Saturday, July 10, 2010

An Uphill Struggle

Last week's portion, called "Journeys", reads, "And they journeyed to … and camped at … journeyed to … and camped at ….".

If they camped in all these locations, why didn't they name the portion - "Camps", instead of "Journeys"; After all, isn't the whole purpose of a journey to get to the camp? And, if there is a reason to stick with "Journeys", all those treks in the desert constituted a single journey, so why is the plural name "Journeys" so appropriate?

Torah, being infinite, eternal and forever relevant, offers us lessons to live by in every generation and for every day. Even habits that relate to Torah that accrue over long periods, such as naming conventions for the weekly portions, also assume significance.

On the surface, the simple text refers to the 42 journeys the Jews took to get to the Holy Land. But on a deeper level, the word "journeys" represents spiritual journeys a Jew must take in striving to get to his own holy station in life. A Jew must always climb from strength to strength to achieve as best he can self-actualization, whether it's improving one's character, increasing Torah learning, reducing idle chatter, guarding the eyes from inviting distraction, eating and drinking in moderation, praying with more fervor, being more benevolent, dealing more honestly, etc.

No matter what level a Jew finds himself, whether he's good or whether he's bad, he can and should garner his resources and progress to higher planes. The evil person must return to the fold incrementally. Even the righteous has room to improve, by teaching others or by refining his good behavior even more.

The point is, we need to continuously be on "journeys". We must not relax and believe we're perfect, with no more to attain; Nor must we feel spent or lose hope and believe we'll never reach the high road. The name "Camps", which connotes a final, stative destination, removes this dynamic aspect, and is therefore inappropriate.

It's like biking uphill; Stop pedaling and - you're going downhill.

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