“‘ These are the journeys of the children of Israel who left the land of Egypt “(Bamidbar 33:1)” The Ba’al Shem Tov teaches that the words in the verse “These are the journeys of the children of Israel… teaches us that ” These forty-two “stations” from Egypt to the Promised Land are replayed in the life of every individual Jew, as his soul journeys from its descent to earth at birth to its return to its Source. It is also the journey of the people of Israel
On the words “..the journeys ( in the plural) of the children of Israel who left the land of Egypt”, the Baal Hatanya expands the theme and points out that there was actually only one journey which took the Jewish nation out of Egypt. Yet according to the verse, all the journeys are ascribed to the act of leaving the land of Egypt
Mitzrayim(the Hebrew word for “Egypt )comes from the Hebrew word “meitzarim” which translates as “constraints ” and “narrow places.” All the journeys from Egypt ,as is true of all of our own personal and national journeys are a journey out of the constraints that limit us . They are all journeys out of the narrow habits, concepts and politically correct ideals that keep us confined.
Furthermore the unusual text of the verse is revealing. The text continues to say ;
Moses recorded their starting points for their journeys (motza-ey-hem lemasa-ey-hem ) according to the word of HaShem, and these were their journeys with their starting points (masa-ey-hem le motza-ey-hem) . ( ibid:2)
Why the repetition of the idea and why the reverse order?
A true journey into destiny must be focused on two points. Where we came from and where our destiny lies. Without a memory of who we were and what we experienced as a people we become unequipped with continuing through the uncertainties of the voyage ahead. The Ba’al Shem Tov said “Forgetting is the beginning of Exile; Remembering is the beginning of Redemption.” That is the reason every one of the forty two stops on their voyage is mentioned. Only if one knows where one has been and has learned something valuable from that experience can one confidently continue on one’s journey. Though the future remains unknown yet knowledge of the past will help us on our ever developing journey.
The second point is discerning the destination. We are all embarked on voyages. We are all journeying towards some destination. Some of us have a clear concept of where we want to be. Some of us are confused and thereby focus on a destination ,other people tell us is “where we need to be”. We need to have a clear sense of our own destination. Our own destiny…otherwise we will lose our way and purpose.
Yet there is a third and critical point. We cannot remain imprisoned in the past because our journey must be about growth. We cannot be only fixated on the destination because we then are too rushed to get there .We can become so focused on the destination that we forget the journey. We are so clear on where we want to get to that we judge the methods of getting there by how instantly they can achieve success. That is the other reason every one of the 42 stops are mentioned. Every location was critical in the growth of this people. Ever location was a destination on the way.
Western thinking in general has been mired in the trap of focusing on solutions rather than process, on destination rather than the journey. Mankind yearns for simple solutions and quick conflict resolution in the best of times. Yet, in times of insecurity and confusion, it is more easily drawn down that futile path of simplified solutions. It is especially in such times that individuals and leaders arise and speak in comforting sound bites and with packaged metaphors. Such leaders can become formidable foes of complicated and layer-deep truths. The people of Israel and all those who hear the call of destiny cannot fall into that trap.
We must never lose sense of where we came from and keep before us a vision of where we need to be. Yet we must continue this journey with a careful, patient and faithful walk.