On Taking the Shortest Route

Indeed life demands maturity, the growing up both emotionally and mentally. The promised land in all cases lies at the end of a hard and long road.

In his sermon of January 31, 1965, Rabbi Olan, begins with the story of the Exodus from Egypt and explores the question of why God did not lead the Israelites to Canaan, the promised land, by the shortest route, which would have taken 11 days.  Instead, He led them through the wilderness for 40 years.  This allowed them to mature as a people: 

Thus God taught Israel the precepts and commandments, for they were still children. ‘Then He brought them to their inheritance, the promised land.’

This is a rich metaphor which transfers from the collective to the individual, and which focuses on the value of experience, even overcoming adversity, in the process of becoming a mature person.  Rabbi Olan explores two aspects of personal maturity:  emotional and mental.  In the first case, one characteristic he points out in immature individuals is self-centeredness.  Looking around us today, we wonder how we can act in concert with the entire population of the world to overcome the covid-19 crisis if we cannot see beyond our own interests.  How can we do the work of repairing the world as the prophets enjoin us to do? 

As for mental maturity, we have never ceased to talk about the need to teach critical thinking, which should be the basis of our educational system.  Like the 40 years in the desert, this, too, is indeed an arduous undertaking. 

Reason and judgment are qualities which must be carefully nurtured and developed.” 

This is not optional, because

The man who cannot think is not free, his choices as a citizen are the product of his passion, not his reason.

Follow this link to read the sermon text.
Follow this link to listen to the audio recording.
Follow this link to watch the scrolling-text video.

*Written by Frances Olan.*