Rebecca Masinter

Parshas Maasei - The Journey

Sefer Bamidbar concludes with Parshas Maasei, named for the 42 journeys that Bnai Yisrael took in the desert over the course of the 40 years between when they left Mitzrayim and entered Eretz Yisroel. Interestingly, the Torah doesn’t just give us a list of the places they went, but for each one we’re told “vayis’u” and they traveled from Place A, “vayachanu”, they camped in Place B. The next sentence says, “vayisu” and they traveled from place B and "vayachanu", they camped at place C. There seems to be a lot of redundant information here. Why do we need to be told not only about each camp site but also about each journey between camps? If we were to keep a travel diary of an amazing trip, most of us would title our journal with our destination, “My Trip to Thailand”. Our topic sentence would include our destination, “I went on this incredible trip to Thailand”, and most of our travel diary would be about our destination, rather than the flight, layover, and taxi that we used to get to our destination of Thailand. Why does the Torah do the exact opposite? Why does the Torah emphasize repeatedly the journey instead of the destination? The answer is so simple and yet so profound. Hashem wants us to know that life is about the journey, not the arrival. This can be a very foreign concept to us. We tend to be focused on achieving milestones; I will do this when the baby sleeps through the night, when summer comes, when the kids go back to school, when the kids grow up, when I retire. We’re so focused on getting to the next point that we don’t appreciate living in the moment. The joy in the journey is lost because we’re fixated on reaching the destination. As a mother and teacher I see that we tend to do this with our children too. The process of learning and growing is often overlooked in favor of emphasizing the benchmarks. The destination seems all important - get this child to read, to compute, to write, and we lose the appreciation for and enjoyment of the process. Parshas Maasei, the Parsha of the journey, is a reminder to each of us that Hashem wants us to be present on the journey. The destination is all in Hashem’s hands anyway. When, if ever, we or our children will actually achieve any specific goal is not up to us. What is up to us is how we journey. Staying present in the process, appreciating the process, recommitting ourselves to our journey, and doing the same with our children - savor each stage, appreciate the slow process of growth and maturity, and let Hashem take care of each of our destinations.