Airplanes don’t fly straight. They are constantly realigning. From time to time we must observe the direction we are moving in, stop for a moment, assess and realign.
I was speaking with my aunt about how much time we spend driving nowadays. We spend so much time in the car and how when we decide to go somewhere, we need to consider the amount of time we’re investing in getting there and getting back. Because that is a significant price, time is the one commodity we can never get back. And my aunt joked with me, she said she jokes around with people and she always says, oh, you know what, let’s feel productive, let’s get in the car and drive somewhere. Because when you’re driving, you feel like you’re getting from one place to another, you’re actually getting somewhere. And so it gives you an automatic sense of fulfillment when that is not necessarily the case.
And I’m just bringing this out to bring out a point and that is that sometimes we are so busy being busy. We’re so busy accumulating something, such as money would be a classic thing, or whatever else it may be that we’re accumulating, that we get caught in this cycle, sort of like a hamster, you know, just running, running, running. And we sort of become mindless in what it is that we’re pursuing and how much value that is at the expense that we are getting it for.
There’s a very interesting story with a great Chassidic master by the name of Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev. A great mystic. And he once saw someone in the morning running and said, sir, where are you running?
And he said, oh, I’m running to make a living.
And Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev looked at him and said, how do you know that you are running to make a living, maybe you are running away from your living?
Essentially, he was asking a very interesting question. You know, sometimes we run, we’re so excited about a certain deal that we’re going to make and sometimes we find out that that was the worst deal that we’ve ever made. So we thought we were running to make, you know, a big deal and as we find out, actually, that was the worst deal we ever made. The point is that we really need to assess when we are going, when we are spending so much time and so much energy focused in a certain direction as to whether that is the direction that we should be going in. Essentially, we need to always be able to realign ourselves, very similar to the airplane. You know, an airplane never flies in the exact direction it’s going. It’s constantly recalibrating. It can never be exactly on the target; slightly to the right, slightly on the left and then shifts right back on target. It’s kind of like constantly moving back and forth to stay on target. And that’s what we need to do, constantly.
Another very interesting story with an another great Chassidic master and mystic, the Alter Rebbe he was known as, Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi. He had a follower that came to him who was very upset and he asked him, why are you so upset?
He said, I have a teenage son and he’s going on choosing some direction in life which is not healthy, which is not good, and I don’t know what to do.
And so the Reb Shneur Zalman said, do you have any way of getting him here to meet me? Maybe I can speak to him and see if I can help.
He said I don’t know. I don’t know how I’m going to get him here. This is not exactly where he likes to hang out nowadays.
So Reb Shneur Zalman said, you know what, you find a way to get him in town, I’ll find a way to see him.
And so the father said, fine. And he went home and thinking the whole time while he was going home how am I going to get my son to that town. And suddenly it dawned on him, his son loved riding horseback. This story goes back about 250 years. His son loved riding horseback. So he was ‑‑ he decided he’ll give his son an errand to deliver something to this town where Shneur Zalman lived and he’ll say, go on the horseback. And then his son would be excited to go.
He comes home and tells the son he has a package that needs to be delivered, can you deliver it?
He said no, I don’t want to go.
He said, why don’t you take a horse and go?
And he said, oh, I can take a horse, fantastic.
So the son gets on the horse, he gallops into town and Reb Shneur Zalman finds a way to let people know that he wants to see him. And he comes in to meet Reb Shneur Zalman and Shneur Zalman greets him with a tremendous warmth and he says, so what do you enjoy doing?
He says, I love riding horses.
And Reb Shneur Zalman said, well, why do you like riding horses?
And he said, you know, why don’t you just take a horse and buggy like most people do?
And he says, because a horse is so much faster. It gets you where you want to go so quickly.
And so Reb Shneur Zalman asks him, well, what happens if someone gets onto the wrong road? They get lost very quickly, too.
And the young man, smart man, said, that’s true, however, you can also get back very quickly. Right? The moment you find out you’re on the wrong path, you just turn around and you can get back very quickly.
And the Reb Shneur Zalman said, yes, this is very true; however, one first needs to recognize that they are on the wrong path
Now, mystics have a way of really caring about the people they engage with and, therefore, when they speak, they speak from the heart. And when you speak from the heart, it penetrates the heart. And somehow it struck this young man’s heart in such a way that he got the message that sometimes we’re having the thrill of our lives but we’re going on the wrong path and we don’t realize that we’re on the wrong path. And so this young man started to reexamine his life and make changes.
And this is exactly what we need to do at different times in our lives, surely right at the outset of a new year, where we need to look at ourselves and just say, look, I’m moving in this direction, and, you know, it could be and it probably is a pretty decent direction overall, but is there any way of me tweaking this, of me refining this, of me realigning myself, just realigning myself so that I am more precisely on track?
This is something that’s very important for us to do because often we get into a mode and we’re moving, moving and sometimes this mode that we’re in feels good because it feels like we’re accomplishing things. But if we’re going down this road for a year or two or three and then five years down the road we turn around and say, you know what, I wasn’t exactly aligned, wow, we’re deep into something and sometimes we have lost opportunities.
You know it’s like the classic workaholic who just completely and entirely gives up his family for his work because he’s consumed with making a living. And when he comes home and his spouse asks him, so, you know, why can’t you spend some more time with the family, and he says, what do you mean, I spend so much time working for the family and supporting the family, who do you think is paying all the bills? And, you know, that’s a good justification, but really it’s coming at a serious price and there needs to be a balance. Of course, we need to work and make money but there’s needs to be a balance. So it’s very very important for us to create more balance. And that’s through realigning ourselves. And here is the question that I think we really all need to ask ourselves. This doesn’t come naturally. But if we are people who are going to be a little bit introspective about our lives, we need to ask this exact question: What am I doing? What should I be focused on? And here is the key, what’s the ideal life that God wants to see from me? Why did God put me here and what purpose am I here to fulfill? And am I focused on that and how focused am I on that? That does not mean that we don’t do all of the things that we need to do to take care of ourselves. We must take care of ourselves so that we can fulfill the purpose God put us here for. But, ultimately, if we keep our eyes on our real purpose, then we don’t sacrifice it by taking care of ourselves but we make sure that the taking care of ourselves is to serve our purpose.
And I would end this with one point, and that’s this one question. What is one baby step that I can take that will bring me closer, that will make me more realigned with the purpose that God created me for? And let’s start doing that now.