Parshas Re’eh – The Road Not Taken

As someone with a lousy (read: nonexistent) sense of direction, a GPS is one of the best gifts I ever received. However, even the GPS was no match for my poor (read: nonexistent) sense of direction – I still managed to “outsmart” it and get lost; though it admittedly occurred with less frequency.

So I upgraded to a new and improved GPS, hoping that this one would do the trick.

The problem with the new one is it has too many options: Least miles, scenic route, most Highways, least Highways, etc . . . and I have no idea which route to choose.  The only option I really need is “least likely to get lost.”

At the beginning of this week’s Parsha, God maps out for us two options to take in the journey of life – a road called “blessings” & a road called “curses;” it is our choice which road to take.

At first glance it might seem that the correct choice is obvious; the Rabbis explain that this is not the case.

A parable: An old man is standing at the fork in the road offering directions. The road to the right looks bumpy and narrow, the one to the left wide and clear. The old man warns “go to the right, it may start out bumpy & narrow but a little bit down it is wide & clear. The road to the left starts out looking good, but just a little further down it is a traffic nightmare.” Most people instinctively ignore the old man and take the road to the left. Not too long after they regret it.

So too, say the rabbis, is the road of life. Following Torah & Mitzvos may be somewhat challenging at first, but once you get past the initial hurdle it becomes obvious it was the road to take.

It seems to me that the Rabbis carefully worded the parable to teach us a very fundamental point. It is not just that the road of Torah leads to a better destination in the world to come, rather the very road itself is smoother and more enjoyable.  Irrespective of the ultimate destination, a life of Torah, while it certainly makes demands, leads to a more pleasurable life in this world, here and now. The unique serenity of Shabbos easily outweighs the challenge of keeping it properly, so too with all the Mitzvos; in fact the challenges themselves add to the ultimate pleasure.

When choosing the road to take in the journey of life, the wise choice is to look past the initial bumps in the road and take the road that is usually not taken. In the words of the eminent American Poet Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a wood and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

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