Appreciating the Journey
Yael Eckstein | July 15, 2020
At the LORD’s command Moses recorded the stages in their journey. This is their journey by stages… —Numbers 33:2
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Matot-Massei, from Numbers 30:2–36:13. Matot means branches, and Massei means journey.
As a young mother struggling with the diapers and sleepless nights that come with raising infants, I received these words of advice from older, wiser moms: “Treasure every moment because they grow up so fast.” As I’m now the mother of one teenager — soon to be two — I know those words to be so true!
We all need to appreciate the season of life we are in right now — for the challenges it brings, the opportunities it provides, and for those special moments that are only there for a time. We need to appreciate the journey.
This week, we read a double Torah portion. The second portion, Massei, meaning “journeys,” recalls the 42 stops that the Israelites made in the desert. The second verse in this section reads: “At the LORD’s command Moses recorded the stages in their journey. This is their journey by stages.” Notice that the last part of the verse is the mirror image of the first part. First the verse says that Moses recorded “the stages in their journey.” But the order is reversed when we read “their journey by stages.”
What’s the significance of this wording switch?
We understand the first part — “the stages in their journey” — to refer to God’s perspective on the travels in the desert. The stages on the way were intended as a means towards the goal of moving the Israelites further along their spiritual journey. However, the Israelites, like many of us, saw the journey as “stages” — as a means to getting to a better place in life materially. They were always looking ahead to the next stop.
It’s natural for us to want to improve our lives and to hope for a better future, but at the same time, we are selling ourselves short if we don’t appreciate the place that we are in right now. Back in Exodus 3:5, God told Moses: “… the place you are standing is holy ground.” Jewish tradition teaches that the place where we are all standing right now is, indeed, holy ground. The situation that we find ourselves in right now is tailor-made for us in order that we might grow to be our very best.
The lesson of the many journeys that the Israelites took in the desert is to remember that no matter what stage we are at in our journey, it’s the best place that we can possibly be at that moment. There are opportunities for growth and change that can enhance our lives for a lifetime — wherever our journeys may take us.
Your turn: Where are you in your journey right now? What are its advantages? Challenges? Opportunities?