As someone with a lousy (read: nonexistent) sense of direction, a GPS is one of the best gifts I have 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 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 need is “least likely to get lost.”
At the beginning of this week’s Parsha, God maps out 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 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. The unique serenity of Shabbos easily outweighs the challenge of keeping it properly, and so too with all the Mitzvos; in fact the challenges themselves add to the ultimate pleasure. 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.
When choosing the road to take in the life journey, the wise choice is to look past the initial bumps 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.
Rabbi Yitzchok Oratz is the Rabbi and Director of the Monmouth Torah Links community. Shortly after receiving his semicha (rabbinic ordination) from Bais Medrash Govoha, the famed Lakewood Yeshiva, Rabbi Oratz, along with his wife Toby and family, moved to Marlboro, NJ where they co-founded the MTL community in 2001. Aside for his “Devar on the Par” that he writes for MTL, his writings have also been published on Aish, Times of Israel, Seforim Blog, Hakira, and in various Rabbinic journals. Rabbi Oratz looks forward to continuing teaching Torah in a way that is timely and timeless, and sharing meaningful Jewish experiences with the amazing MTL community.