A Thought for the Week
Amtrak has a slogan that always spoke to me. "Getting there," they say, "is half the fun." While returning from a wedding, driving on the Palisades at 1 AM, I'm not sure if I am elated with the pleasure of the moment. Where I do feel the thrill, however, is in the world of spirituality. Sometimes the struggle to keep Kosher or Shabbos, the challenge of not accepting lashon hara or of not losing my temper, is even more meaningful than the accomplishment of the goal. The purpose of the mitzvos is to grow. Challenges and exercise cause growth.
Moshe directs the Jewish Nation to Mount Avel and Mount Grizim to hear the covenant, the blessing and the curse. Where are Mt. Avel and Mt. Grizim? Moshe explains, "Cross the Jordan, as west as you can go, follow the sunset, amongst the Caananite who dwell on the Plain, opposite Gilgal, next to the Morah Plain.(Devarim 11; 30) The Torah reads like a "Trip-Tick". Exact directions. We are told exactly where to go for blessings and curses.
Yet, just a chapter further (12;5) when Hashem wants us to go to the holiest spot in the world, Yerushalayim is not even mentioned by name. At 19 places in the Chumash we are given the vague description, "Go to the place G-d has chosen." We are never told to go to Yerushalayim!
Even in the time of Avraham when he was
told to sacrifice his son on that mountain in Jerusalem he was not told
exactly where to go. ".on one of the mountains that I will show
The answer is, the quest for Jerusalem is a spiritual quest. For Abraham, David and Samuel, the search for Jerusalem represented a search for holiness, meaningfulness. They grew from the struggle. You can't download spirituality. On a spiritual voyage, the expedition, the trek, the searching, the yearning, is half the fun! Our personal quest for Jerusalem is trying to find our place in this world. Every one of us was put here to make a contribution to the world, to add something or to fix something. We yearn to make that mark. So why don't we come with instructions or a map? The answer is finding our place is a spiritual journey. We must yearn and learn, watch and question and always be flexible enough to grow. Finally we say "aha; found it!" and because of the struggle we are prepared for the post. If there would be a map there would be no growth.
In a recent article in the Jerusalem
Post Jonathan Rosenblum cited the conclusion of the World Health
Organization's (WHO) most recent cross-national survey. "Israeli
teens are the unhappiest in the developed world. The 5,000 Israeli 11, 13,
and 15-year olds interviewed reported the highest rates of "feeling
low'' and complained of loneliness at a much higher rate than kids from
any of the other 27 countries surveyed, except for Portugal."
As we welcome in the month of Elul and we begin our preparations for a New Year, we must keep in mind our G-d given challenge. "Leshichno Tidrishu," always keep searching for Jerusalem, "Uvoso Shama!" and you will get there.
Rabbi Yaacov Haber
Rabbi Haber is the OU's National Director of Jewish Education and the spiritual leader of the OU's Pardes Program
Comments and questions are very welcome
"A tree of life for those who embrace it"