Death are there for us. We need only to choose it. We don’t have to wonder what is the right thing to do. It has been shown to us. Our decisiveness is to choose what is good.

Our problem is that we look at all the options life offers us, and we sometimes choose what is convenient, or what will upset the least amount of people, or what is more pleasurable to us. Or what will cost the least. It’s not always easy to choose a life of Torah. A life of Torah is not cheap. Kosher meat costs more than local supermarket meat. Celebrating Jewish holidays costs time and money. It can mean taking off work, making the effort to be at services. Buying religious articles can be expensive if you buy the good stuff. They are decisions we make. Those choices reflect our values.

We make choices because we care. People who don’t really care, don’t take the choices seriously. I wonder sometimes if people put as much energy into their faith and life choices as they put into their menu choices. Whatever choices you make, choose well.

Rate this item
(2 votes)

this week

Moshe Rabbenu teaches loving-kindness
Here's a drash on loving-kindness adapted from my book Creation to Completion, wh . . .
chesed and truth
For the Torah was given through Moshe; chesed and truth came through Yeshua the M . . .
chesed and forgiveness
In his commentaries in both the Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur Koren Machzorim Rabbi . . .
how the world stands
A woman died and left no money to pay for her funeral. She was an inhabitant of o . . .
His chesed is always there!
One of the high points of the Passover Seder every year, especially when our ki . . .
do a chesed
There was an older gentleman I used to to interact with fairly regularly at a Ra . . .
bottled up kindness
'The kindnesses of the Lord I shall sing forever; to generation after generation . . .
showering chesed
The Hebrew word for loving-kindness is chesed.    . . .

Member Login

Login to access podcasts, special content, discussion forums and user blogs.