Frank and Joe go way back. They were roommates in college. They haven’t seen each other since they left school, but Frank often finds himself thinking back on those old days. Throughout their college years, Frank felt sort of bad for his friend Joe. Joe was a decent guy and all that, but when everyone else was out partying and having a good time, there was Joe the Loser studying. It seemed that Joe studied morning and night, you almost never saw the guy without a book in his hand. While everyone else was out there getting drunk, having a great time, there was Joe the Loser, sitting over the books. He didn’t even have a girlfriend or anything. Poor guy.’
After graduating school, Frank and Joe went their separate ways. Joe graduated top in his class, went on to medical school, and became a well established surgeon. And Frank, well… Frank sort of drifted. He graduated college with straight C’s. Never could find a job that he really liked. So there he is working behind the fish counter, in a grocery store.
As fate would have it the two meet up many years later. Joe drives up to the parking lot of a supermarket. He parks his fancy, imported sports car, steps out and buttons his 1,500 dollar, custom made suit. As he walks into the store, who does he see working behind the fish counter, none other than his old buddy Frank.
“Frank, old buddy how are you doing?
“Hey, Joe is that you?”
“Wow, Frank. It’s been so long! How are you?”
“Great, been a long time! Wow Joe, you sure look different. Is that a custom made suit? It looks great.”
“Yeah, just got it. And Frank, You look um different… I really like your… oh, I mean your apron.” Joe responds.
“Hey Joe, what you driving these days?”
“Well I sort of just picked up this new, Italian sports car…”
“And you, Frank, What are you driving these days?”
“Well I’m driving this old clunker, just till I can afford something better.”
“Listen old buddy, really great seeing you.”
“Yeah you too, Joe. Maybe we’ll get together to talk about old times.”
“Sounds great, give me a call.”
At that moment it hits Frank. He realizes that his friend has it all. He works 4 days out of 7, plays golf two afternoons a week, lives in a custom made home, is happily married with one kid and another on the way, and is active in the community. But more than that, Joe is doing something with his life, something important, something significant. And here is Frank, thirty something, working behind the fish counter making a little over minimum wage, driving a beat up old jalopy, living in a one bedroom apt. Going nowhere. At that moment it hits him like a ton of bricks.
“What a jerk I was. How could I possibly be so stupid? What an opportunity I wasted. All those years that I use to look at Joe as the loser, and now look at him.”
But, it isn’t just at this moment that Frank will bemoan his fate. For the rest of his life every time that he has to make a mortgage payment, every time his beat up old car breaks down, every time one of his kids say to him, “how come, so and so, gets to go on vacation with his parents, and we never go anywhere”, he will kick himself. Every time he wakes up in the middle of the night wondering, why he is caught in this dead end job going nowhere and doing nothing, not contributing, not producing, wasting away. Throughout his life, over and over, he will come back to this one realization: “I blew it. I had the chance. I could have made myself into something, and I didn’t. I could have really been someone and now look at me. Why? Not for any good reason, but because I got caught up in all of the stupid, passing things going on around me. I lost focus on why I was in school in the first place”. Over and over again the same haunting lyric will play in his mind:
“If only if only I could go back in time, and do it over again.”
But he can’t. He had his shot. He had his one go around, and he blew it. Now for the rest of his life he will be what he made of himself.
This is a parable to life. A parable that is so insightful and powerful that if we take it to heart it could literally change our lives. You see, whether we want to admit it or not, we are all a little like Frank. We tend to get caught up in all that goes on around us. Blame it on human nature, call it part of being a social being, but we tend to ape whatever is going on around us. We get caught up in the here and now and lose sight of the big picture. Whatever is going on around us we start doing ourselves. If the society we live in values money, that becomes important to us. If we live amongst people whose self worth is directly tied to their net worth, it affects us, and it starts getting into our way of thinking. Even though in my heart it’s not really me, we get dragged along. If we started with certain standards of behavior, and those around us don’t value them, we tend to compromise. Not wittingly not immediately, but slowly over time, in the slippery slope of life, we begin melding into the surrounding moral landscape. That’s just the way we humans are.
For that reason God gave us a Torah. He gave us a guidebook to live our life in this world. . He gave us the one tried and true road to travel that will allow us to enjoy our stay in this world, while we accomplish the task for which we were placed here. The Torah, show us how to chart our course, and how to find our path. It also warns us over and over again to keep mindful, to keep reading that book. Constantly study it, always review it, make it a part of your life — because even when we are on that path we tend to forget. So we need to continually read and study it, and come to new understandings, so that we don’t lose sight of our purpose in being here.
The ways of the Torah are pleasant. Not only in the sense that they allow us to follow a path of life, but because they were designed by our Creator, who only wishes for our benefit, and want us to enjoy every element of our life. Just like we find so much of God’s creation custom fashioned for our benefit and enjoyment, so too, He gave us a system that will enhance our short stay in this world, and benefit us for eternity. Our job is to study that guide, make it part of our life, and bring our life up to standards listed in it.