Rabbi Shaya's Thoughts

A Fork In the Road

A traveler once came to a fork in the road, and, not knowing which way to go, turned to a child and asked for directions. The child asked, “Do you want the short but longer way, or the long but shorter way?” The traveler responded, “Give me the short but longer way.” The child said, “Then go straight down this path and you will come to the city in just a few minutes.” A few minutes passed and he indeed did come to the city, but there was a huge wall surrounding the city and he could not enter. He went back up the path, found the little child, and asked, “Why did you send me down this path? I cannot even enter the city.” The child responded “Aha! You said you wanted the short but longer path, and that is the short but longer path! The long but shorter path follows the long and winding road up and down the hill. It might take you a long time to get to the entrance of the city, but once you arrive, the gates are wide open.”

My friends, isn’t this the story of our lives? We are always looking for the shortcut, yet when we take it, we find that it was not so short; we end up taking the longer route after all. Instead of trying to take the short way, we end up taking the long way. We should take the long way first, because in the end, it is the shorter way anyway.

This is what the verse in today’s Torah portion means when it says that the Torah is not to be found in the “heavens;” it is down here on the “earth.” It is accessible to us. Of course the first time we pick up “The Book” to learn we may feel overwhelmed, but the more we study the more we come to know the meaning. Just like exercise, the first time you try to run up a hill it is very tiring. You may feel out of shape, but then you train, and with time come to recognize that as the verse states, “this thing is very near to you, in your mouth, in your heart, that you may do it.” 

The High Holiday season is upon us and for many this means that we have to get our “souls” into shape. It has been a while since we sat in shul and exercised our brain, let alone our bodies, to sit so long and pray. I admit this takes practice and it may be difficult, but if we expect to take a shortcut, we will come out unhappy. We will not feel successful.

If we want this holiday season to be memorable, we should endeavor to do some heavy lifting—we should put in some effort to walk up a little hill: try to do a little more than we have done in the past; remain in the service for a little longer than we did the year before; read an article or two about the holiday so that it should be more meaningful. Do something to make this holiday special—even if the road is long.

Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tova U’metukah!


Do You Like To Help?

People have an innate desire to do good. That is why when we hear about the devastation hurricanes cause, that is not enough for us just to satisfy our curiosity; what is more important to us is to learn how we can help. What can we do to alleviate the pain and suffering of those affected by the destruction?

Yet, even this innate desire of expression needs direction, not only in practical ways of applying our good will, but in a broader outlook in life.

This broader outlook in life can be gleaned from this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo. The Torah tells us that we should “walk in G-d’s ways.” But if G-d is infinite and we are finite, how can we “walk in His ways?”

Although we cannot be G-d, we can try to emulate G-d’s ways as best as we can. We must know in which direction we are going, even if we are not going to be perfect. Our goal should not be perfection; our mission should be to make every effort to be better than the day before. As we move toward being a better person—not the best person per se, just a better person—this is walking in G-d’s way.

We may not be able to do a G-dly act and reverse the course of a hurricane, but we can act G-dly in the way we express ourselves, and reach out to those who were affected in its aftermath. 

This broad outlook in life can and should be applied in all matters in our lives, great and small. When we view all of our experiences through the lens of “how can I do more,” we are acting G-dly, even if it’s not to perfection.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova    

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