“Lech lecha – Go forth from your land – your birthplace – and the house of your father – to the land that I will show you (Bereshis 12:1)”
[Please note that some details of the true story that follows have been changed.] Dating is not a simple matter. Finding a place to go is also not simple. Nor is the cost of it all. There is the car rental, the tolls, the parking and the cost of whatever it is that one wants to do.
Hershel made a calculation that this date he needed to go all out. The shadchan said that it had to be a bit more fun than the last two dates. He decided to take Tzila to exhilarating Manhattan. And now he found the perfect place. Right in the middle of Times Square, there was a Glow-In-The-Dark Laser Tag arena. The advertisement said that it was 2,500 square feet of exhilarating fun.
And the price was attractive as well. It was $7 for fifteen minutes for walk-in customers. If they spent an hour, the whole thing for both of then would only be $56. Afterward, he could even take her to the very expensive La Marais, a French kosher steakhouse under the OU with rock-solid reviews.
Indeed, Senator Joe Lieberman himself said about La Marais, “Where else would a non-Jewish Portuguese immigrant open a French bistro, hire an Irish-Italian Catholic as its executive chef, and create one of the finest and most successful kosher restaurants in the United States?”
Hershel rented the car. Paid for parking near Times Square and the two began to look for the Laser TAG arena. They walked and walked and, contrary to his nature, he asked for directions. The first two people he asked never heard of it. Finally, the third person he asked said, “Straight, straight, and afterward straight. It is on the right. Can’t miss it.”
He still could not find it. Hershel was at a complete loss. Does this place actually exist? Did it go out of business? But he just saw it three nights ago! How could it be?
Finally, he decided to use WAZE on his phone. And then he was in for a shock. Times Square Laser Tag did, indeed, exist! But it was 1666.6 miles away! It was located in Katy, Texas (30 miles due west from Houston).
Why, oh why, did it have to be so far away?
“Lech lecha – Go forth from your land – your birthplace – and the house of your father – to the land that I will show you (Bereshis 12:1). Here too, we can pose the question – why did it have to be so far away?
The simple answer is that Avrohom Avinu was destined for greatness. His future was to father a great nation that would change the world. Rabbo Ovadiah Bartenura explains that everyone is influenced by his or her surroundings, whether it is from his or her country or land, or their place of birth, or even their more immediate surroundings. All of these influences, writes Rav Ovadiah Bartenura can be equally bad.
Rav Henoch Leibowitz zatzal, however, asks a question: He points out that Avrohom Avinu had recognized Hashem at the age of three. He broke the Avodah zarah idols of his father’s household, and he showed remarkable courage in going into the kivshan ha’aish. Can we say about Avrohom Avinu that he could be so negatively influenced by his surroundings?
And yet we see from the Bartenura’s comments that even an Avrohom Avinu can be influenced negatively by all three of the aforementioned factors.
But how does this negative influence actually work?
Everyone wants to be accepted by others, and no one enjoys feeling alone. We all fear rejection by those around us, when we do not conform to whatever everyone else is doing. If they are smoking, then we also smoke. If they drink, we also drink. If they dress improperly, then so do we. If they behave in an improper manner with the opposite gender – then we do as well. And so we have adopted the standard of the society around us.
But now we have a problem. We have violated our own standards of behavior. We have negated the values of our own home, that of our parents and grand-parents. And now we have a new problem, where we feel negative about ourselves. We need to eliminate this new internal conflict and how do we do that? We reject our old standard of behavior and adopt a new identity, a new persona, so to speak. We are now in a state of harmony once again.
Hashem knew that this could even have affected Avrohom Avinu, unless he made a change in those who could be influencing him. To stop this process, to stop the emergence of this new identity, this new persona, foreign to Avrohom Avinu’s own remarkable self-made ruchniyus, he needed to go forth from forth from his land – his birthplace – and the house of his father to a new land. And it was not just any land but a land infused with holiness and kedusha – since the very dawn of time.
We return to the question of, “Why so far?”
All this is why it had to be so far for Avrohom Avinu. Why did it have to be so far for our Hershel? Perhaps Times Square itself has a bad and negative moral influence as well. Once a few decades ago, Times Square had a very negative moral influence on New York City and its citizens. In recent years, there has been an attempt to clean it up and make it more family-friendly, so to speak. Nonetheless, it still retains much of the negative moral influences upon society. Times Square as well, even though its negative moral influence is more fleeting than that of regular peers can have a lasting affect on one’s neshama, and it could very well be that Hershel was being watched over as well – to get out of Times Square as soon as possible.
If you have a humorous and true dating story please email the author at [email protected]
Why not subscribe to a parsha sheet written by Rabbi Yair Hoffman on the Midah of Emes? Type subscribe in the subject line and email [email protected]
We must give much credit to Noach for not being influenced from his surroundings. Maybe, that is why his tamimness is being questioned as he avoided mixing with people similar to his grandfather Chanoch.