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February 24, 2017  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

Savor the journey

By RABBI LEAH M. HERZ Director of Spriritual Care, Menorah Manor

Perhaps one of the sweetest of all memories that many of us share is that of the family vacation. Those of us of a “certain age” still remember piling into the family station wagon (ours had the fake wood paneling on the side) and starting off on what was sure to be a great adventure. Mom had worked diligently to get all the kids packed, checking off items on the endless lists required to make the trip a smooth and enjoyable one. Dad had washed and gassed up the car and had the cumbersome maps marked with all the important stops along the way. The kids had books, games and snacks (no in-seat DVD players then) and entertained themselves with games of Ghost and I Spy while sitting in the “way back,” (the third row of the station wagon facing the cars behind them.) But somewhere about three hours into the trip, after interminable verses of “One Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall” and “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” the fun is starting to wear off. The kids are bored and beginning to fight with one another. They have eaten all of the snacks despite the fact that they have been warned to make them last for the entire trip. They have stopped three times over the past 50 miles in order to accommodate each ones’ bathroom needs and Dad, who has taken two wrong turns, has begun to shout things like, “Don’t make me come back there,” and, “I’m going to turn this car around.” Some things never change. Turn the clock back 2,500 years and Moses is beginning the greatest of all journeys, the Exodus from Egypt following the Israelites’ 400 years of servitude. He leads more than 600,000 men, women and children who, no sooner than they have crossed the Sea of Reeds, begin to complain. Moaning about the lack of water, grumbling about the monotony of the same meal three times a day, (manna), encountering hostile enemies along the way, and whining about the “good ol’ days in Egypt,” would make even the most patient of leaders threaten to, “turn the car around.” And despite a more direct route to the Promised Land, we learn that God takes the Israelites on a most circuitous route, one which will ultimately take forty years before they have finally reached their destination. Why such a torturous trek? Why not take it easy on the Israelites who had already endured the horrors of slavery for centuries? Our ancient rabbis debated this question throughout the millennia and, as with all things rabbinic, many explanations were suggested. But if we look at our own personal journeys, those we have taken alone, with family, or even in large groups, we realize that getting from Point A to Point B is not necessarily the ultimate goal. Instead, we savor the journey, each step of the way, regardless of the challenges that it may pose. As poet Rabbi Alvin I. Fine so beautifully wrote, “We see that victory lies not at some high point along the way but in having made the journey step by step, a sacred pilgrimage.” The Exodus serves as a magnificent metaphor for our lives. Cherish each milestone. Enjoy the scenery. Appreciate your travel companions. And don’t forget to bring extra snacks.

The Rabbinically Speaking column is provided as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis. Columns are assigned on a rotating basis by the board. The views expressed in the column are those of the rabbi and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Jewish Press or the Board of Rabbis.

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