(Torah Portion Terumah) Open Road!
Ever since Governor Christie’s staffers ordered a four day partial closure of the eastbound George Washington Bridge as revenge against the Mayor of Fort Lee, NJ for not supporting Christie’s reelection bid, I was thinking of ways to apply a personal lesson from this.
I recently came across a great article written by Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman where he describes how hundreds of thousands of people had their precious time taken from them. They were late to their jobs, meetings, appointments, school etc. and their stress levels were certainly elevated – for no crime they committed. The bad deed was executed by simply ordering the placement of a few cones blocking off some lanes – yet it caused thousands of people’s lives to be affected and to suffer aggravation and stress!
Rabbi Eisenman speculates “If this is what a bad action can do – imagine the implications of a good action!”
An example: If you simply say ‘good morning’ with a warm and joyful smile to your neighbor, chances are, he will be touched by your gesture and go home and give his wife a heartfelt ‘good morning’ and she in turn will feel validated in her marriage and she will be nice to her children who will grow up to be well-balanced and functional parents and spouses. Your one warm ‘good morning’ will have the domino effect of impacting positively on generations to come.
I really liked his message. I’ll share with you an idea that came to mind – which comes from a different ‘direction,’ not dwelling on the plight and inconvenience that people went through, rather focusing on steady traffic flow versus traffic at a bottleneck pace.
When all lanes are open, it can be a “Mechaya – a breeze” (okay, not during rush hour.) Traffic runs smoothly and steadily. However, when there are lane closures traffic trickles by at a much slower pace. It becomes a Schlep, and after some time the GPS is consulted and an alternate route is explored.
In the Parshios of the last few weeks the Torah narrates the awesome event of G-d’s Revelation and spells out many laws; interpersonal and judicial laws and laws that concern man in his relationship directly with G-d.
We can view each law of the Torah as representing a lane of a ‘spiritual highway,’ if we keep all the lanes open and flowing, it assists us in our life’s journey to achieve a deep and sound connection to the Almighty and our fellow man.
However, when certain lanes of the ‘spiritual highway’ are shut down – and for whatever the reason some mitzvos are neglected, it clogs the ‘spiritual highway’ and the path towards connection to the Almighty becomes difficult. While I’m on the subject of a ‘spiritual highway’ allow me to venture through some common road signs that share some spiritual guidance and applications as well.
Each road has a sign indicating its location and direction, and each Mitzvah has its own path and category. Speed limits remind us to approach a Mitzvah at a maintained safe speed. Merging signs alert us to be cognizant of and courteous to those who wish to enter and rejoin the ‘spiritual highway.’
Rest areas are there to pull off and observe the Shabbat and Holidays. The various exits represent the impulses and distractions that try to pull us off the ‘correct road.’
Toll roads represent the expenditures that we must make in order to fulfill and accomplish Mitzvos.
Scenic areas represent the blessing we recite over the wondrous works of the Almighty such as thunder, lightning, and the great oceans. Stay-in-lane and no u-turns prompt us not to wander off the ‘road’; and ‘wrong way’ reminds us to realign ourselves once we’ve strayed.
Weight limit – well – um, I think I’ll leave that one alone!
Height indicators on overpasses remind us to employ humility. Mile markers are there to encourage us to keep moving forward towards further accomplishments and destinations.
There are Mitzvos that we cannot fulfill due to our exile and the destruction of our Temple. Those roads are temporarily under construction.
Bridges remind us to work on mending the gaps created by rifts between those involved in disagreements.
Stop signs remind us to take time to stop and think about life and our purpose. Yield signs activate our senses to yield to Authority.
Finally, when we ‘navigate carefully and respect the rules, life’s journey will be spiritually fulfilling and we’ll feel and experience delight, enjoyment and a great deal of satisfaction!’
Wishing you a restful, peaceful and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks