On Taking the Shortest Route

“The symptoms of immaturity are all around us; anxiety, fear, guilt, self-centeredness, and many other of the abnormalities which describe modern life.”

There are many possible shortcuts in life. In his January 31, 1965 radio sermon, Rabbi Olan cautioned against taking them. Drawing on imagery of the Exodus, Olan taught that God was actively shaping the chosen people through their forty years in the wilderness even though a shorter route to the Promised Land was possible. Along the way, they learned many difficult lessons. The hardships turned a dependent, enslaved people into capable, free people. In other words, they grew up, not because they were shielded from adversity, but because they came through it.

Immaturity of the individual and of society was one of Rabbi Olan’s frequent themes. In this sermon, he focused on parenting and education as areas where we tend to prefer shortcuts to hard work, and therefore immaturity to maturity. He warned that unless another road is taken, we will bring disaster upon our families and upon our nation.

“Reason and judgment are qualities which must be carefully nurtured and developed. The young must be prepared for freedom where they can choose between good and evil, the wise and the foolish.”

More than fifty years later, Rabbi Olan’s words still challenge us to evaluate our personal choices and how they shape our national character. It is hard work to improve our minds and our schools. And yes- it is difficult to reform politics, rectify economic injustice, and dismantle racism. Great challenges do not have simple, easy solutions.

Who will step up to take on such hard tasks? This is not work for the few, but for the many. If no one cares enough to get involved, our nation has no future.

To read, hear, or watch the full sermon, use the links below.

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 Tim Binkley.*