As many of you know, I am the mother of Joey (3.5) and Ezra (1). Joe and I are deep in what social media refers to as “the trenches” of parenthood. Sleepless nights, potty training, diapers, first steps, baby proofing, and of course epic toddler meltdowns are part of our daily routine, as our personal lives are spent in sheer survival mode.
I know many of you have been there, but after a long day of survival mode, I often have to stop and remind myself that this wonderful, albeit challenging season of my life (ages 0-4), is short – a mere pitstop in the roadmap of my parenting life.
In this week’s double Torah portion, Matot Massei, we have arrived at the last chapter of B’midbar. The Israelites are located on the edge of the Jordan River, about to cross into the land of Israel, and we are given a long and very detailed travel itinerary of their decades spent wandering in the desert.
"These are the journeys of the children of Israel going out of the land of Mitzrayim (Egypt)…" (Num 33:1)
The separate mention of each of the 42 camping sites illustrates the importance of each step in the Israelite trek. Through the moments of joy, the bad choices, and even in their lowest of times, the Israelites experienced challenges and opportunities for growth, both as individuals and as a people. The Torah gives honor to each of those journeys.
The founder of the Hasidic movement, the Baal Shem Tov, taught that in this week’s Torah portion, “The 42 different encampments from Egypt to the Promised Land are replayed in every individual’s life, in his own journey from his soul’s descent to this world (birth) until his return to his Source (death).”
We tend to think of our lives as one long journey, but the Baal Shem Tov reminds us that every journey takes place in stages, and each stage carries its own distinct blessing to be discovered. Some of these are pleasant, but many are not. Some carry us to new heights of joy, while others challenge, and at times even threaten to break us.
The opening travelog of Massei reminds us that each of these moments is an important part of our own life’s odyssey. The pit stops, the wrong turns, they make us who we are, they give our lives richness and meaning, and most importantly, they are what force us to stretch and grow beyond our wildest imaginations.
So wherever you are in your 42 journeys of life, be it a season of joy, a season of sadness, or in my case, the deep trenches of parenthood, the Torah encourages us to stop, recognize and give honor to this stage of our life.
Cantor Lisa Peicott