A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter
The Torah calls Numbers 33 through Numbers 36 by the collective name, “Journeys of.” In these chapters, the Torah records all the journeys and encampments of Children of Israel during our 40 years in the desert. Numbers 33:2 says, “Vayichtov Moses,” “and Moses wrote” their goings out and journeying. Then verse by verse the Torah tells us where we started to travel from and where we camped and again where we journeyed from and where we camped. Over and over, 42 times! We know the Torah doesn’t waste any words and we also know we don’t need these places as an exercise in mapping skills or historical geography. It must be that we are supposed to learn something vital from this list of our journeys.
One lesson we can glean here is recognizing that it isn’t only destinations in life that are important, but the journeys are as well. We fall into the trap of living our lives waiting for the next big accomplishment or stage; our own and our children’s. We miss treasuring the process day by day independent from when we actually reach the goal. We wait eagerly for the time the baby will finish teething, the preschooler will be toilet trained, the teenager will wake up early on his own, and on and on. The message for us here is the process is also valuable, not just the end product. Enjoy the journey! Appreciate it! Recognize the process as being worthwhile and beneficial, apart from the hoped for future accomplishment.
Interestingly, the great transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom known as Rashi, provides an allegory to help us understand these 42 journeys. He tells a story of a king whose son was ill. Father and son traveled far away to find a cure. On the way back the father recounted to the son each place they stayed on the way and what had happened there. This is a message of being able to look back in time and retroactively appreciate the process that led to healing and growth.
I’m sure we can all relate to this and look back in our own lives at our own life journey where looking back allows us to see how each step led us to where we are today.
Another great transmitter, the Ohr HaChaim, says that Moses actually had a little notebook and each time they traveled and camped he wrote down a verse describing that journey in real time. Then when they reached Arvos Moav, God told Moses to assemble all the verses recounting the journeys and put them in one place, the section we are looking at now. In other words, Moses recorded the journeys as they happened, place by place. To me, this is a message of valuing and appreciating life’s journeys as they’re happening, not only looking back in time but finding the meaning in our journeys day by day, in real time. Together, these two transmissions tell us to focus on each journey as we are on it as well as looking back and getting the bigger picture that is only available over time.
For today, let’s try to savor each stage our children are in and the stage we’re in as well. The journey itself can be beautiful and meaningful. This section reminds us to appreciate the process rather than just the destination.