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Dealing with Setbacks on the Road

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

“They journeyed from Mount Hor by way of the Red Sea to circle the land of Edom, and the people became impatient because of the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in this desert, for there is no bread and no water, and we are disgusted with this rotten bread.” Bamidbar (21,4-5)

The Torah relates that after the passing of Aharon on Mount Hor, the Jewish people were commanded travel away from the Land of Israel in the direction of Egypt before their final journey to enter the Land of Israel. As a result of this travel ‘setback’ the people became impatient, frustrated and disheartened. The nation’s anger is projected towards Moses, and they accuse him of bringing them up from Egypt to die in the desert. God sends venomous snakes which attack and kill a great number of people. The nation recognize their rebellion against Moses and God and ask Moses help them stop the plague. The Torah described how God commands Moses to remove the plague from their midst.

The Torah records these events to teach us an important life lesson. We are all on a life journey to fulfill certain goals and aspirations. When everything is going according to plan and we seem to be moving in the ‘right’ direction we are naturally elated. However, as we all know, obstacles and challenges present themselves on our journey through life. We often have to take a few steps backwards before resuming our journey. We then have a choice. We can become angry, frustrated and disheartened and rebel against God for presenting us with these challenges or we could choose to embrace our challenges with faith, acceptance of what is, and resolve to overcome challenges and return to our life destinations.

For a person of faith, life’s challenges and setbacks are an opportunity to notice our tendency to become negative, complain and give up. The choice can then be made to strengthen our faith that somehow all life’s obstacles and challenges are divinely orchestrated for our ultimate good. Let us learn to embrace life’s road with all its twists, turns and setbacks. Perhaps that is life’s true goal and destination!