Written by Daniel Hazard
"These are the things that cannot be measured…the study of the Torah, the giving of the first fruits of the field to the poor…" - Mishnah 1 (from the first section of the Talmud)
Measurement is very important. Consider dosage. Get the dose wrong and the medicine turns into poison. Substitute two cups of salt for two cups of sugar, as I did in a spice cake last Christmas, and people who usually regard you warmly will say really mean things at your meal's finale.
Price is also a big word. We love to show off our bargains. Someone says a kind word about our dress, and we respond, self-diminuating, "I got it on sale." Or we find a good restaurant, where the food is superb, the service even better, the ambiance sparkling, and when we tell other people about it, we rarely brag about how much we paid for it. We often say that we "got a deal."
The Mishnah goes on to say that the people should give a Sabbath corner of their life to learning Torah and at least a 1/60th or the field's first fruits or a corner to the poor. God gave the whole field to all and understood its gift as immeasurable. We measure because we are far afield. While measurement is important, it is often abused.
We could instead think outside the deal, beyond the bargain, beyond paying off the poor with a corner. Did God really want the poor to be paid off with a corner? No, the whole immeasurable field was created to belong to everyone. That great meal that we got for $30.00 prix fixe had a true value to our spirits thrice that. Over-tipping comes to mind as a great response to immeasurability. You do get what you pay for – and if you pay in the coin of immeasurable gratitude you have already moved into heaven.
When it is time for us to study Torah and to work our fields, let us do so as though they had no measure, no ending, no way to be divided or subtracted, only multiplied in worth. Let us refuse to cut corners. Amen.