What Comes Next: TorahCycle V’etchanan

Vetchanan 2014Do you ever look to the end of a book or sneak a peek to the bottom of the page because the suspense is killing you? Most of us think we want to know what happens next, but sometimes our interest, or at least our belief, wanes quickly when we learn. Like any experienced prognosticator will tell you, people prefer good news.

Prophets generally foretell gloom and doom, unless of course folks commit to changing their evil ways. They’re likely to get ignored or run out of town bedecked with tar and feather.

This week, Moses (who’s not going into the promised land) reminds everyone about the 10 Commandments and unambiguously informs the crowd: You’re gonna screw up. No matter how clear these rules are, you will disobey, and as a consequence you’ll get thrown out and scattered for a long bad time until you get to come back. [On the question of biblical mandates, click This Land Is Mine cartoon for some timely brilliance.]

What about your life?. Could you have predicted what’s actually happened? If you’d been told ahead of time what to do or don’t, would you have obeyed? Most of us not only wouldn’t have, but even if we’d tried we’d likely have gotten distracted by life’s daily blessings and mishaps. By bad drivers, falling in love, cranky bosses, newborn babies, fabulous sales, broken appliances, and meeting new friends. For good or ill, it’s all in the mix. While we’re busy with daily life, lots of twists on our path no matter how well we planned for the journey.

Having a road map is no guarantee you’re going to follow it.

Truth is, you can think you’re making a right decision that turns out very wrong. You get married and are visualizing decades of harmony and grandkids, not a freak car accident or undiagnosed aneurysm that could take your beloved in an instant. We truly have no idea what life holds even if for brief moment we think we’re in charge. Or we make a decision for one reason that helps in an unforeseen way. Example: I didn’t die in a fire because I’d installed an alarm system after a scary neighbor moved in. I’d have never thought to thank him then, but we’re all part of more complex plots we can’t always see the breadth of.

Even forewarned we mostly learn our lessons the hard way. We fall in love with the wrong person and get our heart broken. Rinse and repeat. Ditto for choices with money, health, career, addiction, etc. But your life can also change in a heartbeat. There are good stretches and bad ones. If you’re committed to your journey you will keep searching for a way to your promised land no matter how often they do.

A friend gave me a great scene from a Russian novel. A philosopher takes a child to the zoo: Life is like the zebra, my child. The black times are followed by white ones, but the black times come again. When you are in the black ones, you must run very fast, and in the white ones you must cherish every moment. Yeah, what he said.

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