Thursday, September 8, 2011


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Ki Seitzei

10 Elul 5771/September 9, 2011 -- Pirkei Avos – Chapter 2

A rebbe recounted that one day last year there was a large map spread out across his desk. A student was gazing at it fascinatingly for a few moments before he remarked, “Wow rebbe; I never saw a paper GPS before!”

Today the GPS has become almost standard, and most people won’t go anywhere without one. Still it is worth our time to double check directions before leaving on a journey just to make sure we entered the correct directions.

On one occasion I entered ‘Lakewood’ into the GPS and was quite surprised to find that it estimated the trip to take 56 days and 4 hours. (I know there are some cars that can’t move very well, but 56 days?) Then I realized that the directions were taking me to Lakewood, WA, Australia. [The directions included kayaking across the Pacific Ocean 2,756 miles, traveling across Hawaii, turning left at Kalakaua Ave (1.9 miles) and then kayaking again 3,879 miles to Japan. Then, after traversing Japan, kayaking across the Pacific another 3,358 miles to Australia.]

This past June, three women driving in an SUV after midnight, followed the directions of their GPS down a boat launch and into a lake in the middle of Mercer Slough Nature Park near Seattle. All three women were rescued but the SUV was completely submerged under water.

Similar stories abound. A driver in Germany followed his navigation’s instructions despite several ‘closed for construction’ signs and barricades, eventually barreling his Mercedes into a pile of sand. In Britain a truck driver followed his GPS’s instructions down a country road too small for his truck. The truck became wedged into the side of the road so firmly that the driver couldn’t move backwards or forwards. He was forced to sleep in the cab for three days until being towed out by a tractor. In April 2006, in the British town of Luckington, rising waters flooded a road above the Avon River making it impassable. Markers were posted and the road was closed. Yet, every day during the two week closure, at least one car drove past the warning sign, straight into the river.

This week America celebrated Labor Day as children everywhere mourned the official end of their prolonged summer vacation. Bathing suits were folded and put away, pencils were sharpened, school bags were filled, and children headed ‘back to school’. School halls were again filled with the sounds of teaching and learning, and the occasional interruption by a restless student.

Our rabbeim and teachers, and of course every parent, expend tireless efforts to guide each child to learn and grow to his/her potential. Any experienced educator knows that there is no GPS to follow when it comes to education. There is no voice, book, or program that can lay out for us exactly what protocol to follow to ensure a child’s success. Though there are many worthy ideas, experiences, and guidelines that can guide us in the right direction, ultimately every child is a world unto themselves, each requiring his own directions to help him achieve his inborn potential.

The right road and approach for one child may prove to be a disaster for another child. The only way to educate a child is by understanding the child and knowing how to awaken the latent talent and potential from within. Satellite programs guide from above, while education is a process drawing out from within.

And, as someone once eloquently said, “Sometimes the road to success isn’t a road at all.”

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum