Feburary 26, 2017

(בְּכָל־דְּרָכֶ֥יךָ דָעֵ֑הוּ וְ֝ה֗וּא יְיַשֵּׁ֥ר אֹֽרְחֹתֶֽיךָ (משלי ג:ו
In all your paths know Him, and He shall guide your ways (Proverbs, 3:6).

My translation of ve-hu yiyasher orchotecha, as "He shall direct your ways," emphatically employs the archaic spelling, "ways," over its modern spelling, "Waze." It is my tongue-in-cheek answer to the serious question: What type of guidance does the pasuk from Mishlei promise? Is it some form of Divine GPS?*

Not surprisingly, Chazal, the Rabbis of the Talmud, see God's direction in this verse as something quite different from turn-by-turn navigation.

(אמר שלמה בכל דרכיך דעהו (משלי ג:ו), אם ידעתי להקב"ה בכל דבר ודבר, הוא יישר אורחותיך (מדרש תהלים, מזמור קיט

King Solomon said, "in all your paths know Him." In other words, if I figure out how to know God in every facet of my life, then the conclusion of the pasuk follows naturally: "He shall be directing all my ways" (Midrash Tehillim, 119).

I believe this subtle rabbinic rendition of the pasuk adds something - a type of direction that leaves much greater autonomy for the driver. God will be directing my ways not via a thunderous voice reverberating behind my every turn. Rather, if I find a way to know God through all my paths in life, then logic dictates that God is playing a role in the formation of my every path. This is not God as the Great Navigator; it is rather God... as the Grand Destination.

God directs my every move not in the way the GPS directs me to 634 Hungry Harbor Road, but rather in the way that, if Young Israel of North Woodmere is my GPS destination, then however I am getting there, the coordinates of YINW are playing a crucial role. The Divine epithet המקום, literally "The Place," demonstrates both the aptness and the limitations of the Divinity-destination analogy. God is called by this epithet, Chazal explain, because הוא מקומו של עולם ואין העולם מקומו; He is the location of the world rather than being located within the world (Bereshit Rabbah, 68:9). Thus, God is indeed the Destination of every step we take... assuming we take those steps with the appropriate end-point in mind - in other words, with a God consciousness.

I spoke passionately a few Shabbatot ago about the fact that when we walk into our shul, we do not check any component of our selves at the door. We bring the multiple components of our person-hood into the room with us. And we raise them, by stretching them toward God, and through God... by uniting our voices with the voices of the Kahal, our sacred congregation as an expression of Kahal Yisrael, the Jewish People as an expansive yet tightknit community.

In the same way, wherever we go in the world, we do not check our God-consciousness at the door. We raise it to new levels.

Several years ago, an unconventional novel was published under the pseudonym B.D. Daehu, as in "bekol derakhekha daehu," "in all your ways know Him." I don't even remember what book it was, but I liked the choice of pseudonym. It was a reminder that in all we do - even in the authoring of a book for which we hesitate to take credit - we are supposed to be seeking out Godliness.

Where is Young Israel of North Woodmere located? No, not at the corner of Hungry and Park(y). Technically the building stands at such an intersection. But anyone who has become acquainted with our shul knows that our destination is bigger than that. Because we are a family, and while families need houses, they far transcend the boundaries of houses. No coordinates can contain what it means to be part of the YINW family. We are a family any time we stand strong for one another in times of need or in times of celebration. We are a family any time we reach out together to do chesed for others. We are a family anytime we rally in support of and in celebration of the State of Israel. We are a family in all places, wherever and whenever we reaffirm our commitment to a broad and diverse yet somehow shared vision of what the Rav, Rav Soloveitchink, Zatzal, called the ברית יעוד, our covenant of shared Jewish destiny.

I would like to thank David Bach, Eli Chaikin, Mike Felix, Jude Gutman and Yitzy Horowitz, for the hard work they have put into the most recent and very significant upgrade to the Young Israel of North Woodmere website. Most of all, I would like to thank our tireless mastermind of "bringing great things to life," Yitzy Horowitz for the countless hours he put into this website upgrade. The product of all that hard work is new pathways through which we can find our shul, find one another, and find Godliness in that vast vessel colloquially called the internet. Y
ou are using the YINW website and reading this blog because you recognize that our community extends beyond the four walls of our building and that Godliness can be found through your virtual routes as much as through your land routes. May we all succeed in our journeys and thus feel confident that He has indeed guided our ways.

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*Wazadazical side note: A while back Waze introduced some good alternative navigational voices, for travelers tired of listening to good old Jane calling all the proverbial shots.  But, last I checked among the star-studded list of navigational Waze personalities, God is not an option. I personally think a rendition of the to-this-day anonymous voice of God from the classic Ten Commandments would be rather groovy as an alternative navigational Waze voice. (Other voices I might at times find enjoyable listening to on my smartphone GPS include: Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Ben Rosenberg, and of course, my lovely Rebbetzen.)

Wed, November 22 2017 4 Kislev 5778