Thursday, September 8, 2016

PARSHAS SHOFTIM 5776

“RABBI’S MUSINGS (& AMUSINGS)”
Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Shoftim    
6 Elul Av 5776/ September 9, 2016
Pirkei Avos – Perek 6

It’s fascinating how new words are constantly being added to our lingo, based on the advancements of technology. People casually speak about doing things that would have made no sense just a few years ago, such as sending tweets and whatsapping pictures.
One of the greatest technological advancements in regards to travel has been the creation of Waze. These days before driving somewhere we ‘put the destination into Waze’ and within seconds we are informed of the ideal route to take as well as the predicted time of arrival.
It’s not that infrequent that I will be driving somewhere and Waze will lead me along a route I have never gone before. At first glance I am often skeptical of the unfamiliar route, but I remind myself that Waze takes into account traffic, and calculates the ideal way to get to the destination in the least amount of time. Waze is also great because if the driver makes a mistake and misses a turn, within seconds Waze recalculates a new route.  
It struck me how intriguing it is that we place so much faith in an electronic app, especially in traveling to places and along routes that are completely foreign to us. The reason we are willing to do so is because we have had sufficient past experiences using Waze to know that the app is reliable. It’s a good feeling when you can bypass heavy traffic by driving along a quiet side road that you didn’t know existed. At times experience has also taught us that when ignoring Waze’s route, we encounter traffic we could never have known existed.
We often speak about having emunah peshutah – ‘simple faith’, or some might say blind faith, in G-d. The truth is that we are not charged to merely believe. We are charged to develop faith that stems from knowing the truth in our hearts. Based on numerous past experiences – both our own, others, and of Klal Yisroel generally, we are to recognize that Hashem is running the world based on a divine plan. Faith begins where knowledge ends.
We rely on an app based on previous experiences, and blindly follow its direction into the unknown with confidence that it will lead us to our destination, and that it will take into account the things that could impede us that we have no way of knowing beforehand. Should our faith in the Omnipresent be any less?
Very often we find the roads of our lives proverbially being recalculated. We suddenly find ourselves and in areas and heading in a direction that is totally unfamiliar to us. At times it’s our own fault that we ended up there, based on our own erroneous decisions. At other times, it’s the result of events beyond our control. But we are always charged with the mission of forging ahead with faith that the Ways (waze) of our lives are not random or haphazard. We believe that there is a destination we are working towards, even when we can’t see it.              
One of the noted allusions to the month of Elul is in the pasuk regarding one who murders inadvertently and has to flee to one of the ordained Cities of Refuge. The pasuk (Shemos 21:13) states “אנה לידו ושמתי לך – (But for one who has not lain in ambush and G-d has) caused it to come to his hand, I shall provide for you a place (to which he shall flee).” The first letters of the middle words contain an acronym of the word Elul.
The message from this verse is that even when the unimagined and unexpected occurs, G-d prepares a place for us. The truth is wherever we find ourselves – literally and figuratively – is exactly where we are meant to be. That is part of our focus during the month of Elul, to remind ourselves that we have a mission that is unique to us and we are directed towards its fulfillment. Beyond that, it’s all up to us.    

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum        

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