27 Jul EKEV- DON’T LET ANYONE ELSE DRIVE YOUR LIFE
Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman tells that he once needed to drive from Lakewood to Monsey, and there was a group of yeshiva students who needed a ride, so he took them along in the car. During the trip, he became very tired, and so he turned to the boys and asked if any of them would be willing to take over for him and drive. One of them graciously agreed. Rabbi Wachsman fell asleep and woke up when they were in Monsey.
Sometime later, his son asked him, “Dad, a few months ago, did you give a ride to a group of boys, and have one of them drive?”
“Yes, son,” the Rabbi replied. “Why?”
“Dad – the boy who drove was 15 years old!!!”
Rabbi Wachsman told this story as an analogy for a mistake that so many of us make. We allow people to “drive” our lives when they have no business doing so.
Who are the people who “drive” our lives, who dictate how we should live, what we should do, and how we should spend our time?
Unfortunately, for many people, it’s the smartphone. It’s videos, it’s movies, it’s games, it’s social media, it’s all those people and companies who are vying for our attention and our time. For many other people, it’s the advertisers who convince us that we *need* to buy this and buy that, or it’s the latest fashions, latest trends and latest fads that we *need* to follow, causing a great deal of pressure to constantly earn more and more money.
Moshe Rabbenu tells us in Parashat Ekeb, היחי†ודבל†≠םחלה†לע≠†אל†יכ†היחי†’ה†≠יפ†אצומ†≠לכ†לע†≠יכ†םדאה†םדאה. The plain meaning is that a person is able to live not only on bread, but on anything G-d says he should live on (referring to the manna in the desert). But on a deeper level, this pasuk is a command: We should not live ודבל†םחלה†לע, just for bread, just to earn money, but rather we should live ה†יפ†אצומ†≠לכ†לע’ – the way Hashem wants us to live.
Hashem wants us to experience life, not just get through life. He wants life to be meaningful, to be powerful, to be significant, to be precious. He wants us to live today not just to get to tomorrow, but rather as a meaningful and valuable experience on its own. This is true of every day and of every hour of our lives.
Too often, life becomes a rat race, a frantic effort to check things off our never-ending “to do” list. Or, we distract ourselves by looking at our phones, by getting involved in nonsense. We need to learn to stop and focus, to be present in every moment in everything that we do, and experience each moment to the very fullest. This means that when we are with our spouse, we should focus on our spouse. When we are with a child, we should focus on that child. When we are running an errand, we should focus on the importance and value of what we are doing. When we are in the synagogue, we should focus on our prayers. The more we focus and appreciate each moment of each day, without just going through the day to get to the next day, the more meaningful life will be.
But in order to do this, we need to stop getting distracted. We need to stop allowing other people to get into life’s “driver’s seat” and determine where we go. We need to direct our lives, to consciously choose how we use our time, how we fill our days and weeks, in order to make our lives as meaningful, productive and special as they can possibly be.