I miss the AAA TripTik. When I was in 4th grade, each student chose a place in the United States they wished to travel to. My sister was a freshman at Brandeis University, so I chose Boston. I went to AAA, they handed me a map, and I highlighted the must-see landmarks: Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride, the Boston Tea Party ship, Fenway Park, Faneuil Hall, and more. I prepared myself to know what I would see. When I experienced those places, they were much more than stops on an itinerary. Each stop had a deeper meaning, for its past history and what it meant to me as a young American.
We have lost that art today. With the click of an app, instead of figuring out a detour ourselves, we are told which turns to make. Instead of meeting a person to tell us about the history, we are audio self-guided, removing an opportunity to ask questions.
When the Israelites journeyed through the wilderness, their TripTik is alive and well. As Moshe recorded the travel log, the Torah repeats, “Moshe wrote their experiences, according to their journeys.” Each stop is accompanied by the words, “according to their experiences.” Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky teaches that we must learn more than the route they took. We must also recognize the depth of what they experienced along the way.
Many of us have traveled to different places around the world. But only some exact locations move us in a way we cannot describe but can only feel. Each experience has a spiritual, philosophical, and ethical component. We must learn that the journeys are secondary to the experience that brought us to them.
How do we travel? Do we tell the stories of where we visited, or do we tell the stories of what happened in those places?
The Israelites knew that this was not an ordinary trip. But what Moses knew was even better—in the generations ahead, we must not only know where we have been, but how what we felt leads us to where we will go tomorrow.