It is Just a Journey
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 frustrated 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.’” (Numbers 21, 4-5)
Rashi explains that in all other places in the Bible where it says that the people become frustrated (vatikzar nefesh in Hebrew), it immediately follows with the subject of their frustration. Rashi, therefore, explains that the object of their frustration was the bother of the journey itself. They were tired of traveling and felt incredibly frustrated by it.
The Midrash (Bamidbar 19,21) asks a question about the following verse, which refers to the Jewish people’s travels in the desert: “And You gave Your good spirit to make them understand, and You did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, and You gave them water for their thirst.” (Nechemiah 9,20) This verse implies that they were in good spirits during their travels in the desert, which is at odds with the Torah’s recording of their frustration with the bother of traveling? The Midrash answers that the members of the nation that were decreed to die in the desert because of the sin of the spies, were the ones who were frustrated and suffered from traveling in the desert. Meanwhile, the generation of people destined to enter the Promised Land were in good spirits and not frustrated or bothered by traveling in the desert.
The Midrash does not explain, however, the reason for the varying attitudes of these two groups of people. I would suggest the solution is a simple psychological principle. When you know a situation is only temporary, you approach the challenges of the situation with an accepting, constructive, and positive attitude. However, when you feel a situation is permanent, then the challenges become magnified in your mind, and you are no longer able to deal with them with a calm acceptance. The generation that would live out their lives in the desert, suffered terribly from the bother of traveling in the desert. The generation that knew their situation was temporary, encountered the challenges with a positive attitude and accepted that all this traveling was just part of the journey to the Promised Land.
To better negotiate life’s challenges, we need to deeply realize that our entire lives are simply a temporary journey to the everlasting afterlife. Our entire lives are a train ride to a wonderful destination. Let us internalize this message and, thereby, approach life’s challenges with a more positive and accepting attitude.