Rabbi Gershon Avtzon

Remember the days when we had to write down directions? Does “Make a right after three lights” sound familiar to you? 

How about the thrill we had when we were first able to print out directions from MapQuest? My children simply do not believe that there was ever such a time in recent history. 

Today, few drivers read maps, as we only need to type our destination into the GPS system or into apps on our phone, and a nice, friendly voice navigates us through traffic to our destination.

Originally invented by the military to track nuclear submarines, the modern-day GPS system is still used by our armed forces today. But now it is mainly civilians who use and benefit from it. This progression reminds me of the prophecy of Isaiah (2:4), proudly displayed on the wall of the United Nations building in Manhattan, “And He shall judge among the nations and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.”

On my many road trips, I have come to rely on the GPS to point out everything to do with the road: traffic, cars stopped on the shoulder, or upcoming hazards. It does not disappoint, so I never take it for granted. But beyond its practical value in driving, it has taught me many life lessons, both in my personal life and in my professional life as an educator and teacher.

On a personal level, I have learned that the key to having a successful trip of life is having a very clear destination – goal – in mind. If there are no clear goals set, even the best navigation system – teachers, coaches, and support groups – will not be able to help you be successful. When you yourself do not know where you are going, there is no way for them to get you anywhere. 

The goals themselves must be realistic. Have you ever tried typing a nonexistent address into the GPS? It simply will not compute. While some goals may sound big and inspiring, if they are too “out of this world” for ourselves, the ultimate outcome is negative. We feel like failures and we lose our enthusiasm and drive. If we set small and achievable goals, and eventually grow them, maintaining a positive attitude throughout, we are most likely to succeed and then be motivated to continue.

As a parent, and on a professional level as an educator, the GPS has taught me a much deeper lesson in dealing with situations where the people we are trying to educate to go on the right path seem to lose their way in this amazing journey of life. How should we react? How can we get them back on the path to success and to reconnect to G-d Almighty? I always think of the reaction of my GPS when I get lost on the road. It does not scream or yell at me. If it did, I might get offended and not listen. Rather, it gently tells me that I went off the path and shows me the quickest path back to my original destination. When confronted with a difficult student or child, we must never react with yelling and anger. It doesn’t bring the child back to the path you would like them to follow. On the contrary, it makes them go further away. 

The true and ultimate “destination” for the Jewish people is the Land of Israel, with the rebuilding of the Holy Temple and the revelation of our righteous Moshiach. We must always be aware – and make our children aware – that as good as things are for us here in Cincinnati, our present location is just a way station on our journey to our real destination. Once the destination is set, we must be the calm and clear voice, like the voice of the GPS, steadily making sure that the path to that destination is always clear and available for all. While every act of goodness and kindness brings us closer to our destination, the most direct route is by learning what our prophets and sages, such as Maimonides, have foretold about the special and unique era of Redemption. By studying and absorbing these details, which even include the measurements of the Temple that had stood proudly on the Temple Mount, we will merit to taste the true era of world peace with the revelation of Moshiach. 

Safe travels!

Shabbat Shalom!

You can email Rabbi Gerson Avtzon at  lessonsinlife@americanisraelite.com.


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