Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

Do You Have a Travel Agent?

Posted on | November 28, 2008 | By Guest Contributor | Add Your Comments

By Rabbi Mordechai Rhine

The story of Yakov and Esav is a fascinating one. Yakov is a moral person who is spiritually focused. Esav’s goals are entirely on material success and enjoyment, and he uses improper and evil means to achieve his goals. Yet when it comes to the spiritual blessings, Esav desperately believes in the blessings and he cries bitterly when he loses them.

It seems like intellectually Esav understood the value of spirituality and moral behavior. But somehow he could not get his emotions and behavior to catch up to that realization.

Interestingly Esav’s head is buried with the patriarchs. When the tribes came to bury their father Yakov, Esav came to make trouble. Esav claimed that they had no right to bury their father in that location. The tribes responded that their father had purchased the burial location, and they had documents to prove it. In the heat of the argument one of the grandchildren- Chushim son of Dan- stepped forward and killed Esav by cutting off his head.

Tradition teaches that Esav’s head rolled into the burial cave and was buried together with the patriarchs in that holy place. In his head- intellectually- Esav understood spirituality and valued it. But somehow the rest of his body didn’t catch up.

A great rabbi once asked, “What is the greatest distance in the world”.

He answered, “The distance between the mind and the heart. That is, the distance between the mind and what we desire and actually do.”

There are many times that parents, mentors, and Rabbis find themselves teaching concepts that are new to their students. But more often, the task of a parent or mentor is not to be a teacher. Intellectually the student knows what they should be doing. The
challenge is in implementation. For a person to implement correct behavior requires determination. Determination can be achieved through much coaching and encouragement.

That is why I often think of Rabbis and mentors as travel agents. Quite often people already know the difference between right and wrong. On basics like honesty, friendship, shabbos, and torah study we all agree intellectually what is correct and what it is that we need to do. The challenge is travelling the distance between the head and the rest of the body. That is where a travel agent comes in.

A travel agent can tell you which airports have flights to your destination. He can guide you where to “hang out” so that you will be more likely to reach your destination.

A travel agent can encourage you to start your travel plans early so you don’t get stuck in a last minute rush. He can guide you to spend your time and money wisely so that you will achieve your goal.

But most of all a travel agent is there to guide you with your itinerary. He is there to make sure that you do indeed travel the great distance that you are destined to travel- to coach you to implement that which you already know intellectually is correct- and
to encourage you to become all that you can be.

With best wishes for a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi Mordechai Rhine
Young Israel of Cherry Hill
Torah Links of Cherry Hill
www.teach613.org

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