The 42 Journeys of Life – Parshat Masei

Mountain Road
Mountain Road

The Baal Shem Tov teaches: The 42 journeys of Bnei Yisrael from Egypt to the Land of Israel are a reflection of the 42 journeys that each person experiences throughout their lives…

Are we heading to a destination – or are we here for the journey?! Life! We are born into this world, and from that moment onwards move and strive towards a greater goal. Where will our focus be?

According to Abraham Maslow, we’ll be focused on food – our most basic of needs. Those who have taken care of their food bills with extra means still available, will gravitate towards finding shelter and security in life. Those who have taken care of their shelter will strive for healthy social interactions. The person lucky enough to have this part of his life in balance will strive for his own positive self-esteem. Finally, one who has acquired this will move on towards his own personal self-actualisation. In fact as Dr Maslow himself says, “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.”

LIFE

For most, the experience of life will be something along the lines of attending a nursery school to learn about play and simple social skills. Thereafter a primary schooling career – ascending from one grade to the next. Seemingly showing how our next real goal is the next grade! Thereafter it’s high school and college. Well – if we could only have that organised when we were born, wouldn’t that have been splendid!

After college (or a tertiary education of some kind) we work, so that we can obtain wealth. The wealth will hopefully grow enough so that by the time we hit 65, we’ll be able to retire, with many feeling quite exhausted with the knocks life has given them. Some will have gained nothing more other than a variety of physical problems. Some will wonder how it could ever be that they’ll be able to enjoy the wealth they’d work their whole lives for – in the hope they would have actually had it when they were young! Before long, it’s over… life of course. What was the destination? What was its purpose?

MUSIC AND DANCE!

I recently saw a wonderful video giving another look at life. The man describes another part of life. The world of music and the world of dance. Here, we see something new! It’s not really about the destination. Nobody goes to the concert in order to hear the last note being played. Nobody attends the dance-musical in order to see the final jump of the routine. Were such to be the case, people would pay highly, take their seats, await for the music to begin by playing the final note, and then return home (feeling fulfilled!) They would do the same for dance. Attend the hall, sit in their places and wait for the curtains to open. Then, just as quickly, the dancers would give a jump, the curtains would close, and the audience clap in excitement!

However, that’s not what music or dance are. It’s not what people pay huge amounts to hear or see. In fact, when they take their seats, they are patient as they await for each note to be played – and for each step to be taken. They enjoy the melody as it happens. As the music moves from one note to the other, there is a rhythm and beauty to it all. When the dancers move their bodies in perfect synchronicity from one position of the body to another – it is this that produces the desired effect.

People will pay dearly just to hear notes moving from one to the other. They pay to see people moving from one position to the next. In fact, there is no destination. It’s all about the movement taking place. It’s even been said, that it’s not the notes that are played that make the music, but rather, the spaces in between them!

DESTINATIONS AND ENCAMPMENTS

God wanted to take the Jewish people and bring them into the Land of Israel. In fact, things were supposed to move quite quickly, but it seems that circumstances did not allow for it to happen that fast. Instead, the Jewish people would be destined for a journey of 40 years with a total of 42 encampments along the way!

God was sharing a message. There is a destination. However, before we arrive, we must often work life itself. Life – however contains within it the music and the dance! Here in this world – the Baal Shem Tov teaches us – we must work through 42 main encampments – each person on their own level. There are true growth points we move through before the destination. It is the markings of these points that makes the difference of life – before we consider the destination – which certainly exists for all of us. These points and focuses of life must be had – must be experienced, must be valued, just as God took the Jewish people through 42 journeys in the desert.

There is indeed always a destination for us to reach. We must be wise enough to know what it is (food? security? self-esteem? Or is it even something much greater?!) Meanwhile, as we progress through our journey, it is vital to hear the music. It is vital to experience the dance. Those pauses in life are what will make our lives worth something – as opposed to considering the destination only. The destination will be reached – because we are headed into that positive direction. Before we reach it however, we must be aware, that if we are to live life as if we are heading towards a destination (only), we will miss the music and we will miss the dance. We will miss those times of necessary encampment.

Sometimes it’s the notes being played that make up our lives and the beauty contained therein. At others times, it’s the spaces… in between.

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