The Skills Mini-Series takes an in-depth look at the skills we might learn from various professions, and how to apply them in a positive and real way to a Torah life.
“Compare and contrast the following…”
You have almost certainly encountered this phrase at some point, whether it be at school as part of a comprehension exercise, or in the workplace. It is certainly an important skill to develop.
Speaking from personal experience, the exercise of ‘comparing and contrasting’ is the bread and butter of the legal services world. We take a set of circumstances, and draw parallels with similar cases. We form arguments for why the court should follow the line of reasoning in case X, which is similar to our own, and ignore or reject the opinions put forward in case Y, which is entirely distinct from our case.
Like all skills that we may learn and hone in the workplace, it is incumbent on us to question how we might plug them in to Torah lifestyle.
So, here we present some ideas for where might we apply this skill:
1. Learning: perhaps the most obvious application that comes to mind is in the area of Torah study and, in particular, the study of gemara. Take, for example, the first two mishnas in the second perek of Bava Metsia. The first presents a list of objects which, if found by an individual, can be kept. The second mishna, in contrast, presents a list of objects which, if found, must be returned to the owner: this list is almost the mirror image of the first list (‘almost’ being the key word). Lets have a look:
|The following objects, if found, belong to the finder:
||The following objects, if found, must be returned to the owner:
The gemara goes to great lengths to understand the differences and similarities between these two lists, and it is important that we follow its logic in each case. Any skills we pick up in the workplace may be able to assist with this process.
2. Self-development: Having just been through Yim Kippur, we are all masters of comparing our past selves to our current selves and to our future selves. It is crucial to be able to look openly and honestly at the similarities and differences, as this is the only way we are able to ascertain whether progress is being made.
We welcome and encourage everyone to consider how they might develop and apply this skill in their own lives.
The Working Jew
 Please note this Mishna has been simplified for the purposes of this article, and should not be used in practical cases of hashavas aveidah (lost objects). Please consult your local Orthodox Rabbi for a definitive psak. Translation from www.sefaria.org.