Published On: Tue, Jan 17th, 2023

How are you Navigating Your Life?

Rabbi Stephanie Shore

Picture this: It’s Shabbat in 1975 and your having dinner with your Chavurah (friends).

The host of the dinner has recently moved and so you call them for directions. Take I-95 to Boynton Beach Blvd. after the 3rd stop light take a right. At your second round about go left and after two speed bumps take another left. We are the 7th house on the right. It’s green with a white BMW in the driveway.

Does anyone remember scribbling down directions like this, getting in the car, and realizing your lost? We would then have to search for a pay phone and call, your friend to find out where you went wrong.

In Jewish life we have a simple set of directions called commandments and if we follow them we can be assured to get where we are going. Not in the literal sense but in the religious and spiritual sense. We have, built into our daily rituals, directions to help us be better people and to fulfill, what our ancient rabbis call, Tikun Olam, repairing the world.

Many of us however, have a hard time following directions. Even with our modern day technology, there are times when we are following commands from our navigation and we still make a wrong turn.

What happens when we don’t go the right way while following our GPS or Global Positioning System? Automatically our screen shows us the way back to our route.

A voice says, “Rerouting”. It’s just a gentle prompt signaling a wrong turn was made. We are assured by the navigations’ voice and updating map that there is simple solution and with a turn here and turn there we are back on track.

What the automated voice does not say is, “How could you have messed this up? I knew you weren’t capable of following these simple directions.” We don’t get reprimanded or judged by the GPS. It doesn’t get upset with us it simply puts us back on the right path.

Like our GPS, God wants us to find our way. God waits for us nearby. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the Alter Rabbi, explains the nearness of God with the following royal court metaphor: The king’s usual place is in the capital city, in the royal palace. Anyone wishing to approach the king must go through the
appropriate channels in the palace bureaucracy and gain the approval of a succession of secretaries and ministers. He must journey to the capital and pass through the many gates, corridors and antechambers that lead to the throne room. His presentation must be meticulously prepared, and he must adhere to an
exacting code of dress, speech and mannerism upon entering into the royal presence.

However, the Alter Rabbi Continues: “there are times when the king comes out to the fields outside the city. At such times, anyone can approach him; the king receives them all with a smiling face and a radiant countenance. The peasant behind his plow has access to the king in a manner unavailable to the highest
ranking minister in the royal court when the king is in the palace.

Right now, God is in the field. God is close to us. God is nearby waiting for us to turn. Wherever our life’s journey has taken us, whether we have stayed the course or veered off onto dark side roads, there is always a path back to God, our faith, and our people. To get to this path you don’t need a GPS, just use your heart.

Each week, at the end of Shabbat, or at the time of the new moon, or even each morning awakening to the new day is a check point, a compass along our way that allows us to stop and review where we have been and where we want to go.

The compass will always show us North, or will it? Magnetic north is the direction that a compass needle points to as it aligns with the Earth’s magnetic field. The North Pole however, shifts and changes over time in response to changes in the Earth’s magnetic core. As a result of these shirts, North is not a fixed point.

So, where do we align our compass? Not our Rand McNally compass, our moral compass our souls compass? It’s simple but not easy. There are a number of ways we could begin. Let’s start where so many of us stumble, with forgiveness. During our High Holidays we have a potent recipe and reminder of this crucial stop in living in a spiritual, peace life. It says in our liturgy, according to Maimonides:

“For transgressions against God, the Day of Atonement atones; but for transgressions of one human being against another, the Day of Atonement does not atone until they have made peace with one another.”

Grudge holding can steal our peace. It can rob us from any ability to live joyfully and fully in the here and now. Are you holding a grudge? Do you need to ask or grant forgiveness? Are we practicing behavior that will lead us down a troublesome path? Have we forgotten our traditions and neglect our Jewish rituals or have we engaged in L’shon Hara, gossip, slander and the like.

The list of our sins can be like an alphabet of woe. When we recite them during our holidays they are presented in the plural tense not to embarrass or single anyone out and because there is an understanding that we will sin. We will do wrong.

Let’s say for our spiritual purposes we realign ourselves not North but East. With our hearts turning towards Jerusalem. When a Jew turns East, we become cognizant of the rich ethical, moral and practical ways we can uphold the commandments.

Unlike the shifts in the North Pole’s position, Jerusalem with what it stands for and what it reminds us of, is a fixed point that will hold us in good keeping. Another thing to be aware of when searching for our direction, is the direction of gluttony. The marketing giants of this world spend billions of dollars bombarding us with media and commercials subliminally designed to trigger us into thinking we need what they are selling. Of course, we are all allowed to have nice things, as long as they don’t own us. I often ask myself this simple question, “If this _ (any item or material thing) was gone tomorrow how would I feel?” The emotional reaction to that question will determine the answer.

There is a road map right in front of us. It’s called the Torah. We say, “Turn it turn it for everything is in it.” And it is.

The directions have been given to us. The gate is open for us to pass through.

We would do well to point our spiritual navigation in the direction of t’shuvah (returning to G!d), T’ifillah (prayer and meditation) and T’zedakah (justice and giving). In this way we know we will not only reach our desired destination, but we will be blessed on our journey as well.

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