1939 GPS

On a recent road trip, we met a beautiful automobile from 1939.  Brown down the center with cream colored panels on the sides.  This beauty was made for strolling country roads and was not meant to be pushed along the PA Turnpike.  It seems she demanded her driver to allow her a rest and some cool water at one of the rest stops for commoners – like Hondas full of Chassidic kids, pretzels and crushed water bottles.
The first thing that I noticed about the prima donna to the right of our SUV was the unsightly GPS suctioned to her pristine windshield — a faux pas, totally out of time and place.  It seems that her driver had worked tirelessly for two years to restore her grandeur back in Norway.  He then bid her farewell and sent her on a cruise to the States.  She was greeted on the shore by her driver and three other friends and will be escorting the party of four across the United States on Rt. 30 – Lincoln Highway, which is apparently the oldest highway in the United States.  Her GPS will guide the way as road maps become more and more obsolete.
My children have been collecting road maps at rest stops and my husband has big plans to return home and purchase an atlas, but I must confess, the guiding light of our trip is the bright pink path – otherwise known as “the highlighted route” – on our GPS.   Practical, for sure.  Would I travel without it?  Definitely not.  Authentic? I’m not sure.
The problem with the GPS is its myopic scope.  The GPS will tell you exactly where to turn, but you’ll never understand the bigger picture of where you are located and more significantly, where you are headed.   It’s great for getting from point A to point B, although sometimes we need more than just making it through the upcoming intersection.
One of the first Chassidic teachings that I learned was in the Chabad House at Binghamton University.  The Rebbetzin was teaching the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s commentary on Rashi, the foremost commentator on the Torah.  In the course of a highly complex lesson, she elucidated a phenomenal teaching about cedar trees.
She explained that when our forefather Jacob went down to Egypt, he brought along cedar trees, which he planted in Egypt.  210 years later, when the Jews escaped from their bitter servitude, they took along those trees and used them as wood for building the Mishkan (the travelling sanctuary in the desert).
Yaakov’s cedars stood strong and tall throughout the treacherous years of servitude.  When the Jewish people were living their miserable existence they would be able to look up at those trees and gain assurance that a day would come when they would be more than free – they would be a strong nation in their own right.  The trees were brought down into Egypt so that they could become a source of hope for the future.
I can still picture the dark brown trunks that I envisioned the first time I heard this idea.  The cedars quite literally stood tall.  They were not a mere metaphor – they were actually used to create the holy mishkan.  It’s a phenomenal concept!
The GPS tells you where to turn – the cedar speaks of life perspective, a broader reality
and has confidence in what you can become.   I was recently at a forest of cedars, otherwise known as the Chabad on Campus international convention.  While the conventions touches on personal development, laughter, friendships, professional and intellectual development, the driving force is the simple desire to reach as many Jewish students on campuses around the world with ahavat yisroel  [love of a fellow Jew].  It’s powerful.  It’s humbling and I feel so blessed and fortunate to call such holy people my colleagues.
Each one of us is even more beautiful than a restored 1939 automobile and we need so much more than a GPS on our foreheads!   May we all be blessed to find the people in our lives who stand with love and strength and guide us along the path.
As you may know, we are in the midst of our annual raffle to raise much needed funds for Chabad of Queens College.  Please participate.  www.queensraffle.com
Good Shabbos,