Thursday, July 19, 2012

Parsha Perspective

Compiled by Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey

In the  closing Torah portions of Bamidbor [Numbers 30:2-36:13] - which we will be reading this Shabbos - are the words: "These are the journeys of the children of Israel…"

Forty-two encampments of the Israelite camp are then enumerated, documenting their travels from Egypt to the banks of the Jordan.

But why are these forty-two pit stops referred to as "journeys," rather than "encampments"? Didn't they serve primarily as places of rest, not just points of departure? And weren't each of these destinations milestones reached, not just locations left behind?

Herein lies one of Judaism's revolutionary teachings.

It's not the milestones we reach, but the stones we encounter along the mile, that define us, and make us who we are.

In other words: The journey itself is part of the destination.

Ironically, it's often the achievements placed under our belts that squeeze the air of progress out of us. And it's the honorary medals that hang around our necks that choke and stifle our growth.

Rather than define us, accomplishment can confine us.

A principal who was active in growing his Hebrew school's enrollment once wrote a very proud letter to the Rebbe  listing all of his successes.

The Rebbe responded. Between his blessings and remarks, he also added in one word: "Success?"

The principal was stunned! A short while later found him in the Rebbe's room for a private audience.

"What was the comment on my letter supposed to mean?" he asked the Rebbe.

The Rebbe gently asked him to define success. The Rebbe then asked him whether one can herald as a success having a few dozen children enrolled in a school—when there are so many more children who still are receiving no Jewish education.

"But I tripled the enrollment," the individual protested, "is that not considered success?"

The Rebbe explained to him, "Success means exerting effort and consists of the continued struggle to do what is right…"

Milestones often act as tombstones; both (can) bury away a life of vitality.

Success shouldn't be measured by how far we get in life, but by the depth of life we get.

 (Excerpts from Chabad.org by Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson )

 May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!

If you would like to dedicate the weekly Parsha Perspective in honor or memory of a person or occasion, please contact Rabbi Shusterman at yshusterman@chedermonsey.org.