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Thought for the Day: Why Halacha Has "b'di'avad"

There was this Jew who knew every "b'di'avad" (aka, "Biddy Eved", the old spinster librarian) in the book.  When ever he was called on something, his reply was invariably, "biddy eved, it's fine".  When he finally left this world and was welcomed to Olam Haba, he was shown to a little, damp closet with a bare 40W bulb hanging from the ceiling.  He couldn't believe his eyes and said in astonishment, "This is Olam Haba!?!"  "Yes, Reb Biddy Eved,  for you this is Olam Haba."

b'di'avad gets used like that; f you don't feel like doing something the best way, do it the next (or less) best way.  But Chazal tell us that "kol ha'omer HaShem vatran, m'vater al chayav" -- anyone who thinks HaShem gives partial credit is fooling himself to death (free translation.  Ok, really, really free translation; but its still true).  HaShem created us and this entire reality for one and only one purpose: for use to be able to do mitzvos and thereby come closer to the ultimate Good -- HaShem Himself.  Since HaShem cared enough to give the very best, He isn't going to give second rate best.

What b'di'avad really means is: given the current situation, what is the best course of action.  Not, "if I don't feel like doing my best, what can I do?"  To put this in concrete terms, imagine someone had a dental cavity.  Really he should have it filled right away.  Suppose he didn't take care of it, but fiddled around for a couple of years and now has a decay down to the bone in that tooth (I had reasons, k?).  Now there is lots of decay so we are looking at an extraction.  Using the vernacular, we would say, "L'chatchila have the cavity filled, b'di'avad having an extraction works."  It certainly does not mean that extraction is as good as a filing!  Rather it means that given the current situation, there is a new l'chatchila approach.  This is a great example, because even though having a filling is still an option, it's not a good option any more.  At this point a filling would cause more problems than it solves.

Taking an example from brachos: you are not allowed to make a bracha of "she'hakol n'h'yeh bid'varo" on cake.  However, once he has uttered that bracha, the option of making a "borei minei m'zonos" is no longer a good option because it would mean saying one Shem l'vatala.  Hence, the l'chatchila course of action at this point (having already made the she'hakol), is to eat the cake.

It comes out then, that halacha always demands that we choose the l'chatchila course of action, but b'di'avad (after the situation has changed) then the l'chatchila may change.


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