“Are we there yet?”
If parents had to nominate the all-time most annoying kids’ question this would undoubtedly be the winner. Yet we grown-ups live it all the time.
Life will be perfect, once…
I’ll get my diploma
I’ll get married
We’ll get divorced
I’ll get a better job
I’ll be able to quit my job and do what I really want to do
I’ll stop getting angry
My spouse will curb his/her temper
We’ll buy a house
We’ll sell the house
We’ll have kids
The kids will grow up and leave the house
The end goals are different for everyone, but everyone seems to hate the road.
“Wherever God takes you, that’s where you are supposed to be,” my mentor Rachel Arbus once wrote me. So it was strange to find those very words staring at me from a preface to a novel. And it was even stranger to think that two women could pack their families into RVs and head thousands of miles away from home to spend their Pesach vacation.
Yet, Pauline and Julia, the heroines of Nicole Nathan’s novel Let My RV Go! did just that (disclosure I got a reviewer’s copy). And though their story ends on leil haseder, for the rest of us Pesach is just the beginning. The Slonimer Rebbe in Netivot Shalom explains that on leil haseder each person is given the ability to rise above his or her station and see the things they don’t perceive in everyday life. Then, we go back to being ourselves only to begin a 49 day trek towards becoming more elevated and refined human beings – the prerequisite for receiving the Torah on Shavuot.
Like Pauline, entrusted to deliver a box of matza to a mysterious Reb Schwadron, whose address she does not have, we strive to reach a place called “my better self” without a road map. It’s a hard trip, paved with mistakes and victories, fights and peace-making, happiness and pain.
The rebellious kid, the difficult spouse, the job-hunting, the house-hunting, the illness, the family feud, the infertility, the depression – they ARE the journey. We so wish to get over them (and we should!). Yet there is also so much we can take from them, if we just open our eyes and concentrate on the process.
A friend recently shared that she had spent many years dealing with family members’ health issues. Those were very painful times. Today, she uses her knowledge to help others in similar situations. She would not have chosen to go through those challenges again, yet she gets deep satisfaction from being able to support people through their difficulty.
The more we focus on the result, the less we get from the road. For the result is not even under our control and neither are we expected to reach it. The Slonimer Rebbe continues that we are not judged based on the outcome, only based on our effort to move ahead. Success is a divine gift, not a judgment criteria.
And when the going gets tough, the tough take a break with a great book. Let My RV Go! is perfect for a refreshing breather. It’s funny and real. It sends a calming message that you are normal. Though the 2,000 mile Pesach road trip may sound crazy, the plot twists and anecdotes are so relatable. And yes even Pauline’s toddler screams when you forget to let him flush. The book is a fun reminder to let go, to take it easy, to stop asking “are we there yet?”
With Yom Haatzmaut approaching, people love to argue about the value of this state. Is it really worth celebrating? Whether on the right or on the left, everyone finds faults in this country. Most don’t stop to think that, without minimizing one iota of the pain, all the victims of war and terrorism in Israel’s 66 year history equal the number of people killed in one day in Auschwitz.
Israel may be not perfect, but it’s home and it is ours.
How wondrous that Yom Haatzmaut (and Yom Yerushalaim) fall out during sefirat haomer, the time of our collective journey. The Jerusalem Talmud compares redemption to the morning star, a slow and gradual process. Though we have arrived, we are not there yet, not as a nation and not as individuals. We don’t even know what “there” is, but that’s not what matters. The process, the journey, the learning along the way is the point. The destination is just to keep us going.
For those of us already in Israel, the trip is not an RV vacation though. It’s a homecoming.
Chag Haatzmaut Sameach!
And happy counting!