In his sermon of February 13, 1966, Rabbi Olan returns to a favorite theme that he had developed in “On Taking the Shortest Route” (January 31, 1965): he argues that God instructed Moses to lead the Hebrews through the desert for 40 years after the Exodus so that they could learn from experience how to cope with adversity. He compares God’s love for the Hebrews with parents’ love for children. Rabbi Olan asserts that in both relationships, challenges are more likely to result in healthy growth than is a smooth and easy road without obstacles.
For Rabbi Olan, self-reliance can only come from self-discipline, which we learn through encountering adversity: “God loved His People, and He knew that if they entered the promised land without experience of obstacles to overcome and hardships to endure, they would never measure up to life as a free people in a new country.” Paradoxically, forcing the Hebrews to face and overcome adversity was necessary if they were to become free.
Rabbi Olan teaches that taking “short-cuts” weakens us and stunts our moral, emotional and intellectual growth: “No faith or love is worth its salt unless it asks very much of us. There are no short-cuts to success in love, in patriotism, and in faith.”
*Written by Frances M. Olan & Lionel S. Joseph.*