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Loving Your GPS

Three Attitudes Toward Your Life Journey

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

    1361 views
  • May 23, 2010
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  • 10 Sivan 5770
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Class Summary:

Loving Your GPS - Three Attitudes Toward Your Life Journey
Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein- in the loving memory of Rabbi Gavriel Noach and Rivki Holtzberg and all of the Mumbai Kedoshim. And in the loving memory of a young Jerusalem soul Alta Shula Swerdlov the daughter of Rabbi Yossi and Hindel Swerdlov

Working on the Road

A fellow stopped at a rural gas station and, after filling his tank, he paid the bill and bought a soft drink. He stood by his car to drink his cola and he watched a couple of men working along the roadside. One man would dig a hole two or three feet deep and then move on. The other man came along behind and filled in the hole. While one was digging a new hole, the other was about 25 feet behind filling in the old. The men worked right past the fellow with the soft drink and went on down the road. "I can't stand this," said the man tossing the can in a trash container and heading down the road toward the men.

"Hold it, hold it," he said to the men. "Can you tell me what's going on here with this digging?"

"Well, we work for the county government," one of the men said.

"But one of you is digging a hole and the other is filling it up. You're not accomplishing anything. Aren't you wasting the county's money?"

"You don't understand, mister," one of the men said, leaning on his shovel and wiping his brow. "Normally there's three of us--me, Rodney and Mike. I dig the hole, Rodney sticks in the tree and Mike here puts the dirt back."

"Yea," piped up Mike. "Now just because Rodney's sick, that don't mean we can't work, does it?"

The Cloud

The journey of the Jewish people in the desert, the Bible relates in this week's portion (Behaaloscha), was guided by G-d. A cloud hovered over the portable sanctuary built in the desert. "Whenever the cloud lifted from the Tent, the Israelites would set out accordingly; and at the spot where the cloud settled, there the Israelites would encamp".[1]

"They thus camped at G-d's word and moved on at G-d's word," the Torah states.[2]

Now, the Torah repeats this phrase—“They thus camped at G-d's word and moved on at G-d's word”—three times![3]

This is strange. Why repeat the same exact words three times? The message was quite clear the first time stated: The Jewish journey through the wilderness—their movement as well as their sojourn—was determined by G-d.

Three Attitudes

The thrice repeated declaration of the same fact—“They thus camped at G-d's word and moved on at G-d's word”—represents three states of consciousness relating to G-d guiding the Israelite journey through the desert. The cloud may have determined their trek, but there were three ways to experience this truth. Perhaps there were three types of people, each one related differently to this reality.

The first time the Torah makes the declaration it is merely stating the objective fact: The Jewish people moved at G-d's word and camped at G-d's word. Some of them may have not paid attention to the cloud or even thought it changing positions were random. Yet their lack of awareness did not alter the truth: It was the GPS—G-d’s Positioning System—that guided them in the wilderness.

The second declaration informs us of a deeper consciousness that pervaded some of the Jewish people at the time. In the words of medieval Spanish commentator Ramban (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, Nachmanadies, 1194-1270): "Even though they may have been exhausted (and wanted to stay longer) or even if they were displeased with the place and wanted to proceed further, they disregarded their own wishes and guided their movements by the cloud."[4]  They were fully cognizant of the fact that they ought to subordinate their preferences to the will of G-d dictating their journey.

The third declaration takes it to a new level. There were those Jews, the Torah is telling us, did not have their own preferences. They did not care to camp out, nor were they compelled to move on. Their exclusive desire was to serve as conduits for the course G-d charted out for them, to embrace the destinations the Almighty prepared for them. Their personal vision was seamlessly aligned with G-d's vision for them.[5]

Bubble or Symphony?

This Israelite trek through the desert is a metaphor for our own journeys today, both as individuals and as part of a people. We too can operate on three levels of consciousness.

A cloud hovers above each of us guiding our individual and collective voyages in life. The Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), founder of the Chassidic movement, taught that there is a “Divine GPS” instilled in the soul of every creature, guiding it through the winding pathways of life's wilderness. Now, it is up to us to choose from among the three perspectives mentioned above.

In the first state of consciousness, you are detached from the "bigger picture" of your life. Your journey is still determined by G-d, but that truth eludes you. In your imagination you are an isolated bubble in a vast and meaningless universe; reality at its core is indifferent to your struggles and triumphs. Your life lacks a unified, higher narrative. You feel alone in your struggles, challenges and setbacks. 

Yet unlike your earthly GPS which you have the choice to ignore, get angry at, or turn off, your heavenly GPS still guides you even if its voice remains inaudible. G-d is with you, even when you are unaware. Yet you have the choice of whether to open yourself to this truth, to allow it to effect you consciously. 

In the second and higher state of consciousness, you become aware of an unavoidable truth—that life presents us each with a particular set of challenges and opportunities. Each of us has a mission for which our soul was sent down on earth, so that every encounter and experience is an indispensable component of a grand cosmic symphony that spans the entire universe. You are aware of it and you surrender to it, often begrudgingly, subduing your own dreams to G-d's.

In the third and deepest state of consciousness, you align your ambitions, dreams and goals with those of G-d. To use the lingo of yesteryear, you HotSync your personal iphone with the cosmic iphone. You go beyond your narrow perception of where your life must take you, and you allow the core of reality—G-d—to set the course.

Instead of resisting, escaping and ducking you embrace life, every moment of it, with a bear hug. Each morning you awake and say: G-d! I'm ready to rock and roll! Wherever You wish to go today, I'm in. You do the steering and I will press the pedal for full speed. Bon voyage!

Sure, sometimes we'd prefer other routes and alternate destinations. G-d's GPS leads us at times through strange and complex highways; it often prefers dirt roads over paved ones. But will you spend the rest of your life combating reality? Is there even an existence outside of reality? Or will you have the courage to hear the “small silent voice” guiding you through the wilderness to the Promised Land?

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[1] Numbers 9:17

[2] Ibid. 9:18

[3] Ibid 9:18;20;23

[4] Rambam Ibid. 9:19

[5] See the commentary of Rabbi Chaim ben Atar (died in 1740 in Jerusalem), known as the Or Hachaim to these verses. Based on his explanation, it is clear how the words in each one of three verses represent these three persdpectives.

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    Rabbi YY Jacobson
    • May 23, 2010
    • |
    • 10 Sivan 5770
    • |
    • 1361 views
    • Comment
    Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein- in the loving memory of Rabbi Gavriel Noach and Rivki Holtzberg and all of the Mumbai Kedoshim. And in the loving memory of a young Jerusalem soul Alta Shula Swerdlov the daughter of Rabbi Yossi and Hindel Swerdlov

    Class Summary:

    Loving Your GPS - Three Attitudes Toward Your Life Journey

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