How Journeys Change Us

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, July 17, 2020 / 25 Tammuz 5780

THROUGH A LENS OF FIRE: Hasidic Insights on the Torah continues on Wednesday July 22nd at 12:30 pm. Please check the CNS calendar for the most up to date Zoom link.

Summary: In this week’s Oasis Songs, I reflect on a motorcycle day trip my son and I took earlier this summer, and its connection to this week’s Torah reading.

Earlier this summer, on a day off, Amitai and I took a motorcycle day trip up to a western leg of the Columbia. He’s an accomplished young photographer and the ostensible purpose of our trip was to travel all the scenic backroads, far from traffic and highways (cars are responsible for 75% of motorcycle crashes) and take some great pictures and video along the way. Sitting in the sidecar, he had ample opportunity to do just that. There’s this one gravel road that fronts the Columbia. Traveling it, we felt like we were on the edge of the world, particularly when we came across this one magical cluster of unusual buildings.

I know many people don’t trust motorcycles, and view them as an invitation to danger. Without a doubt there is more hazard in riding than many activities, but according to the National Safety Council, the lives of pedestrians are at greater risk than motorcyclists. Still, there is great value to walking—and riding—which make these activities worthwhile despite their inherent risks.

There is a way, you see, that a motorcycle inserts you into the landscape. It immerses you in the journey, so that the meaning of the trip is no longer the destination but what happens to you along the way. It clears your head of extraneous thoughts.These are the gifts which continue to beckon most motorcyclists—at least those who aren’t in it for the speed. Indeed, when Ami and I returned home after five hours, it felt as though we had been gone for weeks.

A 19th century rabbi makes a similar point in Masei, the second of this week’s double parshiot of Matot-Masei. As a reminder, parshat Masei is a travelogue of the Israelites travels from Egypt and their encounter with the challenges of personal and communal freedom.

In the Mei Hashiloach we read:

“From God’s perspective, no one is superior to their neighbor because everyone’s existence flows from the same divine essence…The purpose of a journey is to give every individual the opportunity to become fully transparent to themselves and to become completely pure at their source.”

We don’t all walk the same path. Each person and indeed every living creature has a unique set of challenges. Facing those challenges, discovering who we each are—that’s a large part of being human. Purifying ourselves—that is, improving ourselves so that the best part of ourselves can come forth—is an important spiritual task.

Yet it’s not so easy to do. In some ways, most of us work diligently to avoid becoming transparent to ourselves and use any number of distractions and fears to achieve this. We distance ourselves from our own source.

According to the Mei Hashiloach, one of our deepest tasks is to insert ourselves into our own lives. That may feel dangerous, but it’s what makes the journey worthwhile.

Shabbat shalom,

Rav D

Shabbat Table Talk

  1. What could the Mei Hashiloach’s teaching mean to you?
  2. Which trip had the greatest impact on you? How did you change because of it?
  3. In what ways have you become more transparent to yourself over time?

If you’d like to continue this discussion, follow this link to CNS’s Facebook page to share your own perspectives on the topics raised in this week’s Oasis Songs. Comments will be moderated as necessary.

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