Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
What do biblical characters and random roadside attractions have in common? Maybe more than you’d think.
Recently I drove from California to Mississippi to start my new fellowship at the ISJL. The whole experience driving cross country from the West Coast to the Deep South got me thinking about all the incredible things you see along the way on a drive like that (did you know the world’s largest chili pepper is in New Mexico? You can find signs pointing to it off the I-10 freeway!).
And that got me thinking about Moses and the Israelites on their journey to the promised land.
I thought about Nachshon taking the first step into the Sea of Reeds. There’s an equation found in all of this: hope + curiosity + courage = discovery. The Israelites hoped for freedom; they were curious as to where they would find this new life and where this land existed; Nachshon courageously took the first step; they took forty years to do it, but the Israelites finally made it to the promised land.
My big road trip did not exactly look like the Israelites’ journey to the promised land. A modern cross country drive is a much more concrete, mapped-out journey, with a basic prep list:
- Full tank of gas
- A good, long playlist of music and podcasts
- A co-pilot you who won’t drive you nuts
- Scenic routes (350 miles of nothing but corn fields can get old quickly – trust me!)
- A budget – adventure out there but stay grounded enough
- A destination?
I have a question mark on that last one, because while a lot of road trips have a destination… it’s sometimes the least important element. Realistically, yes, most of the time you need a destination to know where you’re going and how to get there. But if I wasn’t supposed to be in Jackson for my fellowship, would I need a destination to be able to explore outside of California, or could I simply apply the equation hope + curiosity + courage = discovery?
Maybe I would have… but having a destination helped me decide to take this journey in the first place. Much like the Israelites, I needed to know there was somewhere to go. And I wasn’t necessarily a Nachshon right away, with a lot of brave faith kicking off the trek. Much like the Israelites being afraid of the Egyptian army, I was afraid to face my fears of leaving Los Angeles – my home for 22 years.
But eventually the Israelites put their faith and trust in God and Moses much like I put my faith and trust in myself. I finally hit the road, saw interesting sites along the way… and now I’ll spend the next two years continuing to hit the road.
What will I see?
Where will the journeys lead?
I’m looking forward to finding out—and sharing stories of my adventures!