Tanslation by Yehoshua Siskin
How do we gather the strength needed for our journey through life? “These are the journeys of the children of Israel who left the land of Egypt” is written in this week’s Torah portion, followed by a list of the 42 places where we camped during our desert journey. Some of the places have beautiful names such as Shefer (beauty) and Mitkah (sweetness) while others are named Haradah (fear) and Marah (bitterness). These are not names that previously existed. Instead, the children of Israel gave names to these places – according to their behavior and their spiritual status at each locale. In other words, each place received its name according to the people’s conduct while encamped there.
What’s the conclusion? You write the story of your journey through life. You choose whether to give pleasant or unpleasant names to the stations along the way.
Yesterday, I broadcast a report about a Chabad couple living in Bolivia. They left that quarantined country with their seven sons, among them a two-month-old baby boy. Due to the situation in Bolivia, he had not yet received a brit milah. They decided to travel to Israel to hold the brit, and this journey took four consecutive days of exhausting flights. This story is most appropriate for parashat Massei since, instead of crying and complaining, the parents made their kids part of an exciting journey, reminding them enthusiastically at each airport of the number of wonderful flights that remained. The kids did not stop singing and dancing at each stopover, in jubilant expectation of the brit that would soon be celebrated in Israel.
In the end, you really are the one who gives names to the stations where you stop during your journey through life.