Home
In this issue
December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 23, 2004 / 5 Menachem-Av, 5764

The road taken

By Rabbi Avi Shafran

Used to giving graduation speeches, this year the author found himself on the other side of the podium — enlightened by a high school senior

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | We take our leave now, as summer unfolds, of graduation ceremonies — the recognition of academic milestones, the bestowing of diplomas, the conferring of awards and the delivery, to excess, of commencement addresses.

Printer Friendly Version

Email this article

Having had the privilege for many years of serving as a teacher and an administrator of a Jewish high school, I probably imposed on captive audiences more than my share of shared wisdom, heaping servings of words that were likely lost entirely in the reveries of proud parents and squirmy students. Now, with graduates of my own and on the receiving end of graduation speeches, I find myself with a fresh appreciation for oratorical minimalism.

Still and all, an occasional graduation speech — sometimes even one delivered by an actual graduate — achieves memorability. That was the case at my daughter's recent high school graduation.

The custom at her school is to not designate a valedictorian or salutatorian. Instead, the class members themselves, by closed vote, suggest several young women (it's an Orthodox Jewish all-girls school) to briefly share their thoughts with those gathered for the graduation ceremony.

One of the seniors chosen to speak this year began with what seasoned graduation-goers immediately recognized, and dreaded, as a numbing cliché: a reference to "The Road Not Taken."

Oy, we collectively moaned. Another declaration of personal independence, another sweet paean to individualism. Although a careful reading of the poem reveals the possibility, perhaps probability, of an ironic intent in Robert Frost's haunting words, the poem has nevertheless widely come to be taken as a satisfied endorsement of individuality, a declaration of the existential value of the less-traveled road.

Now there's nothing wrong with individuality, to be sure. But all the same, the poem and its purported point are rather heavily traveled themselves, staples of countless literature classes, poetry recitals — and graduations.

So I sank in my seat with resignation, reassuring myself that it would all be over soon enough.

As it happened, though, where this particular young Jewish woman went with Frost's famous words was not to be missed. I don't have her words before me but I well recall their essence.

The poem's narrator, she explained, seems to take pride in having chosen from the "two roads diverged in a yellow wood" the one "less traveled by" — a choice that, looked back upon "somewhere ages and ages hence," would turn out to have "made all the difference."

The graduation speaker, though, begged to take issue with the idea that the less traveled path is always the more valiant choice. The life-path, for example, that she and her classmates had come to value most was a road pointedly well-worn, trodden by countless Jewish generations that came this way before our own arrival.

We hold our heads high, she declared, as we endeavor to walk in their very footsteps, filled with pride at the chance to follow such inspiring predecessors, and to wear as did they, the hallowed mantle of Torah and mitzvas (religious duties). Judaism, after all, she explained, is not about blazing new paths but about cherishing and preserving time-honored ones.

It was, ironically, a rebellious message in its own way. It boldly shunned the conformity proffered at every turn by an open, freedom-loving society that trumpets self-celebration, self-fulfillment, self respect, self.

What this seventeen-year-old was saying was that our undeniable value as individuals must be tempered by, even made subservient to, our value as links over history in a chain of life and family and peoplehood, as members of an eternal community of belief and commitment.

It is a message, truly, for our times. In an age of emotional alienation, marital discord, rampant consumerism and instant gratification, nothing could be healthier than to digest the fact that we have not only desires but responsibilities, that we were gifted with our lives in order to fulfill something more than ourselves.

Those who come to recognize that fact, and its upshot, will likely one day, ages hence, look back and realize that it really made all the difference.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Rabbi Avi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America Comment by clicking here.

Up

© 2004, Am Echad Resources