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Parshas Vayishlach - The Long Road Home     14 Kislev 5779

11/22/18 13:52:29



The American Automobile Association projects that 54.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 4.8 percent increase over last year. The 2018 holiday weekend will see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume in more than a dozen years (since 2005), with 2.5 million more people taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year. For the 48.5 million Americans planning a Thanksgiving road trip, INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. could be as much as four times longer than a normal trip. Regardless of the means of transportation, travelers are figuring out ways (waze) to minimize their travel time in order to maximize the fun and meaningful time spent with family or on the vacation.

Unfortunately, many people don’t plan adequately, leaving home just hoping for the best. In all of my travel experience, relying on ‘hope’ that travel plans will go smoother than predicted is both reckless and imprudent. I’ve often come across similar crossroads when I first began to use ‘Waze’. I would question the directions offered by the navigation system, choosing to ignore the ‘off road’ or ‘exit here’ directions because I reasoned to myself that the current traffic will ‘clear up’, doubting the program’s ability to navigate from upon high (so to speak). Perhaps, one out of one hundred times, my choice to ignore the input from that Waze voice didn’t really make a difference, but the other ninety-nine times proved quickly to be a bumper-to-bumper mistake. We think we know better, but sometimes we humans must come to trust and realize that an outside source or, or even a computerized voice opinion might be a better option.

What is it that gets into a person’s head to consciously choose to take a road or path that ultimately leads to the wrong destination? Why is it that as soon as we see and clearly understand that this choice is not a wise one, that it’s not the right way, we still do not turn around or take a different path? There is a famous saying of the Rabbis, “B’Derech She’Adam Rotzeh Leilech Bah, Molichin Oso”, literally translated “On the road/path that a person wants to go on, we lead him”. Figuratively, Hashem allows a person to make his own choices, to go down whichever road in life he chooses, and Hashem will help and lead him that way. If we insist upon living life a certain way, no one will oppose us. Nor will God put obstacles in our way to prevent us from even going down the wrong path. To the contrary, there will be signs that cause us to be convinced that this is the correct choice. This statement is found in Gemara Makos 10b and in the Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah 20:11, taken from Parshas Balak whereby Bilaam wants to curse the Jews and is refused by Hashem. Bilaam persists several times until God gives in and allows Bilaam to go. The Midrash explains that God said, “If you want to go, then go, even though I know it is not good for you.” Since Bilaam wanted to go, Hashem not only let him go, He led him down that road. The commentary Matnas Kehuna spells it out, clearly, stating: Even though the action is directly against what Hashem wants, He helps them go that way!

What does one do to prevent this from happening? First and foremost, we need to understand that this challenge is nothing new. Every one of us, the great, the famous, the person struggling to just live a good life, is confronted with such tests. We must learn from our trusted leaders how to prevent ourselves from negative inflluences. In this week’s Parsha Vayishlach Yaakov meets his brother Eisav after twenty-two years. The anticipated fear subsided when they met, and Yaakov prostrated himself before his brother Eisav. At the conclusion of their reunion, Eisav said to Yaakov, “Vayomer Nis’ah V’Neileicha, V’Eilcha L’Negdecha”: “Let’s get going and move on,” said Esau, “I will travel alongside you.” (Bereishis 33:12). A short exchange takes place between the two, with Eisav trying to convince Yaakov to accompany him wherever he and his family go. Yaakov makes excuses, saying, “I will come to join you in Seir.” Yaakov then diverted his journey, traveling to Sukkot. Yaakov is afraid to travel with Eisav for fear of the negative influence his brother would have on his family. Eisav, on the surface, tries to get Yaakov to accompany him. The sefer Peninei Torah explains that Eisav was not so innocent after all. Eisav stated,, “Let us go together………(and if not)…….. I will go against you!” Eisav, in actuality, gave Yaakov an ultimatum: Either you come with me or I will become your nemesis for all time. Either we go together down the same road of terror, sin and anti-God, or if you choose to go your own path, I will constantly fight against you and your principles. Yaakov responds to Eisav: Berishis 33:14 “Please go ahead of me, my lord. I will lead my group slowly, following the pace of the work that I have ahead of me, and the pace of the children.” Eisav replies again, “Let me put some of my people at your disposal,” on the surface presumably to help with his family’s traveling needs. Yaakov, however deciphered Eisav’s offer as trying to infiltrate the life of Yaakov’s family. Yaakov’s final and emphatic answer to Eisav was, “What for? Just let me remain on friendly terms with you.” Yaakov’s reaction isn’t simply a ‘no thank you’ to his brother’s gestures. Rather, he goes on the offensive by telling Eisav, “You go on your way by yourself and I will do my ‘melacha,’ my duty, as is laid out before me as the leader of the Jewish people. I have a unique and special mission in this world to spread the name of Hashem, and to educate my children in the ways of Hashem. It is for these reasons that we do not and can not share the same road!”

Rarely in life does someone have a perfect record. For almost thirty years I have been teaching, guiding, and mentoring individuals and families. In some cases, the advice and guidance that I’ve shared with them has been considered and followed. By and large the decisions were the correct ones; people have experienced growth and have seen nachas from their families. Unfortunately, I have also witnessed far too many people hear what I have to say but choose not to listen. Rather, they follow their own instincts and choose an alternative path which, before long proves to be the wrong road to travel. By the time that reality sets in, they tend to rationalize that it is still the right choice; life seems to be good, continuing on their way as God helps them distance themselves spiritually from Him. On the shallow level, life in this world would have been a lot easier for Yaakov and his family had he agreed to remain with Eisav.. He understood, however, that the benefits of being on his own and staying away from Eisav would prove far better for him and his family, not only in the next world but even in this world!

It is extremely painful for me to know what potential there was for an individual or a family who chose to sell out for an easier or more convenient lifestyle. Not realizing the upside of a more meticulous life, people choose the ‘easier’ and less resistant path to their Judaism. I hope and pray that it is never too late to find the accurate road back home.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Sat, December 14 2019 16 Kislev 5780