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 “This path is short but long, and the other path i
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Posted - 08/09/2002 :  09:16:26  Show Profile  Email Poster
“This path is short but long, and the other path is long but short.”
— Talmud (Eruvin 53b)

The Talmudic sage, Rabbi Yehoshua related that a young child once bested him. He encountered a child sitting at a fork in the road, and he asked him for directions to the city. The child gave him the above answer. Rabbi Yehoshua took the shorter route, and soon was at the outskirts of the city. However, there was no access to the city because the properties were all fenced in. He retraced his steps and said to the child, "You told me this was the shorter path."

The child responded, "It is, but I also told you it was the longer one. You have had to retrace your steps and take the other path."

This is an important teaching. We constantly look for shortcuts. We may be so impressed with a shortcut that we fail to check whether it is really the best way. It has been said that, "A shortcut is often the fastest way to get somewhere that you do not wish to be."

Our culture is obsessed with speed. Doing something faster has a value of its own. A potato baked in a microwave oven for five minutes does not taste as good as one baked in a standard oven for an hour. Yet we may sacrifice the taste for speed. We may eat instant foods which are of inferior nutritional value, but they are preferred because they are prepared faster. Some people are attracted to an expensive automobile because it "can go from 0 mph to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds." The average automobile can do so in twelve seconds. Yet people may spend an additional $40,000 to save 5.7 seconds!

If we will review our daily activities, we will find that we take many shortcuts and use many time-saving devices. We may be hard pressed, however, to explain just why these are better. We may be surprised to find that we may be losing more than we gain.

Abraham J. Twerski, M.D. is a psychiatrist and ordained rabbi.

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