Learning to walk in Destiny

Through the Lens of Torah: Understanding the concept of “destination” in the Biblical metaphor. It is less a “place to get to” and is much more the question of the purpose of the voyage.

Moshe Kempinski

Judaism Haredi soldiers learning Torah
Haredi soldiers learning Torah
צילום: PR

Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says Hashem, “I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, The love of your betrothals, Your following after Me in the wilderness, Through a land not sown.”( Jeremiah 2:2 )


Your following after Me in the wilderness “. Mankind needs to be reminded again and again that is all about the journey and not really about the destination. Mankind's original failure occurred due to disobedience resulting from looking for shortcuts to the fruits, rather than tending the garden.

The world has become so focused on destinations that it forgets the journey. People are so driven by results that they lose the ability to concentrate on the process. That is the reason that every solution concocted by the world blows up again and again. The world is in a rush to nowhere and in a panic to find shortcuts

As a result the world remains confused and in chaos.

It is that chaos that G-d eliminated in a step by step process in the creation of the world.

“In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth. Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep”( Genesis 1:1-2)

G-d begins with creation of light and then began the individuation and particularization of his creation. In the midst of that creation we read of the creation of the fruit trees.

"And G-d said: 'Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit-tree bearing fruit after its kind, wherein is the seed thereof: upon the earth." (Gen. 1:11).

Yet we see that the earth responds in a somewhat different fashion than G-d’s command;

"And the earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed after its kind, and tree bearing fruit, wherein is the seed thereof, after its kind; and G-d saw that it was good" (Gen 1: 12).

The earth produced "trees producing fruit"as opposed to “fruit-tree bearing fruit after its kind”

The Midrash teaches that the original and ideal creation was that the trees themselves (their bark and trunk) would taste like the fruit that it produced, ”fruit-trees bearing fruit”  Yet instead, the earth fashioned trees that only produced fruit.

Yet G- d "saw that it was good”. G-d purposely created a reality at odds with its ideal, a tension filled imperfect world. Rav Kook explained that one of the basic failings of our limited perception of reality is that we generally aspire to the goal and ignore the process of attaining that goal. Man often focuses on the fruit of the tree and ignores the sweetness of the tree that bore the fruit.

How then are we a people so familiar with long voyages meant to understand our voyage and our  long journeys??

In the last portion of the book of Bamidbar (Numbers) we read of the 42 stations in the wandering of the people of Israel in the wilderness until their arrival at the gates of the land of Israel.

“These are the journeys of the children of Israel who left the land of Egypt in their legions, under the charge of Moshe and Aaron. Moshe recorded from their starting points for their journeys (motza-eyhem lemassa-eyem) according to the word of Hashem, and these were their journeys to their starting points.-masa-eyem lemotza-eyhem” (Numbers 33:1).


 The Baal Shem Tov explains that the words in the verse “These are the journeys of the children of Israel…(ibid 1)” teaches us that ” These forty-two “stations” from Egypt to the land of Israel are replayed in the life of every individual Jew, as his soul journeys from its birth into the physical world until it returns to its heavenly beginnings.

So much so , that I believe that the enumerating of the Forty two separate journeys and its resting places are hinted at in the Shma prayer we read at least twice a day.

The number 42 is characterized by the two Hebrew letters Mem and Bet together( Gematriya) . Those two letters also spell the word Bam (of them or about them).That word is  used twice in the SHMA  prayer” And you shall teach them to your sons and speak about them( BAM)  when you sit in your house, and when you walk on the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.” Deuteronomy 6:7”. Almost as if to say “Speak of these forty two journeys and be uplifted by how they are mirrored in our personal and corporate lives”.

The wording in the verse as well is very unusual ” Moshe recorded from their starting points for their journeys according to the word of Hashem, and these were their journeys to their starting points.” .”(ibid 33:2).

First motza-eyhem lemasa-eyem (from their starting points for their journeys )and then masa-eyem lemotza-eyhem (their journeys to their starting points ) ” Why the repetition of the idea and why the reverse order?

The words “motza-eyhem lemasa-eyem (from their starting points for their journeys )” teaches us that we need to remember where we came from and what we have experienced. Our past is our guide. The Baal Shem Tov taught that ““Forgetfulness leads to exile. Memory is the source of redemption”.

While the final words “masa-eyem lemotza-eyhem-and these were their journeys to their starting points” reminds us that we must always be aware and directed towards our primary destiny and original goal. Why we began our journey in the first palce.

So in essence the Torah portion instructs us regarding the delicate balance of the journey into destiny.

On the one hand focusing simply on the destination seduces us into looking for shortcuts . The whole point of the journey are the lessons learned in that journey.

On the other hand we must come to realize that the destination is not actually some place we arrive at but is better understood as the purpose of our journey.

Jeremiah declared the following;

"Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, 'Thus says Hashem, "I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, The love of your betrothals, Your following after Me in the wilderness, Through a land not sown."(Jeremiah 2:2)

What then does Jerusalem have to do with this march though the wilderness of exile and Jewish history?

At the very beginning of their first wilderness experience, Moshe and the children sing their praises to Hashem for taking them out of Egypt. They declare the following prophetic words;

“You in Your love have led the people that You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength to Your  holy habitation. You bring  them in, and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritancethe place, O Hashem, which You have  made for You to dwell in, the sanctuary, O Hashem , which Your hands have established/" (Exodus 15:13-17).

So to understand the concept of “destination” in the Biblical metaphor. It is less a “place to get to” and is in fact  much more the purpose one is on a voyage in the first place.

Jerusalem and the Temple are the destination and purpose. Though the long journey is critical for our development and growth , the result and purpose will be found in Jerusalem. It is that yearning for that rebuilt holy Jerusalem and pain at its loss that is the focus of these three weeks of mourning that we, the Jewish people are in the midst of. Remembering our purpose while not being broken by the long journey.

LeRefuat Yehudit bar Golda Yocheved and Yehudit bat Esther