Stop and Go

rest stop.jpegSo we were on the way to S. Barbara a couple months ago and we were up to the fifth stop along the way (that’s what happens when you travel with four kids - thank G‑d!).
We were hardly making any progress. Every few minutes was another murmur (or holler J) I need the bathroom, I feel sick etc. etc. We were trying to make our way down the 101, but we were constantly stopping along the way.
Sometimes we stopped at nice rest stops along the highway. Other times it was at a rundown gas station way off the road; once it was even three miles into town, in a dusty village where the newest car on the road was from the 1980’s (I didn’t think that we were in the United states any more either…).
Finally after the many stops we made it to the Promised Land, in this case S. Barbara.
One thing that I noticed is that when it came to getting back onto the highway, we sometimes had to go back on ourselves in order to reach the entrance to the highway.
This reminds me of the theme of this week’s (double) Torah portion of Matos and Maasei. The word Maasei means journeys and in this portion we recap the forty two journeys that the Israelites traveled from the land of Egypt until they reached the border of the promised land of Israel.
The Baal Shem Tov taught that we each have our own personal land of Egypt - the dark and constraining space where we start out in life; and the land of Israel - the final destination of our life, when we reach our goals and achievements of making this world a better place and we enter the world to come - the promised land.
And in between we have the forty two journeys, or stops along the way. In order to get there, we have to grow step by step. And here is the powerful observation. If you look on a map to see the route that the Israelites took, not all the stops on the way were going towards the holy land! Sometimes the people were actually going backwards!
The Israelites are the model of how to go on a journey in life and how to go on the journey of life. In our personal life, sometimes as we progress on our own journey, we must take a rest stop, or we may have reached a plateau. Sometimes (hopefully only rarely) we may even feel that we are going backwards…
We should not lose hope. We are on the journey toward the destination. But every journey includes in it breaks and stops and even sometimes regression. It is all part of the process. It is all part of the divine plan.
There possibly is a mitzvah that you used to do, and for whatever reason you stopped doing it. ‘I used to do that for the kids, but now they are grown up…’ ‘I used to do that for my parents and now they are no longer here…’ ‘I used to do that in Hebrew school but I graduated a while ago…’ don’t let that regression define you. Now is the time to actively continue on the journey of growth and spirituality, one step at a time.
May we take full advantage of the pauses in our life, so that we can make a real go of the go parts.
Shabbat shalom