The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

"Not a Bava Maisa"; or "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished"

About 11 months ago, at the request of a friend, I agreed to learn a perek (chapter) of Gemarah to help complete a siyum Shas that he was hoping to do on July 4th to honor his father's fist yahrtzeit. My friend is very organized and sent letters at the 9 month, 6 month and 3 month points reminding all of the participants (there were many) of their commitments and asking that we notify him if we anticipated problems.

Surprisingly, I got most of my perek done very quickly. So, about three months ago, when another friend who had committed to complete three perakim found himself in big trouble, I agreed to take one of his perakim, the first perek in Bava Metziah. This was my first mistake.

Unlike with my original commitment, I never got going with the second. To make matters worse, the first perek of Bava Metziah has about 20 blatt (or 40 pages); much more than my original commitment that only contained seven blatt.

With two weeks to go I realized that there was zero chance that I would complete the perek on time. Thoughts of being the one person responsible for my friend not being able to complete the siyum went through my head.

Luckily, I was able to find yet another friend who was willing to split the perek with me. Nevertheless, with only a week to go, I still had almost ten blatt to go.

Last week, I woke up no later than 4:30 a.m. from Wednesday through Shabbos in order to get through the gemarah. I went to the hashkamah minyan on Shabbos and finished on Shabbos afternoon with a great sense of relief. My partner, too, had gotten his piece done. BH, we hadn't failed our friend.

Or so we thought.

Just before maariv on motsai Shabbos, a few of us were talking about the extremes to which we had gone to get our commitments completed on time for Sunday morning's siyum. In passing, one of the guys asked me what I had done. When I told him the first perek of Bava Metziah he said, But I did the first perek of Bava Metziah!".

After Shabbos we ascertained that the friend who asked me to help him was actually assigned the second perek of Bava Metziah. In desperation, four of us split the perek. I took the last three blatt. I learned from 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. at which point I found myself reading the same sentence 12 times. I went to sleep until 3:30 a.m. At 5 a.m. I had about 5 more lines to do but I was completely spent.

As scheduled, I drove to Central Park with my son at 5:30 a.m. and we rode our bikes for 20 miles. (It takes a lot more than no sleep for me to miss my weekly ride in the park). I got back in time for minyan at 8:45 a.m. and finished the perek during the repetition of the amidah. The siyum was held at 9:30 a.m. Plenty of time to spare.

I told my friend that in the zechus of his father's siyum I was planning on never leaning gemarah again. Well, at least not for a couple of days.

I'm not sure what the moral of the story is but my mother's frequent admonition, "No good deed goes unpunished" hits home.


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