Following The Directions Till You Reach Your Destination (Mishlei 6)
Following The Directions Till You Reach Your Destination
By Harav Y. R. Rubin Shlita
Do you remember when we all used maps to find our way about? Yes children, once upon a time we old timers had to read road maps that were basically correct, but cumbersome and often out of date. In the Rubin household it was the Rebbetzin who would read out directions whilst I drove. It was more of an adventure in those days; you never really knew where you should turn, especially if the map had inconvenient folds that cut roads off mid-trip. Then technology came to the rescue, and we were soon introduced to the Sat Nav. You just enter the address you need to find, and within moments the little genius will give you exact directions, and actually explain how to get there, in any language you wish. The equipment works in conjunction with satellites that whizz around the earth. They seem to know where I am, and when I ask, those satellites somehow combine and show me the way. In fact, if you are trying your best to follow their given path, and for some reason you make a mistake, the navigator will reconfigure your route and set you right.
“We can only give them a good compass. The rest is up to them”
There is, of course an important caveat to all this: the Sat Nav will give you the right pathway only if you provide it with the correct destination. Recently, I put in an address and drove merrily along, following all the instructions. After some time the voice coming from the gizmo told me, “You have reached your destination.” Problem was that I had wanted to go to a shul in the next city but found myself sitting outside the City Hall. Oops! I had made a small spelling mistake and was now miles from where I had planned to be.
All this makes one think: if such clear instructions can be had from a machine directed thousands of miles above me, how much more can I gain from Hashem’s words, which reside within my soul? Mishlei is a Sefer that holds great wisdom but is taught far too little. Much can be learnt from its wisdom which is pertinent to our daily lives. For example, in the sixth chapter it tells us some very strong directions about which roads to take in relation to our current reality.
“My child, if you have been a guarantor for your friend, if you have given your handshake for a stranger …” (Mishlei 6:1). Rashi explains that we have been committed to Hashem, Who is referred to in Shir Hashirim as “your Friend.” We have done this by accepting His Torah on Mount Sinai. Therefore, the only road we are meant to travel is the path Hashem lays before us. Yet we turn away and take to foreign roads and allow “strangers” to become our guides.
“You have been trapped by the words of your mouth, snared by the words of your mouth” (6:2). We made two commitments to Hashem, once at Sinai and once again on the Plains of Moav, yet we allow ourselves to be entrapped by materialistic desire and find ourselves driven away from where we should be.
Much of the anguish we witness in so many people is caused by the fact that they are floundering with no real direction along the highways of this grasping world. The “stranger” has no destination; his ways are money or honour-oriented, and he wants humankind to be always lost, always seeking and being uncomfortable. In that way the stranger – the yetzer hora – encases our souls in the cold steel of selfishness. It is all too easy to lose one’s direction, to be disconnected from our Heavenly satellite.
So how do we stay focused on the true path that is Hashem’s plan? The Piaseczna Rebbe ztl often mentioned that the secret of staying on the right way in life is being given the proper navigational tools when young. We are young only once, and before we know it youth is gone and new pressures take over. Creating the ambiance in which a youngster understands what Yiddishkeit offers is no simple matter, yet it is the greatest gift a parent can give a child. We have so much going against us, so many temptations that coax us away from our own true direction. Everything we do is a signal. We are part of our children’s satellite system, and we can often be giving the wrong messages. If money comes into every conversation; if they see us measuring others by their wealth, then we are certainly creating the wrong signals.
Last Motzoei Shabbos I attended a barmitzvah seudah, celebrating with a dear friend of mine his youngest son’s big day. I remembered something that we shared some ten years ago. I was then standing with a group of baalei batim as we watched the young children scrambling about after davening. In that shul it was the custom that after Shabbos tefillos all the children would run over to me to receive a sweet. I have always felt strongly that it is vital that young children have a positive memory of their Rav.
This past week’s baal simcha was standing next to me when his little ones came for their treat. I sighed. “Who knows where life will take them twenty years from now?” To which he answered“We can only give them a good compass. The rest is up to them.” This fellow is no great rabbinic scholar, yet he is aware that as a father it is his responsibility to show his children the right signals. I know that his business takes him all over the world but that he will never be absent over Shabbos. He has been in far-off cities for meetings and left on a Thursday, only to return the following Monday, just so his children should see him at the Shabbos table on Friday night.
“Heed, my child, the command of your father, and do not forsake the teaching of your mother” (Mishlei 6:20). Scripture is telling us that we should learn from our parents’ example. This is a two-pronged instruction: it is telling us to do what we have seen in our parents’ home; at the same time it is telling parents that their example must be worthy of such allegiance.
“As you go forth, it will guide you; as you recline, it will protect you; and when you awaken, it will converse with you” (6:22). Like that satellite navigator, the words we inscribe in our children’s hearts when they are young will guide them through life. When they go forth to create their own families, your example will be a guide. When things get a bit tough, when life seems to be on a downslide, this focus we have given them will protect them from suffering irreparable harm. And when times improve, they will wake to a new spirit, which is always connected with previous generations. This is our holy navigational tool.
“For a commandment is a lamp and the Torah is light…” (6:23). One need say no more. Just follow the directions until “you have reached your destination.”