May 19, 2024
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May 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I joined up with some friends to treat another friend of our group to a delicious restaurant meal on his birthday. To add to the celebration, we decided to make it a real adventure. We blindfolded our good-natured friend and told him he had to guess the name of the restaurant when we got there. He was up for the challenge…and so were we! We walked around a while, took a taxi, carried him half a block and then up a flight of stairs. We were all amazed that he guessed the restaurant correctly. Unbelievable! We also felt good that with all that travel, he trusted us to take him to an enjoyable destination.

Klal Yisrael did a lot of traveling in the desert, but that wasn’t the original plan. Fifty days after leaving Mitzrayim, on the 6th of Sivan, we were to receive the Torah at Har Sinai and immediately go to Eretz Yisrael. It didn’t work out that way. We sinned with the golden calf, Moshe smashed the Luchos (Tablets) and the original plan began to unravel. When it came time to enter Eretz Yisrael, klal Yisrael requested that spies be sent to determine if it was safe to enter. The spies returned with a bad report, which the nation believed and accepted. Consequently, Hashem decreed that the entire generation (those over 20) would perish in the desert. And hence began our 40 years of wandering before entering Eretz Yisrael.

The question is: Why did they need to travel? Why not stay put? Was there somewhere to go?

I believe the following is an appropriate parable. A rebbe of mine once remarked: “Why do people jog around a track? They are running nowhere, just going around in circles!” Of course, the point is not where you are going, but rather it is the exercise itself. The Seforno lists many praises for Bnei Yisrael’s behavior during these travels. Wherever the accompanying “Cloud of Glory” rested, they camped without complaining about the frequency and sometimes desolate location of the stop. They remained in many locations for extended times, even if they were terrible places to stay. When they camped in a good place for their animals to pasture, the clouds might start moving before they even unpacked. Time to go! They traveled plenty, yet never complained about it. They accepted Hashem’s will.

As anyone who has been on a family vacation knows, traveling with a family is not easy. To travel with hundreds of thousands of families for decades and have no one complaining or questioning the amount of travel—it’s unbelievable! All the traveling represented Hashem exercising klal Yisrael’s emunah and bitachon muscles. The travels were a test. As the pasuk says, “Al pi Hashem yachanu v’al pi Hashem yisa’u…” they camped and traveled based on the word of Hashem. They felt that Hashem was traveling with them, so it didn’t matter where they went or how long they stayed. They were happy to be in the company of the Almighty!

There was an additional purpose to klal Yisrael’s travels. The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh adds that each destination was not just for aimless travel; there was a mission and purpose for each encampment. There is a kabalastic concept that from the sin of Adam, there were sparks of kedusha (holiness) that became dispersed and trapped in various locations. When a Jew travels and learns Torah or davens in a particular place, that spiritual effort can release and bring back the spark of holiness to that place.

The above two lessons are relevant to us today. First, world events in the past year have transpired at a dizzying pace. We sometimes don’t know if we are coming or going. People’s plans have been altered or canceled in so many ways. Our first lesson therefore is to live with the knowledge that Hashem is with us at all times.

Second, there is a purpose for us in each location where we find ourselves, for whatever duration of time we might be there. Hashem is always in the cockpit flying our plane. Our course is plotted, even if we ourselves can’t connect the dots. Every twist and turn is part of the Divine Plan. It could be that Hashem wants a bracha on food recited or a tefilla recited in that location. Perhaps it is a word of Torah learned while traveling or staying there. Maybe there’s someone we truly need to meet in order that he might help us or we might help him. Wherever we find ourselves, we have an opportunity to create a Kiddush Hashem.

While we travel the pathways of our lives, not really knowing the reason for each stopover, we do know that there is a final destination for the Jewish people. Hashem will bring Moshiach and the Jewish nation will return to Eretz Yisrael and the building of the Beis Hamikdash. May we all merit to arrive together at this final stop, speedily in our days.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara-learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged but any contributions are always welcome. Beyond PTI, Rabbi Bodenheim conducts a weekly beis midrash program with chavrusa learning in Livingston plus a monthly group in West Caldwell. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.

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