The Book of Bamidbar, The Journey, and Yom Yerushalayim
The way is long and winding … The journey fraught with danger, challenges, obstacles, and potential … And the process is yet unfolding …
The Journey The Book of Bamidbar is about the journey and the process, not the destination. The journey called Bamidbar takes place in a setting of imperfection. Of wrestling with the lackings of youth, with struggles, and with the opportunity to grow and actualize potential. This book is about the ongoing, ever-present reality that is the basic nature of life: struggle, ordeal, striving, and the desire for completion and respite.
Each of us longs for shlaymut; for fully developing, refining and actualizing our abilities, capabilities, and character; for rising to the unique challenges that define our lives, and expressing the absolute best of who we are, and who we can be. Indeed, inside, our souls are deeply connected to the loftiest, purest perfection; the perfection that is none other than God’s perfection. It’s because deep down we are profoundly connected to ultimate shlaymut, that we so long to manifest that perfection, and to draw it out in any way we can.
At the same time, it’s our longing and striving that can actually undermine our path to success. In the pursuit our our deepest dreams, and our deepest selves, we can run into our most daunting obstacles. We need to be mindful, because the very fact that we want it so badly, can be the source of debilitating disappointment. We need to be mindful that we are in the midst of a journey, a process. Because when we understand that we are traveling and striving towards a goal and a destination, then we understand that intrinsic to that process are pitfalls, setbacks, and the highs and lows of life, of the bamidbar journey. We understand that what’s required is enormous effort, commitment, and perseverance. We need to understand that we’re on our way home, though not yet at home. To think and hope that we’re home when we’re not, is to invite frustration, disappointment and disaster. To know that we are still on the way, is how we pave the way, home; home to our ultimate destination, home to our fullest selves. Home to all we—all Am Yisroel—can be. Home to Yerusholayim.
Between I and Me
The core work of a person in this world is between I, and me. It’s the work we do within ourselves, to become our best, fullest selves. Preparing oneself for the challenges of life is like donning the proper clothing for whatever the weather may be. The weather is the ever changing vicissitudes of life. The clothing is the internal preparations we make to confront those storms.
A key, perhaps the key, to successfully toiling in the trenches of life, is to know that we were born to toil; which means, born to exert effort after effort after effort, day after day, and challenge after challenge, because therein lies the path to accessing and revealing our greatest inner strengths, abilities, and transcendent potential.
And the opposite is also clearly true. To live under the assumption and desire that the goal of life is tranquility; to think that our path in life must be a path that culminates in ease and comfort—in spiritual retirement—is to live in the grips of an illusion that will guarantee nothing other than unending frustration, squelched capabilities, and tragically wasted potential.
Our Era: Between We and Us
The same is true for our collective nation, for Am Yisrael.
Our people was ready to exert remarkable, nature-defying efforts, to return and rebuild our homeland. When it was suddenly clear that we were in fact on our way; when we realized that the story of our people wasn’t a dead end in galut, but was a living, dramatic, unfolding saga of two millennia, there was nothing we weren’t prepared to do. Nothing we couldn’t do. No effort and sacrifice that was beyond contemplation, and that didn’t find the source of it’s realization deep within our core, our holy essence.
And here we are today, living in the midst of an accomplishment that defied logic, and defies belief: Yet, it’s the reality we are blessed to live. But still, a question remains. A question that churns within us. Have we arrived? Is it time to rest, to be satisfied, to seek respite? Or are we still b’derech, still on our way? Is there still a long way to go? Many more obstacles to overcome. So much to yet discover within ourselves—each of us—and all of us, together: A nation, a people, an Am; still striving and struggling, still becoming and unfolding, still falling and getting up again, and again and again.
The Desert Vision, the Bamidbar Way, and Jerusalem
We need to know: The vision and the promise is grand, stunning, and beautiful. And we still have one foot in the desert, though in fact, the other foot has already crossed the border. The border of the land, and the city. And we stand at the foot of the mount. With more territory to cross. Inner territory. Within our collective neshama; the neshama that is the deepest essence of all of us. The us that first stepped foot in the desert, and the us that today—through a blindingly remarkable feat of spirit and determination—is once again home in Yerusholayim.
Yerusholayim the not quite yet shleima. The Yerusholayim that calls us to yearn and push and strive yet again. Drawing, again, on our other-worldly, no longer so hidden, inner strength of spirit that, as always, is rooted in aiyn sof: In the holy source of everything we are.
Bamidbar. Then. The still unfolding journey. Now. In Jerusalem. Today.
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Translated by Shimon Apisdorf