As another wonderful camp season came to an end, and all the campers boarded buses to return home, the camp families also packed up their bungalows and headed home.
Our family’s trip to Monsey takes around an hour and a half. But many families travel much farther distances in order to spend their summers at Camp Dora Golding in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. There are families that drive from Pittsburgh (300 miles, five hours), Cleveland (400 miles, almost six hours), Miami (1,300 miles, 19 hours), Dallas (1,500 miles, 21 hours), and Las Vegas (2,500 miles, over 33 hours).
To be honest, I have a hard time doing the drive from Monsey to Lakewood when we visit my in-laws, which is under two hours. I can hardly imagine those multi-hour drives in a car packed to the roof with luggage and restless children.
I often joke with friends who live in out-of-town communities that cities three to four hours away are practically next door. But they don’t really see the humor. They claim that that is truly how they feel. A ten-hour trip is a bit long, but three to four hours isn’t bad.
More than one friend who grew up in the tri-state area and now lives “out-of-town” noted to me that there is a shift of mindset that takes place when one moves out of town. Trips that were almost unbearably long when they lived on the east coast, become not only tolerable, but even pleasant. They related that it takes some time to get used to living out of town, but then one starts to accept that common destinations are more distant, and it becomes part of life.
For those of us who still live in the tense New York world and its environs, this is a foreign concept. But since I’ve heard this same idea expressed by so many out-of-towners, it must have validity.
During the month of Elul, we set out on a spiritual quest towards self-improvement and growth. One of the biggest impediments is our desire for quick-fixes and instant accomplishments. The long road intimidates us, and we lack patience for it. But true accomplishment requires patience, resilience, and perseverance.
The preliminary requirement for spiritual growth is a shift of mindset. If one expects and demands to get to his destination in a minimal amount of time and has no patience for traffic or the long road, he will be severely limited in how far he can travel. Only when he recognizes and accepts that the long road is par for the course, can he really effect true change and growth.
My rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, related that on one occasion he was invited to speak in Pittsburgh. When Rabbi Wein arrived in the terminal, a woman was waiting to drive him to his hotel.
The woman said that she had a white Honda Civic, which was parked in “row three, stall four.” They walked together through the massive airport to the parking lot. But when they arrived at “row three, stall four,” her car wasn’t there.
They then walked through the entire parking lot, looking, but there was no white Honda Civic. The woman was very distraught and told Rabbi Wein that she would call a taxi to drive him to the hotel while she tried to figure out what to do about her car.
While they were walking back to the terminal, a car pulled up alongside them. A man rolled down the window and said he couldn’t find a parking spot, so he would gladly drive them to their car so he could take their spot. When Rabbi Wein explained the problem, the man asked to see the parking ticket the woman received when she parked her car. She handed him the ticket and he took one look at it and said that he knew what the problem was. Her car was parked in the long-term parking lot, and she was looking for her car in the short-term parking lot. He drove them over to the long-term parking lot and, sure enough, in “row three, stall four” was the white Honda Civic.
When they were finally on their way, the woman asked Rabbi Wein what he thought about what had occurred. He replied that it’s a great moral lesson. Most people look for their happiness, fulfilment, and future in the short-term parking lot, but it’s parked in the long-term parking lot. The disaster of modern man is that everybody is parked in the short-term lot and fails to realize the long-term consequence of behavior, actions, and attitudes.
Elul is not about insincere or unsustainable resolutions. It’s about long-term growth. Our task and goal in Elul are to set out on the journey with an eye on the destination and a plan of how we want to get there.
Safe and uplifting travels!