In Joshua’s Shoes: The Long and Short of It

At the start of the HUC orientation process, Rabbi Zweibeck started us off with a short text study of Talmud Eruvin 53b. The story is that a Rabbi asks a boy how to get to town and the boy responds that there are two ways into the city. One is long and short, the other is short and long. The rabbi choses the short/long route.

Last week, after finishing summer Ulpan, I went on a vacation to Haifa for a few days. I was really excited for the day that we were going to go for a hike. As it turned out, it was hot on Monday, hike day, and  it was almost impossible for us to find the park we were going to hike around. Instead of hiking in a park, the four of us decided to walk down the mountain and meet the rest of the group at on the beach at the bottom of Mount Carmel.

Two Ways Down

First we stuck to the main road and keep looking for a place to pull off and take a trail. It only took a few impassable attempts before we found a “trail” that didn’t have a straight drop off. When we finally found a passable course, off we went.

The first obstacle in our way was a small drop off, with two different paths; one steep with some large resting boulders that felt a little loose, the other less steep with a few large boulders to stop on. I slid my way down the latter and turned back to make sure that everyone made it their route. Looking down the hill, our next impediment was a large patch of brush.

Not that these bushes were too bad, but they had thorns that made it next to impossible to cross through them. We decided to work our way around them and went far right, while another person in our group took to the left. The problem on the right side was that there were boulders poking out of the bushes, but there were some good sized gaps and some of them decided to move under us.

After a little work and my heart trying to jump out of my chest a few times we made it through the second stretch. We even had a few great photo opportunities on the way. In all, it took us about 45 minutes to get down the hill. The rest of the way looked very easy. We could see the water and thought it would be just a short walk down a large road, right onto the beach.

Mount Carmel from the middle of the hike

We were way off. Our easy path to the beach ended up being stopped short. Not by loose rocks that tried to fall under our feet. Not by sharp brush that cut up our legs and hands. There was a large green gate that prevented our short little trip. It ended up taking us another hour from the base of the hill to get to the beach.

Back to the text we studied at the beginning of our summer program. The rabbi elects to take the short/long route to the city and ends up running into impassible gardens and orchards. The only route would be to go around the city wall to another entrance. The rabbi retraces his steps to approach the child. When the rabbi questions the child, the child responds, “Did I not tell you that it is also long?”

We took a short, beautiful walk down the foot of Mount Carmel. Yet in our rush to get to the beach, we did not take the time to think through the last part of our hike. We ended up being obstructed by a simple gate and needed to retrace some of our steps.

The Group at the Bottom

At this time of year our tradition teaches us to reflect on our year. Through the year that I will be studying in Israel, I will need to keep this lesson in mind. There are times that it may be tempting to take the short cut, but the longer way around could be more beneficial and could take me on an adventure.

Shanah tovah u’mitukah from Jerusalem,

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About Brian Nelson

Brian Nelson has spent the last 25 years living in or near Minneapolis. After completing a B.A. in History at the University of Minnesota, he worked for Temple Israel, Mount Zion and Bet Shalom in a variety of capacities. While working in the Reform Movement, Brian developed a passion for Reform Judaism and is currently studying at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion in the Rabbinical School.

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