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Masay(Numbers 33-36)

Appreciating Our Challenges

This parsha recaps the journeys of the Jewish people in the desert. There is nothing we do not already know, and so Rashi, the preeminent Torah commentator, quotes a parable from the Oral Tradition to explain why the Torah is writing about the Jewish journeys:

A king took his very ill son on a long and arduous journey to the only doctor who may be able to cure him. He overcame many obstacles and challenges along the way, but finally reached the doctor who was able to cure his son.

Since the son had been delirious during the trip to the doctor, the king returned the same way that he had come, and at each point stopped to tell his son what had happened there: Here we rested; here we were cold; here you became ill, etc.

So too, in this week's parsha, God is reminiscing, so to speak with the Jewish people about the past 40 years in the desert. Just as each aspect of the king's journey was necessary to get the son to the doctor and bring about a healing, so too, whatever happened in the desert, for better or for worse, had molded the Jewish people into a nation that was ready to enter the Land of Israel and fulfill their destiny of becoming a light to all nations.

I think the point is as follows: Life is a journey. We will all face challenges in good measure. And when we are going through those difficult times, it can be hard to appreciate their importance and their value. We become caught up in the frustration of the moment and don't understand why the hardship is necessary. But with hindsight, everything always looks very different. While in the moment, it may be hard to see why something is necessary, looking back always brings great perspective.

It's never easy to understand why we need to go through certain experiences while we are going through them. But almost every time, when we look back after enough time, we can gain an understanding of their place and purpose.

Every now and then, it is worthwhile to think back at the journeys of our past few years and appreciate how everything has led us to where we have needed to go. God always has plans, and those plans are always good. When we look back into the journey of our past, we are able to see how those plans have developed, and feel an appreciation to God for having brought us to where we are today.

Talking from experience, the period before and after my first wife passed away from cancer was incredibly challenging, difficult and painful. But looking back over the years, while my children and I miss her immensely, we can nevertheless see that the experience has shaped who we are today, and in most ways it has shaped us all for the better.

Published: July 20, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 6

(6) Leah, July 22, 2012 3:32 AM

The strength to grow in times of tragedy is not always understood

If experiences in life are concluded by the rise or fall of emotions how then can shalom enter our thoughts? While pain and anger are part of the healing process if we never move beyond our emotions then we become a slave to emotions and the hope of a new day really never dawns. My own experiences with abuse, death, and tragedy have lead me to understand life is only fulfilling when I have hope. Therefore, finding opportunity to re-evaluate how I handled past situations and being humble enough to change gives me hope. And while we cannot understand God´s plan in tragic events, we can recognize and focus on the goodness of others. Simplly stated, when we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change and renewed life is found.

(5) Michal, July 19, 2012 8:10 AM

No, I cannot see, that bad things are good, while time passed.

Rabbi Rosenblatt, I find it hard to read: "...in most ways it has shaped us all for the better." That sounds in my ears as if you said:"Good, that she died." You can't really mean that, can you? I lost my mother when I was two. Later, my father married again. My stepmother could never love him really. We three children saw it. Nevertheless my religious father nearly every morning thanked God, that things were wonderful the way they are. I - as a little girl - understood: "God I thank you for the death of my first wife." He did not say that of course. But now as I am old, it still makes me feel bad. Like your sentence"...shaped us for the better." Bad is bad. Period. I mean we can only accept bad things from Hashems Hands, knowing He one day will explain us, why it was good, and in which way. And in the meanwhile I can only try, to get nearer to him and have more understanding for people who suffer in this way or another. I always think of the holocaust. Never will I say that something good came out of it. It was something bad. For the explanations I will have to wait, until I die. And I wonder, how the miracle happens, that I love Him and feel loved by Him.

(4) Andy, August 1, 2008 7:58 AM

evidence does not seem to support your premise

" But looking back over the years, while my children and I miss her immensely, we can nevertheless see that the experience has shaped who we are today, and in most ways it has shaped us all for the better."

there are some survivors who feel this way and many who do not. the mental health institutions are filled with many who do not as are the jails. countless abused people do not recover and abuse others. it seems to me that evidence is lacking to come to the conclusion that painful challenges are always or even usually for the best. that is something I think one needs to take on faith if one accepts it as true.




(3) Celoia Leal, July 27, 2008 8:40 PM

Appreciating our Challenges

Rabbi Rosenblatt:
Thank you so much for your inspiring commentary. I have found myself thinking many times, for the past several years, about how events have had a special meaning according to God´s design. You made clear the connection of God´s inextricable ways or will and our enduring attitude facing challenges.
I believe it is easier, to a certain extent, to understand pain and wounds which may occur to us as individuals, although we may suffer, than to understand universal tragedies and natural disasters. I believe I need to come to terms with the prospect or idea of God´s letting our world and innocent people go through suffering.

Thank you so much for your views: they are an enlightening model for us to follow. Shalom!

(2) Yisraela, July 27, 2008 11:10 AM

My life was very difficult from the beginning as there was much abuse. But I have found that I can be thankful for even this. I learned from an early age that HaShem is the One who sustains me, protects me, guards my soul, and taught me even in the womb. Though what was happening to me was horrendous, there developed this depth and love of HaShem. It is like finding a spring of water in the desert. Because of the darkness, I grew to know the importance of the Light and the Truth. And as an adult I know all that matters is HaShem and doing His will with love and devotion.

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