I was telling Dovid the other day that if the Torah was across the sea or in the heavens, we’d probably have Moshiach by now. The Jewish people are a pretty stubborn and willful group, and no seas or heavens would have stopped us. But the problem is, it’s not a thing we can pick up a sword and fight, or hop on a train and find. It’s a constant and quiet battle over our own wills, and like I said, we’re pretty stubborn and willful.
The end of that quote, “The matter is very close to you, in your mouth and your heart to do,” is particularly important to me. On the title page of Tanya, the Alter Rebbe (founder of Chabad Chassidism) states that the entire book is based on these words, and that the point of the book is to understand how exactly Torah and mitzvot are very close to you. Awesome. I have this big book of Kabbalistic secrets in front of me, and at the end, I’ll find out how it’s “very close to you.” But then the book starts, and pretty early on I realize that “very close . . . to do” just means: do it. And all of the mystical secrets of the universe throughout the book are just explaining to me why there’s no excuse not to.
And that’s where our brave little adventurers come in. I go through that scene all the time. Every time I take a book of Chassidus off my shelf, I feel that thrill of setting out to explore uncharted realms. I try to ignore that guy on the raft, because I’m afraid he’ll kill the adventure. But then I remind myself—the Alter Rebbe gave away the punch line over 200 years ago, and since then there have been hundreds of books of Chassidus written that give us plenty of adventure. Because our journey of exploration through Judaism is not for the purpose of finding hidden treasure, but to learn how to use the one we already have. That may sound a little cheesy, but hey, that’s why my preferred method of communication is cartoons.