Rabbi finds GPS offers metaphor for journey of life, spiritual guidance


I’m generally pretty good with directions, but I wouldn’t think of driving in New York in our high-tech times without a GPS. How our ancestors did it in yesteryear is to their credit –and to my imagination — but not me; I choose to rely on the GPS.

It’s pretty amazing, especially for those of us who are technologically challenged. One title I’ll never earn is “Geek,” but I am very impressed with Susie or Alexis, or whatever her name is, giving me explicit directions, every step of the way. What impresses me the most is how awesome it is to hear G-d speak to me, even through my GPS tour guide.

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You see, I know my starting point and I know where I have to go.

In my case, I picked up my son, Dovid, from the Camp Simcha drop-off place in Brooklyn at 1p.m. and I had to drive to Newark to catch the 4:10 p.m. plane back to St. Louis.

And yes, I needed to leave enough time to return the rental car and be there ample time before the flight. So I punched in the details and off I went.

Oh how it so much resembles our travels through life!

All of life is really a mashal, a metaphor, which mirrors different spiritual realities.

We are born with a special mission — each one of us with our unique talents and traits. We’re placed in this obstacle course called Olam Hazeh, this physical world; we’re given a destiny, and we’re given a specific amount of time to accomplish our mission.

We don’t know how long we really have, but we do know “the day is short and the work is great, and the workers are lazy” (Pirke Avos: 2:20).

The first step is to just ask questions: “What am I living for?” “Why was I put on this world?” “What’s my mission?”

The next step is to set our goals, create our vision, become inspired, and set out on the journey. The challenge is to make sure we’re on the right track and in line with what G-d wants from us based on the Torah and its principles.

Can I really figure it out and how do I know I’m on course? I’m not necessarily “instrument-rated” like an experienced pilot.

Maybe I’m experiencing vertigo and I’m headed for a crash landing??!!

Mission control is calling us. “Climb!” “Dive!”

Yes, we sometimes do get dramatic wake-up calls. The Almighty is always speaking to us and wants us to pay attention.

Are we listening?

Usually, the calling is modest, like Alexis, my GPS guide, “recalculating”, “recalculating.” Even after a number of wrong turns, she keeps on coming back to me saying, “recalculating,… recalculating.”

She never calls me an idiot, even after many errors. She just wants me to get on track and reach my destination successfully.

When we get into trouble and far off the mark, it’s because we’re not listening carefully enough and we’re not following the instructions.

We create many of our own problems and sufferings. The Guide keeps calling us to “follow the highlighted route.” It’s all for our benefit to help us get to where we’re supposed to go, directly and with full confidence.

The FAA requires each plane to be inspected before each take-off. The Department of Motor Vehicles requires annual inspections on our cars. Our doctors and dentists recommend periodic check-ups, and we even need to change the clock twice a year.

What about the most complex creation of all times? Yes, me. And you and you and you! Don’t we need a spiritual check-up, at least once a year?

The month of Elul preceding Rosh Hashana is the time for introspection, renewal, and a self-imposed “recalculating, recalculating.” The truth is, if we sensitize ourselves to our inner spiritual compass and be steered by the yearning of our souls, we will appreciate the pleasures of our correct choices and hear and heed the gentle guidance of Hashem calling us to “recalculate, recalculate” and “follow the highlighted route.”

It is my hope and prayer that we will merit to hear and listen.

It’s a blessing when we’re called to recalculate; it’s a direct message from G-d to get back on track and reconnect with Him. This is the definition of Teshuva: to return, to get back on track so we’ll merit a life filled with blessings and happiness, along with understanding the meaning and purpose of our existence.

L’shana tova.

Rabbi Elazar Grunberger is director of Aish HaTorah. Contact Rabbi Grunberger at [email protected].