Sunday, July 20, 2014

Masei 74 - Journeys and Experiences

The parasha-portion of Masei begins with  -'  these are the journeys   '    -  a list of  journeys and the   42 stations that  made up  the route that Israel followed from Egypt to the Promised Land .  Numbers 33:2  reads'  Moshe wrote their 'Goings forth' according to their 'Journeys' at the bidding of Hashem- God' , and then the verse repeats this but  reverses  the order  -'these were their Journeys according to their Goings forth

 מוצאיהם למסעיהם על פי יהוה ,ואלה מסעיהם למוצאיהם
The verse highlights journeys, departures or going forth and this is done at the bidding of God. Rabbi Lev Gurvitz takes the Going forth – מוצאיהם on a deeper level. These are the experiences with which the people departed on the next stage of their journey. In the same way, we can take journeys as symbolizing our purpose, goals and objectives. The first part of the verse highlights our goals. Our experiences must be assessed in terms of our goals. The second part of the verse highlights our experiences and process. We set goals in order that we should have experiences. Both are important, but ultimately process, experiences and making meaning of what we do and what happens to us is what life is all about. Going on holiday to a certain place, is not about the place but more about our ability to experience the place and to go forth as changed people. Our purpose and experiences need a context. The context  is our values, faith and belief    -it  means that our purpose, goals and experience are at the bidding of God- Hashem - על פי ה'

Doing things according to God's bidding or command gives one more than just a context. Hashem-God's goal and purpose was that the ' journeys' would prepare Israel for life in the Promised Land and in the exile. How could the spiritual life in the desert and wilderness prepare Israel for the future? Life in the wilderness was unpredictable.  People were not sure that the Mann, the heavenly bread would fall from heaven the following day. They were also not sure if tomorrow they would be still be camped in the same place or they would have to ' go forth'.  There was nothing permanent and stable about their lives.

 In fact, this lack of permanence and predictability poses the following question.On the Sabbath , it is forbidden to destroy a permanent building - סותר in order to build בנין  a new building in its place. This Halacha –law, is learned from the dismantling of the tabernacle – mishkan in the desert, so the camp of Israel could move on to the next station. And there the tabernacle was re-assembled. The tabernacle- miskan was not a permanent dwelling and it was re-assembled in a different location. The Talmud answers that the' journeys and going forth-departures' were  done at the bidding of God- Hashem, so it is as if the Tabernacle was re-assembled in the same place and  it was  given a sense of permanence and eternity. Despite the  unpredictable nature of life in the wilderness  , a life directed by the word of God – על פי ה-gave  life stability and permanence needed for growth and change from the inside.  This inner faith and stability is essential for living in the land of Israel and vital for Jews to survive the long exile and migration from one country to the next. It makes it easier to move from one country to the next, if one is a man of faith because a man of faith does not change his boss. His life is by the bidding of God-Hashem – על פי ה'

As parents and teachers we need to teach kids that it is not the journeys or holiday resorts that  entertain us and create experiences, but we ourselves need to invest, find meaning and create the experiences and lessons. Our experiences will be guided by our goals, purpose and objectives- the road we decide to travel.  When we visit historical sites, we don't remember what happened there but we use history as a resource to create new experiences, meaning and lessons. Our belief in God and following His direction not only gives us a context of values and faith, but provides for stability and permanence needed for internal  growth.  It does not matter if we are forever travelling, because we are always standing before God- Hashem, experiencing the world and His presence. Even when we remain in one place , we can still be moving - upwards, becoming greater people. And through learning and reading with emotional intensity we can be in one place and yet travel in time and place and create so many new experiences. We don't need physical 'journeys' to create experiences. It is our experiences and not our travels and journeys that define our destiny and bring us to our life's true destination.

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