As Jews, we focus less on destinations and more on journeys. It is no surprise that the book of Numbers ends with a travelogue of places the Jews travelled in the wilderness. You can literally trace this route without WAZE today by holding a Tanach in your hand and reading through Parshat Masei. Yet, WAZE would be frustrated with the route the Jews took, as the people journeyed forward but also journeyed back towards where they came from.
Kli Yakar teaches that at times the Jews marched forth motzaeihem l’masaeihem, and at other times, they retreated, maaseheim, back to moatzeheim. Back and forth….back and forth.
The path is not so simple. Rabbi Z.S Suchard explains that perhaps the people did not travel back in time, but rather, they travelled with the strength of the place they had left. When they left Mount Sinai, they travelled forth with the inspiration of receiving the Torah. When they left the crossing of the Sea, they had the strength of witnessing God’s miracles.
I had the recent honor of interviewing James Donaldson. He was a 14-year NBA athlete, opened multiple physical therapy clinics in his retirement, and ran for the mayor of Seattle. Over the last few years, he hit extremely difficult times. His health failed, leading him to lose his marriage, his business, and his home. He spoke to me with tears in his eyes as he taught an important lesson: “Notice what you notice.” Donaldson said we must notice the red flags in our lives so that we do not journey too far down the wrong path. At the same time, he said, “Notice what you notice.” Notice the blessings that are often in front of our eyes that we do not see. Make sure to take what we have learned on our journeys to our next stop, our next destination. Let us follow in the footsteps of our ancestors, who eventually entered the Promised Land.