D’var Torah: Travel

A Note from the RSS Parents Association Executive Board:

Every two weeks the Parents Association Executive Board meets. Our agendas have been both long and short, but our goal is always the same – to help make RSS an amazing experience for all families. We joke that we’re like the U.S. Post Office – through rain, through sleet, and through snow, we meet. Sometimes in gym clothes, sometimes with babies, and always with coffee. Our meetings are long but not tedious and filled with inspiration.

We often start our meeting with a D’var Torah. D’var Torah is Hebrew for “a word of Torah.” Traditionally, it is an exploration of the weekly Torah portion. The term can also be used more broadly to refer to a talk or essay that is tied to Jewish texts or teachings, or that seeks to grapple with its topic through a Jewish lens. Starting our meeting this way gives us guided insight into one of our fellow board members. Over the course of this year, we are excited to share some of these Divrei Torah with all of you.



Written by Stephanie Slesinger P’23 ‘27

There’s an old Jewish Proverb that says, no matter what happens, travel gives you a story to tell. Having circumnavigated the globe with my family many times, I can assure you, it’s true.

Having adventured to many places with my kids, we have amassed a huge collection of stories, from the outrageous  — the minor scuffle I got into with a Swedish Royal Guardsman which caused him to draw his rifle at me and me to launch into a toddler like chant of “na-na-na-na–na – you can’t shoot me” — to the unreal time we were the only passengers on a KLM flight full of horses. There is the hilarity of Noah asking a man on a Korean air flight if he needed the “potty” as he was passing gas. Noah even offered to take him!  And of course, the gross – the buckets designated as public bathrooms that we all used in a Saigon wet market.

But this is not why I travel. For a long time, I thought I traveled not only because I was curious about the world, but because it’s also a means of running away. Travel seems to let you escape your everyday life and your problems. Having dealt with a fair amount of loss in the past 12 years, wandering off seems like a simple, magic cure-all.

Over the years though, I have learned that globe-trotting is not the easy fix it appears to be. I’ve learned that you can change your geography but not your destiny. Your problems are still waiting for you when you return, and have usually compounded. This is exemplified, in the Book of Jonah which we read at the end of Yom Kippur. Jonah was a prophet with a clear mission from G‑d. He didn’t want to fulfill his mission, and so he ran away. He tried to run away from G‑d. Who runs away from G-d?

Jonah boarded a ship and was thrown into the sea and was swallowed up by a “dag gadol”, a big fish, and who did he find inside it? He found G‑d right there with him … and he found himself. Yom Kippur gives us the opportunity to return to ourselves. And so does travel.

When I’m away, I’m a better version of myself. The person I want to be in NYC but am not because, like many of us, I get caught up in the minutiae of life and lose focus. When I’m off somewhere, I find myself more present, more aware, more compassionate, and over the years, I’ve learned to bring that home with me. All of our trips have grounded me, ironically but thankfully not literally. So, while I used to think I was running from something, now I know that I’m running towards something.

To someone beginning a journey we say, “Leich l’shalom,” “go toward peace.” The Talmud finds biblical endorsement for this phrase: Jethro told Moses “Leich l’shalom” when Moses set off for Egypt. I, too, am going for peace.


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