Last week, I saw that a new sefer on Megillas Rus had been published. I was excited by the publication and very much wanted to have it before Shavuos, so I immediately ordered it.
These days, you don’t have to be too old to give the “I remember when” speeches. (The only thing that hasn’t changed is that no one in the younger generation is interested in hearing about the archaic world of their elders. The only ones who enjoy hearing it are contemporaries who laughingly or nostalgically reminisce about it.) I remember when ordering a package meant it would be a few weeks before it arrived. I also remember when you bought books in a store. But in the current “on-demand,” impatient world we live in, my wait felt intolerable.
When a few days went by and my order was not delivered, I went online to track my package and follow the trajectory of its fateful journey to 3 Landau Lane in Spring Valley, New York.
Here is the ultimate path it took: On Tuesday, May 19, at 12:49 p.m., the package arrived in the USPS Origin facility in Columbia, Maryland. Two hours later, it arrived at a network distribution center in Greensboro, North Carolina. From there, it was dispatched to a regional facility in Jersey City, then to a USPS facility in Nyack, New York. Its next stop was a destination center in White Plains, New York, from where it was sent to Monsey, and from there to my front door in Spring Valley, New York. (Thankfully, it stops tracking it from that point onward.)
When I originally tracked the package, however, it had just arrived in North Carolina from Maryland. A quick search on Google Maps revealed that the drive from our home to Columbia, Maryland, is slightly less than four hours, whereas the drive to Greensboro, North Carolina, is almost nine hours. That means my package was heading in the wrong direction. How silly!
Of course, we all understand that there is a reason for my package’s erratic route. There is a definitive route the package has to take. It’s not necessarily the most direct route, but it’s the only way it can get to where it needs to go. It has to first go to the distribution center, because that is where the resources are located to send it towards its destination.
It’s a great metaphor for success in life. It’s been said that a shortcut is often the quickest way to get to somewhere you had no intention of going. Beyond that, it’s safe to say that the road to our ultimate destination is, more often than not, circuitous and arduous. There are no clearly paved and marked roads that lead to success. The road for one person is not necessarily the road for another. Often, it’s the unwanted vicissitudes and bumps along the way that propel us to actually meet our goals and fulfill our aspirations. We need to first pass through life’s distribution center in order to be redirected towards our destination.
If this is true of almost all paths to success in this world, it’s surely true regarding success in other-worldly, spiritual matters. The road to greatness is surely not smooth-sailing. If one wants to refine and improve his character traits, or become proficient in halachah and Torah in general, or improve his davening, or become a greater baal chesed, etc, he has to gear up for the long haul. It’s attainable and doable, but not if he wants to meet those lofty goals overnight. The road to Sinai requires seven weeks of devotion and focus on growth. The road to conquering Eretz Yisrael took 40 years to traverse, and there were many setbacks and frustrations along the way. And even when they arrived in the Land, the challenges were far from over.
Sometimes we become frustrated and exasperated by the challenges of life. The wise person understands that those setbacks aren’t necessarily diverting him from the path to his destination. Those diversions and recalculations may help him ascertain the only path that leads to his final destination.
The story of the Jewish People is the story of a long serpentine journey. The secret of our eternity lies in our unquenchable optimism and hope. No matter how bleak things seemed, no matter how impossible the future looked, we never lost hope.
Ultimately, our hope is in the messianic era and the advent of Mashiach. There is no family or story that has more challenges and setbacks than the roots and ancestors of Mashiach. The story begins with Lot who unwittingly fathered a child with his daughter. It continues with the story of Yehudah and Tamar. The doubts continue with the union of Boaz and Rus. Their descendant, David, was plagued by scoffers who questioned his lineage throughout his life.
My rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, quips that, in our society, Mashiach would never get a shidduch. But in the world of truth, he is the paragon of Jewish monarchy and the source of Jewish confidence and hope.
I was very grateful when my package arrived. Aside from the book itself, it was a reminder that although things don’t always follow the trajectory we project, they will ultimately arrive, if they follow the proper route.
So, the next time USPS, UPS, or FedEx arrive at your home to deliver a package, thank them for reminding you that Mashiach is on his way.