Is your life made up of a many disjointed pieces, or is there a continuum to it all? Are your choices being made by other people’s expectations of you and the circumstances around you, or do you feel that there is an underlying script beneath the surface of your life? Are you being torn in different directions by all types of forces demanding your time and attention, or do you determine what direction your life takes? Is your life a journey from one point to the next, leading to a destination, or is it a bunch of disconnected fragments?
Do you ever feel that your life is like a roller-coaster? With unexpected twists and turns, highs and lows? Sometimes you feel all motivated and enthusiastic; a moment later the inspiration dissipates. What is going on? Why can’t we find an equilibrium?
This week’s Torah portion – which closes book four of the Bible — consists of a combination of two chapters, Matos and Massei, Journeys. This chapter reviews in detail the forty two journeys that the Jewish people traveled on, from the moment they left Egypt, until they arrived (40 years later) to the Promised Land.
The Baal Shem Tov teaches that these forty-two journeys in the wilderness reflect the forty-two psycho-spiritual phases that each person experiences throughout life. “These are the journeys of the Israelites, who had left Egypt” on the way to the Promised Land: All the 42 journeys are about freeing ourselves and transcending the constraints and limitations (Mitzrayim) of our material existence which conceals the Divine, subduing and sublimating the harsh “wilderness” of selfish existence, and discovering the “Promised Land” – a life of harmony between body and soul.
This idea – that your life is a journey consisting of 42 steps – can literally transform your entire life. By examining the cycles of your life you can discover the 42 different phases you have experienced and will experience. Imagine being able to trace the steps of your life and connect the otherwise random dots – seeing how they all are part of one journey leading you to your promised land?
The definition of a journey is: Movement with direction. Like the captain of a ship, each of us needs a compass that allows us to navigate the twists and turns, the ups and downs, the swells and storms of our lives. By studying the 42 journeys in this week’s chapter, you can learn how to align your life, with all its ups and downs, to the compass of a higher rhythm, and create a strategy that rides and taps into these rhythms. It allows you to discover how to synchronize your life journeys to the Divine coordinates that “lead the footsteps of man.” It’s like having an inner compass that senses life’s internal tempo, being able to pace your outer movements by your inner rhythms.
When we feel that every detail of our lives – both the highs and the lows, both the trivial and the important experience – are part of a larger journey, it infuses life with a new exhilarating feeling; you wake up each day knowing that you are on another leg of your journey and that you can determine the trajectory of your own destiny.
Go here for a detailed breakdown of the 42 journeys, and see how they reflect in your life.