The Road Less Traveled By
How often have you made life choices that bring you closer to yourself? In the Torah portion Sh'lach L'cha, God tells Moses to send spies ahead to scout out the land of Canaan. Rather than just say "send spies" God adds the word "l'cha" which can mean "to you," "for yourself" or "for your own sake." God seems to be implying that this command is not meant to satisfy a need that God has but one that Moses and the people have. God doesn't need to scout out the land. God has no doubt about the path the people should take. Moses and the Israelites, on the other hand, don't have the same perspective that God does. They can't see the big picture and when faced with a choice to enter a new land inhabited by other peoples who, most certainly, will not welcome them or wander further into the desert with God's providence they question the wisdom of following God's path into the land.
When faced with life choices it's easy to get distracted by what's pragmatic or easy. We are warned in the Shema against following our eyes and our hearts as they may lead us astray. Our eyes tempt us to chase after only what we can see and our hearts get blinded by fear.
On the path of life our eyes and heart are necessary but not perfect. Like the yetzer hara, the evil inclination, our perceptions and desires are necessary evils. Our task is to harness the gift of sight and the power of emotion to see more clearly and feel more deeply the path that God has put before us - the path to ourselves. This is indeed Robert Frost’s “road less traveled by.”
Some call this wishful thinking. Others say naiveté. Who are we to imagine or claim to understand the path that God has set for us? A rational person makes decisions based on the knowledge they have before them and what their heart tells them is best. A person of faith is not always a person of reason though. If reason resides in the heart then dreams and vision reside in the soul. The heart, like the eyes, is a physical organ. It belongs to the earthly part of our existence. The soul belongs to the divine aspect of our being. It is only by listening to our soul that we can hear the still small voice of God speaking to us. Our soul is the spiritual GPS that God has given us and it takes a leap of faith to close our eyes, quiet our heart and follow God's lead.
When we follow our eyes and heart we can amass great wealth and travel to distant lands. When we follow our soul we begin to realize that every journey we take into the world is really a journey into ourselves. Our eyes see what is external; our soul knows what is within. Our heart yearns for safety and comfort; our soul dreams of new beginnings.
When Moses is told to send spies "l'cha," for himself, God is teaching him that he is making a choice to follow the path of his eyes and heart. God is also teaching us that at those moments when we find ourselves at crossroads there is another path we can follow. There is the path of the soul; the path that God has put before us. There is the road less traveled by.