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.