Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz – Bonus Features

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Operation Inspiration

When I leased my car, I chose it based on body style, comfort, price, and that it had good reviews. I looked at several different cars but when I found this car, I knew it was the “one.” I’m not sure if there’s a Bas Kol that your soul hears when you find the right car like there is when you find your bashert for marriage, but something inside me knew it was meant to be.

What I hadn’t anticipated, but was pleasantly surprised to find, was that my car came with many helpful safety features. In fact, one magazine I saw a few months after I’d gotten it called it one of the best cars for teens because of these helpful add-ons. For example, if I’m cruising down the road, the car allows me to set the following distance from the car ahead of me, say, three car-lengths. If the car ahead of me slows down, my car will brake automatically to keep me far enough away. When it speeds up, my car speeds up again too. I don’t have to think about it; the car does it for me. It makes for a much more pleasant ride.

Sometimes the car beeps at me, like if my hands aren’t on the wheel for more than a second or two. It issues a shrill, urgent beep-beep-beep and a sign on the dash flashes: “Hold the steering wheel!” Other times, if I’m getting too close to another car which can happen, for example, if they’ve slowed down to make a turn and I’m going straight but the car doesn’t realize I’m going around them, the sound will be slightly different and the sign lights up “BRAKE!” Once it even hit the brakes hard when I didn’t slow down enough.

If, while driving, I start to drift out of my lane, the car will alert me with a soft buzz and nudge the car back into the lane.
These bonus features that I didn’t know about when I chose the car actually make it much more appealing and a better deal than I bargained for. They make my life easier and protect me at the same time. Even if I’m not cognizant of the dangers around me, the car is and it alerts me.

We all choose the vehicle that will propel us through life. It may be a career, advanced degrees, the drive to travel and explore, or it may be something higher. Some of us are motivated and moved by Torah, and it’s a good idea for more of us because that is what will lead us to the best state of happiness.

I recall seeing a job posting that said, “The ideal candidate will be motivated by money.” It struck me as such a sad commentary on a life that one would be motivated solely by money.  First of all, whether we will be rich or poor was decided before we were born and it almost never changes. With all our free will, our mazel is pretty much set based on our mission in life. Second of all, it’s such a temporary motivator that it’s almost embarrassing to admit that it drives you.

My grandfather used to say, “Rich or poor, money’s good to have.” While that may be true, it’s not because money is an end unto itself. Money is good to have because it enables us to do so many other things like helping others and hopefully those will be the motivators. However, when we choose the Torah and Mitzvos of Hashem as our vehicle through life, being urged forward by lofty goals and ideals, we get bonus features.

We are protected from many mistakes and problems by following the Torah’s guidance just as my car’s safety features help me avoid my own mistakes or oversights. When we start to veer over the line, we get nudged back. An alert person will realize this and understand that he needs to pay closer attention to where he’s going. The Torah also sets up safety features that keep us far away from situations where we can get into trouble, like the following distance feature on my car. But there’s one more, big piece to the puzzle.

What I also discovered is that most of these features only work when the car is in cruise control, meaning I’ve relinquished my control to a certain degree. That carries over into our lesson today because the best benefits of Torah work for us when we choose to give up some control over our decisions and follow Hashem’s rules. If we insist on remaining in the “driver’s seat” in our lives, then Hashem backs off and lets us do what we want, possibly even if it’s dangerous to our wellbeing.

When we trust Him to be in control, however, we will be able to reap the benefits of His reminders and guidance and arrive at our destination safely and much less stressed than if we tried to do it all ourselves.

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