Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz – I’m Alright


Operation Inspiration


People are very helpful. They want to protect us and prevent us from loss. That’s why I wasn’t exactly surprised when I received a text message saying, “There’s a policeman in such-and-such a place, so don’t make the left turn there.”

Now, there wasn’t an accident, nor was there a detour. Actually, the traffic pattern had been changed several years before, and a left turn was prohibited at that location, presumably for safety reasons. The person who sent this message probably knew that people often turn left there anyway, and was warning them that this time their action might impact them more, because there was a police officer there. Likely, the cop was there because people do make the turn there and by re-educating people, either by ticketing them or offering a warning, they might not do it in the future.

I’ve seen this often at crosswalks where people don’t stop to let pedestrians cross, and the officers have handed out copies of the law and just reminded people to be courteous to others, as well as follow the rules and stop for people in the crosswalk trying to cross the street.

What struck me, though, when I got this warning, is that I wondered who would still be making the left turn there. The location is actually a shopping center and they want people to enter from a designated turning lane just 200 feet down the road. Is it that difficult to wait? Now, if someone isn’t from around here, and is unfamiliar with the lay of the land, I understand they may make the turn there and either miss or even disregard the sign, simply because they’re nervous they will miss the opportunity to enter. A warning to them would be beneficial in that they will put aside their nervousness in an effort to avoid a ticket, and figure out that there must be some other way to get in.

But if you live in the area, and you know there’s a turn just ahead, would you really just flout the law to save a couple seconds or to avoid any inconvenience? Why would you be turning left there to begin with? That’s what went through my mind when I got the text. Well, that, and that it was very nice of the fellow to warn me and other neighbors.

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “What is he talking about? I don’t live near that shopping center, and if I did, I can make my own decision about turning left or not and what risks I choose to take.” You could be wondering why I’m sharing something that has nothing to do with you. Don’t worry; it does.

There are many things we do in life for which we make calculations and decide which course of action to take. We’ll decide whether saving time or money is more important to us, whether we feel the relationship is worth the effort we’re expending in it or whether we prefer an aisle or a window. (There’s a deep psychological theory about your choice for that by the way…) Most of the time, though, there’s no one right answer. It may be different for different people, or even the same person on different days.

Sometimes, though, we know something is wrong and it shouldn’t be a choice. Certainly, the people who opt to make an illegal turn rationalize that no one is getting hurt, and they may be right. But when the law is not made by a local municipality, but instead is made by Hashem, it’s a whole new ballgame.

If we decide to take shortcuts, it’s often because we think there’s no way around it. We don’t like it, but we do what we think we must. Whether it’s being less than honest, saying things we shouldn’t, or indulging in things we ought not to, we tend to rationalize that no one’s getting hurt.

Therefore, I’m sending out this helpful warning, much as my friend did, that there’s an officer watching. Someone is recording those left turns, and other times where perhaps we didn’t go “wrong,” but at least we admit we didn’t go “right.”

If Hashem put up a sign and said, “No Left Turns,” it’s because He knows going that way is unsafe and harmful. But if He does, it also means that somewhere, not too far off, is another option. The opportunity of the moment isn’t lost forever, because Hashem is the creator of opportunity and the facilitator of its benefit. Maybe He’s waiting in the wings to show you where you went wrong, and will let you off with a warning, or maybe you’ll find out there’s a price to pay. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get rewarded for fighting the urge to take the shortcut!

So, take the message from my friend and protect yourself. There’s someone watching. Don’t get caught having to explain why you ignored all the signs. If you can remember there’s likely a better way to handle things just ahead, then no matter what you do, you’ll come out “all right.”

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