Thursday, August 18, 2011

EIKEV 5771

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Eikev

17 Menachem Av 5771/August 17, 2011 -- Pirkei Avos – Chapter 5

I once had the opportunity to hear a former governor of New Jersey speak at a dinner. He quoted Ben Franklin who referred to New Jersey as ‘a valley of humility between the haughty hills of New York and Philadelphia’ (talk about a complex).

There are certain things that make you aware that you are in New Jersey. For example, you are made to feel that you are no longer competent to pump your own gas. Also, in New Jersey there seems to be signs for the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike on just about every corner. There is a certain look and feel to New Jersey communities as well.

I have noticed another phenomenon in New Jersey on a bunch of different occasions. At times I will be driving on one of the New Jersey highways when signs appear indicating a merge ahead because of roadwork. Sure enough cones appear and along with the rest of the traffic, we all begin to merge right. A half mile later, more cones appear, and again we merge, this time all the way to the right. Then we drive for about three miles in single file, at a much reduced speed, passing tens of cones all neatly lined in formation. The only catch is that there is nothing going on behind those cones. The road is closed for construction but there is no construction going on.

There have been times when I have gotten to the end of the construction area only to find three guys schmoozing and one burly fellow munching on a sandwich. Every time I have that experience (as I did again last week) I wonder if New Jersey residents realize that their tax money is being used to keep workers busy by putting out cones and recollecting them a few hours later.

The great Hillel would say (Avos 1:14), “If I am not for myself than who will be for me?” Every person is put in this world with certain things that only he can accomplish. If a person does not utilize his abilities and capabilities those accomplishments will never come to fruition.

The roads of life are full of New Jersey construction sites. There are areas that have been set aside for specific growth and accomplishments, but the workers never show up. As another Mishna in Avos teaches “The day is short, the work is long, the wages are great, the workers are lazy, and the Master is demanding.”

There’s a classic caption which says “I was put in this earth to accomplish certain things. Right now I’m so far behind I’ll never die!” Unfortunately the reality is not that way. We only have a limited amount of time – hopefully healthy and plentiful time. But if we do not accomplish what was set aside for us to accomplish, the cones are recollected and traffic quickly fills its place, and the work zone is soon forgotten.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum