Quick Parsha Thought: Parshat Masei
No matter how many times you read something, each time you see it in a different light. I find that every time I read the parsha something different jumps out at me. Here are a some of my observations from reading the parsha this week:
I like this parsha for a very ironic reason: I used to really dislike it. I was bothered because I never understood why the Torah, which values every single letter and even every dot as being important, spent so much space listing all the places B'nei Yisrael traveled in the dessert. At least if it had to list all the places, it might as well write it as a list instead of so many Psukim that start off with "ViYisu" and then "Vayachanu." Why does it list everything? When I first heard the answer that I liked, which was a very long time ago, this became one of the parshas that I liked the most. The answer, of course, is that life is a journey, and every single step along the way is important. Often we are so focused on getting to the end goal, that we don't realize that the process of getting there is equally as important as the end goal.
This week I was struck by the Mashal that Rashi quotes from Rabbi Tanchuma, comparing the list of locations that Hashem lists in the Torah, to a King with an ill son. The King travels very far with the son to heal him, and the son is healed. On their way back home, the King points out the son each of the places they stopped on their way and the terrible situation they were each one of them. This confused me. I had never thought of this parsha as a list of "Remember how bad it was when we were stopped over there," but rather a positive list with the positive aspects of each location fondly being recalled. After I thought about this more, I realized that it is the same thing. Our journeys in life are not easy, they are full of stops and bumps in the road. The obstacles we face may be tough, but in the end, the lessons we learn from them are what make us stronger.
Yes, right over there is where I fell and hurt my foot! And I stumbled and hurt myself in that spot, right there! But I picked myself up. I learned lessons that I would not have learned if I had not fallen. And the Torah lists these places at the end of the journey, once they are about to reach the destination, because most lessons are only learned in retrospect. At the time of the obstacle, things are awful! Things are challenging and terrible, and even painful. But then you look back and say, "Yes, that was bad, but I'm glad I went through it. I wouldn't have wished that upon myself, but now that it is over, I am glad the experience taught me so much."
May we all take this chance to look back at the past and see the important lessons we learned along the path that got us to where we are today in life, and may we appreciate the road and path we are on right now, and value the process itself, the journey, and not just the goal we are striving toward.