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nd Aharon shall place lots upon the two goats: one lot “for Hashem,” and the other lot “for Azazel.” (Vayikra 16:8) 

Picture the scene: Two identical goats are brought to the Beis Hamikdash on Yom Kippur. The Kohein Gadol draws two lots — one will be for Hashem and one for Azazel. From here on, the goats’ paths diverge. The one who’s drawn for Hashem is brought as a korban, his blood collected in a vessel and brought to the Kodesh Hakodoshim. His meat and skin are burned outside the camp in a holy place. (Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch, B’maagalei Hashanah)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler…

Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” was penned neatly in permanent marker across a small wall in my bunkhouse. I stayed in this bunkhouse for several summers and long I stood reading these words as I brushed my hair or teeth.

Two roads. How to choose?

The summer after ninth grade I pondered while reading the poem: Two lines with the same starting origin — but if they veer even the slightest micromillimeter apart, they’ll end up miles apart.

Two years later, I stood there contemplating seminary choices, wondering which road would be the less traveled, and which would make all the difference.

Statistics show that the average person makes 35,000 semiconscious decisions a day.

Two roads. How to choose?

Imagine the second goat watching this procedure. He thinks: We were both identical, but he lost his life and I’m alive. He’s thrilled and proud that his lot wasn’t that of his friend’s. His line of thought continues as he’s led to the mountains outside of Yerushalayim, proud to be escorted out of the crowded city to walk freely in the hills

His success wouldn’t have seemed so sweet had he understood his true fate — one small push and he’ll be tumbling down the rocks. Then everyone will realize which had the better destination.

“My old yeshivah is doing a massive fund-raising project, contacting all alumni.” My husband sipped his coffee. I eyed my herbal tea with disgust. “Problem is,” he continued, unaware that the smell of his coffee was driving me nuts, “that the guys who stayed connected to the yeshivah are the ones who don’t have any money to give. Others, like Ben Berger [name changed], have millions, but we couldn’t accept his money even if he wanted to offer it. What does he call himself again these days?”

“Bin Breaker.” I always remembered that because it reminded me of the rapid status of all my garbage cans.

“Right, so who can take money from a rock star? The guy’s probably a multimillionaire. But it’s all treif money.”

This parallels our concept of free choice. Life offers two paths and they seem equal. The true path features Torah and mitzvos. Those who trod it become closer to Hashem. The second path is full of lustful desires — far from Torah and mitzvos.

At times, the first way requires sacrifice and limitations — but they are well worth it, for the exalted privilege of dwelling in the Mikdash of Hashem. The people on this path merit true happiness both in This World and in the next. Those who choose to throw off the yoke of Torah may appear that they’re “living it up” in freedom. One could be jealous of their success. But in the end it’s clear who really merits true happiness and who ends up rolling down the cliffs.

These two goats help us envision the struggle churning within us between the yetzer hara and the yetzer tov. Even though the wicked may seem to be successful, it’s only momentary.

Talking about Ben Berger always made me think the same thoughts. I sipped my tea, wondering about his choices. This guy sat in yeshivah, side by side with my husband and other like-minded bochurim. How does such a guy break off and become a rock star, of all things?

What does he think now that he’s so rich and famous? Is he happy with his accomplishments? How does he view his old classmates, living in small apartments in Eretz Yisrael, bending over the same amud that they learned together years ago?

I wasn’t jealous of Ben Berger. But I’d like to think he’s jealous of us. We took the road less traveled. And that has made all the difference. (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 609)