It’s hard to believe that spring is finally here! As we begin to prepare our yard and gardens for the new plantings, it is also time for us to get outside and enjoy the weather. On one recent day, I had the opportunity to get out into the woods for a nice hike with my boys and their friends from Troop 41. Their mission that day was to navigate their way in small groups from Naugatuck State Forest to Brooksvale Park armed with a topographical map and their compasses. How they got from the start to the finish was up to each group of Scouts, with the adults along to make sure everything was safe, but not to comment on their routes.
It was quite an adventure following my group over hill and dale, across streams and swamps, and through thickets and briars as they followed their compass headings directly from starting point to meeting point. At the end, we rendezvoused with the other groups and compared notes.
The group I was with followed their compasses all the way, referring to their maps occasionally to ensure they were not off course. Another group followed the map features all the way, using the topography, streams, and occasional compass headings to guide them at junctures. And the third group followed existing trails in the woods, using their compasses to guide them in the right directions occassionally since the trail system was not designed to travel the direction we were traveling in. All three groups arrived at the end within 3 minutes of each other.
Reflecting on the day, I couldn’t help but see the analogy to life. We all start and end in the same place, but we all take different routes in between. Some follow their moral compass no matter where it leads them. We all know that doing the right thing is rarely the easiest way, but it does help us to reach our destination comfortable with our lives and actions. Some follow the obvious clues in life, jumping from step to step, occassilnally checking in with their moral and spiritual guides. And others follow the path of least resistance, still keeping some guidance but using a more circuitous route.
So, as we enter the spring season and marvel at the wondrous rebirth of nature, it is a good time for us all to reflect on our paths. While we all travel different routes, our compasses should all point the same way. As you plot your personal route, make sure it passes through an occasional minyan and Shabbat service. These are our rendezvous points along our Jewish journeys. A minyan is a nice quick rest stop on the trail, a 15 minute break where we can orient the compass and check the map. A Shabbat service is a longer break where we can rest, refill our canteens, check our compasses and maps, and then head back out refreshed and refocused for another week. Services are also a place for each of us to check in with each other, see how our friends are doing, and get caught up on community events. (Kind of like an off-line Facebook for those of you who are tech savvy.) Sometimes we need personal motivation from our friends to continue on our journeys, and the Temple is just the place to get it. If you are not sure how to get started, just come to a Shabbat service and you will be surprised at just how easy it is to reorient that compass.
Evan Wyner TBS President