Friday, August 31, 2012


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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Ki Setzei – Pirkei Avos, perakim 1-2
13 Elul 5772/September 1, 2012  
      One evening last week, shortly before we returned home from camp, I had to travel into Brooklyn to be menachem avel a fellow camp administration member. The trip is normally about an hour and forty five minutes from East Stroudsburg, PA, in the Poconos to Brooklyn. I took along with me a car full of people including someone who reassured me that he knew the directions. To be safe, I also plugged the address into the GPS, and we set off with confidence. When my navigator in the front seat dozed off somewhere down Route 80 I turned my attention towards the GPS.
      Of course, all of you brilliant readers are shaking your heads. But how was I to know that the GPS was not taking me to Brooklyn via Staten Island, but through Manhattan? It seems that as far as mileage goes, Manhattan is the shortest route. No one told the woman inside the GPS that one must avoid Manhattan at all costs in the late afternoon.
      So we got off the 80 and wound around some streets in scenic Jersey City where the natives looked as happy to see us as we did to see them. Before I knew it we were sitting in abysmal traffic waiting to get into the Holland Tunnel. The way we were moving I think we could have walked to Holland in less time. By then my navigator woke up and realized what occurred, but by then we were resigned to our fate.
      Dr. Stephen Covey, in his acclaimed New York Times best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People writes (habit 2), “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction…It is possible to be busy – very busy- without being very effective…the carpenter’s rule is, ‘measure twice, cut once’.”  
      The road toward spiritual growth is not easily traversed. There are many bumps along the curvy and lengthy route, and traveling is arduous at best. But there are directions that have been pre-posted for us by our sages which instruct us of the best way to get to our destination. But we often think we are smarter and wittier and can figure out quicker ways to get there without all the fuss and struggle. We think we can tunnel our way to spiritual greatness.
      But in the end we aren’t wiser than Chazal, and, au contraire. There is a price to pay for every attempted shortcut. More often than not, the shortest route is not the fastest route.
      That’s part of the reason why we have a full month of Elul to prepare for the yimei hadin. If we want to take advantage of the opportunity being afforded to us to renew our lives and our priorities and direction, we need to chart our course carefully and calculatedly.
   By the grace of Hashem we eventually made it to Brooklyn, despite hitting more traffic at the Battery Tunnel (and then at the BQE, and Prospect, and at every corner in Boro Park. Boy, do I love Brooklyn!). The good thing for us in Elul is that our spiritual destination is a much greater and blissful destination than Brooklyn.  
      Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
   R’ Dani and Chani Staum 
  720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425