If you have been paying close attention to social media or advertisements on television, you have noticed that as summer began, more and more people returned to traveling.
This is due in large part, of course, to the fact that, overall, people in the United States are getting vaccinated and the deadly effects of the COVID-19 virus are declining, although cases are rising slightly due to the latest variants.
More and more people are feeling freer to follow the advice of Southwest Airlines to move about the country, while taking proper precautions.
A number of friends and family members have been taking road trips instead of flying and have been sharing the pictures of the sights they have visited. Some, including one of my brothers, have shared maps of their journeys, highlighting their route and stops along the way. It has been very enjoyable to travel with them, even if vicariously.
The last portion of the book of Bamidbar (Numbers) is part of this week’s double parashah, Mattot-Mas`ei. Mas`ei means “the travels of” and is a travelogue of the 40-year journey that the Israelites took from Egypt to territory just outside of the Promised Land. It lists the places at which the people stopped and camped as well as the significant events that occurred along the way. The Torah was able to relate the journeys of our ancestors through detailed descriptions, without Facebook.
Why is this sacred literature? Each part of the journey had already been chronicled in the preceding two books of the Torah. Why is it repeated here as a running account? It may be that this review was a reminder to those born in the wilderness of the trials and tribulations, the triumphs and the failures, and everything that contributed to the maturation of the people of Israel from the time that they exited the narrow place of Egypt, born as a nation out of slavery.
It is important for members of one generation to tell of their journey through life in order to teach those who follow, in order to demonstrate that what is now taken for granted was hard won, in order to pass on the meaning and purpose that they found along the way.
It is also important for individuals. Recounting the journey, even as we continue to experience new legs of it, enables us to appreciate where we have been, what we have learned, how we have grown, and it informs us regarding future stops and starts along the way.
It is true, even if a cliché, to say that it is not so much the destination that is important, but the journey along the way. Life is a journey with many stops and starts. Each day offers new experiences, lessons and opportunities. We travel, we sojourn, we travel again. Even if we never physically leave the community in which we were born, our lives are a journey.
This week’s Torah portion is sacred because everyone’s journey is sacred. Each is unique; each is valuable; each is the tale of a life that is lived.
Share your journey with your family, with your friends, with anyone who cares to hear it. Take pictures. Record your impressions, your feelings, your life lessons. Life is a journey, a sacred journey.
Rabbi Josef Davidson serves Congregation B’nai Amoona and is a member of the St. Louis Rabbinical and Cantorial Association, which coordinates the weekly d’var Torah for the Jewish Light.