‘Mapquest Yiddishkeit’

Don’t let the title throw you off, just stick this one out for a minute or two. I’ve been living in Chicago for nine months now, and I really have no clue about where things are geographically. I don’t really use a map anymore, I use Mapquest. I can tell you what exit I need to take to get to a museum, or how many miles I need to go until I turn left to get to someone’s house, but I can’t place too many locations on a map. I’ve become a product of what I’d like to call the ‘Mapquest generation’.

I contrast this with living in New York (1991-1997) where, I felt, I had a pretty good grasp of where thing were in each borough and Long Island (with the exception of a few neighborhoods in Brooklyn and all of Jersey). The main reason that I knew how to get places was because I used maps, not Mapquest. I knew streets as streets, and what was located nearby because I used a map.

With Mapquest one only knows how to get to their location, not what else is around the area.
I think there is a difference between knowing the directions of how to get to a hashkafic location and knowing where ones’ hashkafa is relation to other hashkafos.

I just hope I don’t raise a generation of ‘Mapquest Jews’. What I mean is Jews who know only how to get to their own derach and don’t see where they are in relation to other acceptable avenues and streets of Torah Judaism. Understanding where you are holding and respecting other is key how we function with a frum society.

The ‘Maquest model’ does have some redeeming value. For me it can serve a very useful function. When I am not on target with my Avodas Hashem, there is value in just getting basic directions to where I need to go, without the details of the surrounding area.

I know there are areas in which I slack. Davening b’tsibur is a challenge for me, at times. Applying the Mapquest approach would mean that I should focus only on my destination, in this case getting to a minyan. Where I am, in relation to others, in Avodas Hashem is only important in terms of chizuk.

It says in Peirkei Avos, “Ha Makir Es Makomo”, one should know ones’ place.

7 thoughts on “‘Mapquest Yiddishkeit’

  1. Rafi G

    great lesson. BTW, I find Chicago easy. It is like a grid in a square. The whole place makes sense and is fairly simple. NY is horrible – last time I was there I got lost every day. streets with the same numbers, numbering system that skips numbers, etc…

  2. Pragmatician

    Never been to Chicago.
    I like the way you take something and then bring an important lesson realated to it.
    Since in Yiddishkeit the amount of effort is a big factor mapquesting anything is not alwyas a good idea.

  3. Bob Miller

    Neil, this brings back boyhood memories. I loved street and road maps. I had street maps of Staten Island, where I lived, that I studied religiously. Gas stations in the 50’s used to have mail-in-postcards to write away for marked-up road maps for trips in the US. I devised the longest, most convoluted imaginary trips to maximize the number of maps. I got to know the characteristics of each gasoline company’s maps (Mobil’s folded funny, Gulf’s had a deeper shade of blue for water…). Even now, I try to get the most map info on places I travel to, along with the turn-by-turn stuff.

    Aside from the apt analogies you brought, there is one other thing: with perspective and context it’s much easier to get back on track after a wrong turn or getting lost. Same with Yiddishkeit.

  4. cool yiddishe mama

    Great post. What can also be added to your analogy is that sometimes we are given a route with non-existent roads or incorrect signs. (We are relying on someone who went ahead of us to “feel out” the journey.)

    If we blindly follow it without trusting our own built-in compass, we could be deceived into following a derekh that is not suited for us. Many of us (ba’alei teshuvah) have found ourselves relying on our rabbeim to totally give us our focus (hashgafah, etc) without regard to how this fits into who we are.

    However, if this rav does not have the binah to give you the right kivunim for your situation, it may guide you down the wrong road.

    [Example: I have a friend who had been urged to go learn in a yeshiva. The problem is that he can not sit for long periods of time and distracts easily when trying to read. While it is praiseworthy to go and learn for a period of time, a yeshiva is not for everyone.] This rabbi was giving a “solution” to a problem (not being able to keep a job); instead of gauging the advice to the person.

    Sorry to make this so long…


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