The Jewish Road Less Traveled

If you grew up in the sixties and seventies and beyond, you’re probably familiar with the opening lines of Star Trek:

Space: The final frontier
These are the voyages of the Starship, Enterprise
Its 5 year mission
To explore strange new worlds
To seek out new life and new civilizations
To boldly go where no man has gone before

The Road Less Traveled
The Road Less Traveled

I wonder if the creators of the series were inspired by Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken”:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Many would interpret Robert Frost’s well-known poem as the essence of true Wanderlust, seeking out the unfamiliar in travel, instead of staying on the safe and well-beaten tourist routes.

For me, “The Road Less Traveled” is hard-wired into Jewish consciousness, from the time of our forefather Abraham. He was known as Abraham the IVRI, commonly translated as The Hebrew. But what IS a Hebrew? IVRI means “the other side”. While most of the world was theologically on one side (paganism), Abraham was on the other side (monotheism).

Being different then everyone else and going on a road less traveled is central to our reality, not only in belief but also in our day-to-day actions. The time when it is most noticeable, is during travel.

Wearing a Kippa for a man or a snood or wig for a woman isn’t that unique. Other religions cover their heads. It’s when you get into your packaged airline meal with the disposable dishware and all the Rabbinical stamps on the package, that you really feel how different you are.

I’ve been to a catering company that produces Glatt Kosher meals for First Class passengers. They really put in a tremendous amount of effort to make an awesome Glatt Kosher meal, both in quantity and quality. But no matter how you make it, the person eating the Kosher meal will feel different from the rest of the First Class passengers.

road less traveled |
First Class Kosher Meal

You’re sitting in the First Class section, with all the other privileged passengers, and just before you dig into your sumptuous (I hope) Kosher meal, there’s a Bracha (Blessing) to be said. You then open up all sorts of double wrapped packages with Hebrew symbols that don’t look at all like what everyone else is getting. Then again at the end of the meal, there’s Birkat HaMazon to say too. Even your Segal’s Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 wine at $71.99 a bottle looks bit different…

I can give countless examples of how different we seem to the rest of the world especially during travel; the places of worship we don’t enter, the bars we avoid, opposite gender relationships we’re careful with and our absolutely different behavior on Shabbat.

Yes, we are very different…and vive la différence !!