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                        Mattot-Masei: These are the Journeys of the Children of Israel…                           

07/11/2023 01:49:49 PM


Rabbi Moshe Rudin

The Torah’s account of the forty-two encampments of our ancient travels through the wilderness on their way to Israel contains a message.  Miraculous wells of pure water that spring from the rocks, enemies that dog our steps but who fall before our faith, fiery serpents and pillars of fire that guide us, the angelic and the demonic, giants and talking donkeys and curses that turned to blessings- all of this and more we encountered on this journey.  

And the message?  We can do our best to plan and prepare.  We can update our GPS and check every five minutes.  But ultimately, every journey we take- and every day of life is a journey- is in accordance with a travel agenda that is not set by us.   

Opportunities for experiences, discoveries and especially chances to offer a helping hand that we never imagined have a way of occurring during journeys.  The chance meeting, the random conversation, the missed connection that connects us to something else entirely, these events give us a hint that we are being guided.  

How many friendships, partnerships, marriages, visionary projects and inspirations, not to mention inventions and discoveries  have come out of journeys?   It’s as if setting out into the unfamiliar allows us to open a door into our own capacity to look at things differently, to access our powers of wonder.  

There is only one caveat.  We must not only take a journey, we must allow the journey to take us.

Two young Hasids, friends since Heder (elementary school) wanted to attend the wedding of the grandson of their Rebbe.  One told the other that he was going to go to the shul very early to get a good seat.  Sure enough, when the other arrived a bit later, he saw his friend right next to the Chuppah- prime seating!  The latecomer craned his neck as best a he could to see the great event.  Suddenly, he noticed that his friend who had come early was gone, even before the groom had smashed the glass!

The young man made his way to the dance floor where the new fathers-in-law were about to start the heilige tantz, the holy dance that would unify the two families and two hasidic dynasties.  Again, he saw his friend seated right in the front row.  Jumping up and down with the others in the rear, he could just hear the wedding band and see the dancing.  To his surprise, he saw that again, his friend was gone, just at the moment when the bride and groom joined their parents.  

Finally, the young hasid joined the throng going to the wedding banquet.  He wasn’t surprised this time to see his friend right next to the table where the two leaders were about to say Hamotzi and distribute the wedding Challah.  The groom and bride lifted the beautiful loaf of yellow braided Challah and their parents raised their hands to make the blessing.  

But again- the friend had vanished.

Later, the two friends met at the study hall to discuss the wedding.  

"You were at the front row of every part of that wedding," said the Hasid to his friend.  "But then, just at the key moment, you were gone!  What happened"?

"I had no choice," said the friend.  "I arrived early to the ceremony but realized that I’d have to leave to get a good seat at the holy dance.  And then, at the dance, I thought that if I wanted to get a good spot at the banquet table to get a piece of the blessed Challah, I’d have to leave there early as well, so I left there as well; all to be at the right place at the right time!"

"You may have been at the right place at the right time," said the first young Hasid, "but you missed the wedding!"

Some journeys are joyful, some tragic.  Some are ordeals and others are adventures.  But all of them, if we have open eyes and open hearts, contain mysteries and opportunities to in our own way, bring and find blessing.  

                           If you are going on a journey, say the Tefillat HaDerech, the Travelers Prayer, before setting out:

May it be Your will, Adonai our God and the God of our ancestors, that You lead us toward shalom, guide our footsteps toward shalom, and  help us reach our desired destination for life, gladness, and peace. May You rescue us from the hand of every foe, ambush along the way, and from all manner of misfortune that occur through happenstance. May You send blessing in our handiwork, and grant us grace, kindness, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us. May You hear the sound of our prayer because You are God Who hears prayer. Baruch Atah Adonai, shomeah Tefila- Blessed are You, Adonai Who hears prayer.


יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְפָנֶיךָ יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ,

שֶׁתּוֹלִיכֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם וְתַצְעִידֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם וְתַדְרִיכֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם, וְתִסְמְכֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם,

וְתַגִּיעֵנוּ לִמְחוֹז חֶפְצֵנוּ לְחַיִּים וּלְשִׂמְחָה וּלְשָׁלוֹם.

אם דעתו לחזור מיד אומר וְתַחְזִירֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם

וְתַצִּילֵנוּ מִכַּף כָּל אוֹיֵב וְאוֹרֵב וְלִסְטִים וְחַיּוֹת רָעוֹת בַּדֶּרֶךְ,

וּמִכָּל מִינֵי פֻּרְעָנֻיּוֹת הַמִּתְרַגְּשׁוֹת לָבוֹא לָעוֹלָם,

וְתִתְּנֵנוּ לְחֵן וּלְחֶסֶד וּלְרַחֲמִים בְּעֵינֶיךָ וּבְעֵינֵי כָל רֹאֵינוּ,

כִּי אל שׁוֹמֵעַ תְּפִלָּה וְתַחֲנוּן אַתָּה.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי שׁוֹמֵעַ תְּפִלָּה


Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784