Friday, August 1, 2008

On the Road Again...

Do you like to travel?
Yes? Then this week's Torah Portion is for you!
It's called "Journeys."
It lists forty two places the Jewish people journeyed to during their forty year trek in the vast desert. "And they journeyed from Raamses and they camped in Sukkoth..." x42.

I must confess, however, that I HATE traveling. In fact, when I do need to embark on a long trip, I brace myself for the discomforts, sea-sickness, air-sickness, traffic-sickness, you name it. The only reason I willingly submit to it at all is because of even my larger desire or need to reach the destination. Whether it's Miami to visit my folks, Vermont to relax in nature, or the supermarket to buy groceries, I tolerate the journey because of a greater specific need, e.g. my parents, the Green Mountains, or a bag of tomatoes.
Even you jetsetter types could relate in a certain way. Surely the trans-Atlantic flight is not your main objective, but the visit in Israel that awaits you at your destination.

If my above theory is correct, shouldn't the Parshah have rightly been called "Destinations" or "Encampments," since it primarily relates the places where they CAMPED! These were the forty two place in which the Israelites STOPPED during their journey out of Egypt.

The answer is obvious: the Israelites were not on a Tour de France (to borrow Senator McCain's expression). They were escaping Egypt. Every place they encamped in was not the ultimate objective of the journey there. The real purpose was to continue the journey at a subsequent time.

Here the Chassidic Master provide some deeper insight into the mystery of life. Life is a journey, a journey out of our own personal Egypts (Mitrayim in Hebrew, which shares a root with "metzar," i.e. "restrictions and limitations). Even when you park, when you settle down into a set routine, it's a temporary means of regaining your strength so that you may subsequently forge onward. "Journeying" in the spiritual sense doesn't necessarily mean moving to a new town or being promoted to a new job. It means spiritual growth, reaching beyond your status quo to connect to G-d in a higher way. It means propelling yourself forward to accomplish your soul's mission in this world. And each journey is a quantum leap and a complete departure from the old "you."

In this respect, every Jew is inherently a seasoned traveler. Historically, we've been wandering the globe for millenia, settling to create centers of Torah study and Jewish life, to refine the world around us, but subsequently being compelled to journey onward. On a personal level, our souls are hardwired to move, to grow and to influence. Such is our Divine calling -- to liberate the world from its present state of Egypt (=Galut, exile) and transforming it to a world of peace, justice, and heightened Divine conciousness. To bring the days of Moshiach.

In recent years, the Lubavitcher Rebbe announced that we are presently on the last leg of our journey, or more accurately, that we've basically arrived and are presently ready to disembark! Moshiach is here and the Messianic redemption is at hand.
But how can that be? I look around in all directions and all I see is the chaos of wilderness. I see suffering, injustice, violence, discord and disharmony. How could the Rebbe have asserted that we're ready to cross into the Promised Land?

To be continued...

(Come to shul this Shabbos and find out)

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Green

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