Friday, November 30, 2007

The "Long-short" way

Said Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananiah: "Once a child got the better of me."

"I was traveling, and I met with a child at a crossroads. I asked him, 'which way to the city?' and he answered: 'This way is short and long, and this way is long and short.'

"I took the 'short and long' way. I soon reached the city but found my approach obstructed by gardens and orchards. So I retraced my steps and said to the child: 'My son, did you not tell me that this is the short way?

' Answered the child: 'Did I not tell you that it is also long?'"

(Talmud, Eruvin 53b)

Spiritual growth also has a "short but long" way and a "long but short" way.

The “short-long” route is the “snappy answers to stupid questions” approach. In other words, you ask a good question and receive a quick answer. The answer is suave and impressive and you’re pleased. Later, when you think it over, you realize you still have some unresolved issues with this answer. So, you’re left with a decent answer, but you still have some questions.

The “long-short” approach requires more patience- and trust. You ask the question and, instead of hearing an answer, are directed to study something seemingly unrelated. That discussion leads you to another tangent, which takes you to a third, entirely unrelated concept. Along the way, you muse that this is all very interesting, but how does it answer the question?

In an instant, everything clicks and you realize that, in light of the new perspective all this information has afforded you, you actually have no question at all.

Chassidus is the “longer-shorter” route to spiritual growth.