A Life Lesson Parshat Vayeira: A Cinch by the Inch
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Vayeira(Genesis 18-22)

A Cinch by the Inch

God told Abraham that He wanted to destroy all of the inhabitants in the land of Sodom and Gomorrah because the people had become incredibly wicked. But Abraham felt that any righteous people who were living there shouldn't suffer just because of the wicked people.

So Abraham asked God

"Would you spare the place for the sake of fifty righteous people..." And God said, "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous people ... then I would spare the entire place on their account." Abraham responded... "What if the fifty righteous people should lack five..." He said, "I will not destroy if I find forty-five."

"What if forty would be found there?"

And He said, "I will not act on the account of the forty...."

And he said... "What if thirty would be found..."

And He said, "I will not act if I find there thirty."

He said , "...what if twenty would be found..."

And He said, "I will not destroy on account of the twenty..."

"What if ten would be found..."

And He said, "I will not destroy on account of the ten."

 

A LIFE LESSON

Abraham clearly didn't want God to destroy Sodom if there were righteous people who were also living there. However, Abraham was uncertain as to the amount of righteous people that needed to be living there in order for God to spare the city. Abraham didn't want to start off with a number that was too small and have God dismiss the idea altogether. So he began with a higher number to see whether or not God even agreed with the idea.

Abraham asked God to "...spare the place for the sake of fifty righteous people..." God quickly agreed because:

 

  1. this wasn't a very large request, and
  2. God also agreed with Abraham's thinking.

 

Each time Abraham was successful, he then felt comfortable making additional requests, until God finally said, "I will not destroy on account of the ten."

The mistake most people make when setting goals - and the reason why we rarely achieve them - is that we focus solely on the attainment of a very large goal. But there are numerous smaller and very worthy milestones along the way that are necessary to hit if one is ever going to reach his main goal.

For example, assume someone wanted to go on a diet and lose 50 pounds. The reason most people probably aren't successful is because this main goal is just too far removed from where they are right now.

For goals to be reached, a person must have easy-to-reach "bite size" targets along the way and treat them as major successes when he achieves them.

Our human nature is usually to take an "all or nothing" attitude toward reaching our goals. Without smaller, incremental steps along the way, it becomes very easy to give up and become very frustrated and disappointed.

Health clubs have built their entire business model around this very principle. Did you ever wonder how health clubs are consistently signing up hundreds of new members, yet they never build any new lockers to accommodate them? How it is possible that their membership numbers are constantly increasing but the facilities never get any larger? The answer is that most people who join health or exercise clubs never follow through. And this is largely because the goal they set for themselves is usually too far removed from where they are right now.

If someone joined a health club with the desire to lose fifty pounds, but after several weeks of very hard work he lost only one pound, then it's likely that he'll no longer have the motivation and inspiration to continue. His goal of losing fifty pounds has now become an insurmountable task.

However, the way to achieve this goal would be to do what Abraham did and have several smaller and easier-to-attain goals. Maybe losing five pounds every three months or two pounds in his first month. And since these goals are much more achievable, you won't get discouraged and can now easily follow through to reach your main goal of losing fifty pounds.

Whatever your goals are, it's important to have several intermediate targets that you can aim for along the way. By doing this, you'll find that achieving almost any goal is a "cinch by the inch" and all your biggest dreams are all within your reach.

Published: November 12, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 8

(6) Michelle, October 16, 2013 10:14 PM

Finding Fairness

In a complex situation where a drastic action seems like an appropriate step for growth, I think finding a point of fairness outweighs all and leads us directly to an outcome we were subconsciously envisioning. When we search for what's fair, we can find something meaningful to build from. Fairness calms the distractions that pressure us. G-d wanted to destroy wickedness, He was contemplating a drastic action to find an appropriate resolution. Abraham reflected deeply into "what's fair?" and G-d validated in agreement that if there's something good to be found in a mess, embrace that. Embrace the good. If we let fairness direct our thoughts perhaps G-d will validate them, perhaps He will agree.

(5) Jay, November 3, 2012 7:03 AM

Missed the point.

I really believe that the point was missed. The portion had nothing to do with goals.

Rachel, October 17, 2013 1:18 PM

agreed!

Yes, it seems like quite a stretch to give a completely irrelevant motivating speech. A nice concept, yes, but not relevant to this Torah portion.

jay, October 19, 2013 2:41 AM

I agree

But it is worthwhile advice no matter what!

(4) Ephraim, November 11, 2011 10:44 PM

Goals have tobe beyond reach.

In order for a goal to be a goal it has to be beyond reach. If I want and know I can lose just 5 pounds, that would not be a goal, however, if I do not believe I can lose 6 pounds or more than I do have a goal. Many of us want to be Righteous as a goal, which is beyond our reach as individuals, and many of us fall out trying. It is our responsibility as Jews to support one another. Alone I cannot lose 50 pounds, perhaps, with help I can reach that goal.

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