When I was younger I was visiting with a friend. We were driving around and at some point we became completely lost. My friend had been living in his town for about a year and yet we were lost. This was new to me. When I was younger I really didn’t get lost. I was able to concentrate, visualize and be aware of where I was and where I was going.
I was laughing, “Man, I can’t believe we are lost.” My friend, rolling with it, retorted, “It happens.” Young and stupid I responded, “I never get lost.” Friend replies, “What do you mean? You ‘never get lost.’” “I just don’t. I know where I am, I’m really aware of my surroundings and I can find my way around. I just don’t get lost.”
My amazing friend looks at me and says, “I bless you that you should get lost.”
This brings us to the last of Maimonides 7 paths of repentance:
[T]o travel in exile from one’s home. Exile atones for sin because it causes a person to be submissive, humble, and meek of spirit.
Exile, getting lost, is really beneficial for our souls. In the 19th century great Hassidic Rebbes (rabbis) would go out into the world with only the clothes on their back and would travel all week and settle where ever they were for Shabbat. They had no money and, incognito, they would beg for food, at the mercy of the Creator, they would drift for years before assuming their place in the hierarchy.
One explanation of their behavior: after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem the Holy Spirit, the Shekhina, is in Exile. These Rebbes were trying to understand what God, as it were, was experiencing. The uncertainty, the foreign locations, the privations of being without a home.
Maimonides says it very clearly, these experiences bring a person to be “submissive, humble, and meek of spirit.” These are important aspects of contrition. (I wanted to see where the word ‘contrition’ comes from: from the Latin contritus ’ground to pieces’, i.e. crushed by guilt.)
You have to be broken to be fixed. Exile helps you feel all the parts that are really broken not just a little off.
So exile – how do you do it? You get lost. Turn off the GPS, for real, and go out and experience vulnerability.
Another way to do this: pretend you are someone else in the context of an experience you have had before. When you get the wrong food from the takeout place – eat it anyway. If they didn’t hold the mayo – eat the mayo. Take what comes to you.
When your loved one opens an old wound, one that usually gets your back up – step back and say, “You know what? I’m living different this time.”
I get lost more often these days. Were it not for my cellphone enabled GPS I would spend weeks of a month in remote parts of New England trying to get directions from strangers with heavy yankee accents.
I bless us all to get lost and find ourselves.