Enjoy the Ride
Matot-Masay (Numbers 30-36 )
This week's Torah portion describes in detail the 40-year journey of the Jewish people, from their escape from the slavery of Egypt, until they entered the Land of Israel that God gave them as an eternal gift. One thing we can learn from the fact that the Torah mentions each stop along the way is not to focus only on 'goals' and destinations as we 'journey' through life, but to enjoy and appreciate every moment of our lives.
In our story, a kid discovers that 'getting there' can be as much fun as 'being there.'
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
"When are we ever going to get there?" Josh cried out in frustration as the car wove its way along the winding mountain road. His parents were taking him and his sister, Emily, on a vacation to a resort hotel in the mountains - which was great, but what definitely wasn't great was the long, boring trip to get there!
"We must have been driving a zillion hours already! I can't take it any more!" he groaned, turning to Emily in the next seat. But his sister, who had her face pressed up against the window, didn't answer or even seem to hear him. In best brotherly fashion, he punched her in the arm to get her attention.
"Ow!" she turned around. "Why'd you do that?"
"I'm b-o-r-e-d, that's why. This trip is taking forever. I wish we could just push a button and get there already instead of wasting all this time!"
"Who said you have to waste it?" Emily asked, her usual cheerful smile returning to her face.
"Well, what else am I supposed to do?"
"How about enjoying it? We're on vacation, after all."
Josh rolled his eyes. "Wrong! We are going on vacation. Once we get to the hotel, the lake, the speedboats, the sauna … then, we'll be on vacation."
Certain he had made his point, Josh folded his arms smugly across his chest. But Emily just gave him one of her patented crinkle-nosed head shakes that meant she thought he was out to lunch.
"Listen, mister, maybe your vacation isn't going to start for another two-and-a-half hours when we get to the hotel, but mine started the minute we got into the car, if not earlier. Why wait until we get somewhere to enjoy ourselves, when there's so much to enjoy along the way?"
"What on earth are you talking about?"
She laughed. "For one thing, just look out that window. Have you ever seen more gorgeous or interesting scenery?"
Josh, who hadn't bothered looking out the window except to try to occasionally read the signs saying how many more miles they had to go, reluctantly followed Emily's pointing finger.
"See how tall and thick the trees are here compared to home?" she asked "And how the license plates on most of the cars are bigger than ours and a different color?"
"I guess it's kinda interesting," nodded Josh "but what does any of that have to do with being on vacation?" As they were talking, the car started to slow down, then pull into the rest stop on the side of the road.
"Oh, no!" the boy sighed. "Another rest stop? That means even more wasted time until we get there!"
He noticed Emily's eyes lit up - almost like she was happy about the whole thing.
"Come on, Josh" she grinned. "Let's go enjoy the next part of our vacation."
After getting their parents' nod of approval, with nothing better to do, Josh followed her to the tourist information desk, where there was a candy machine and various brochures and maps were neatly laid out on a counter in front of a big poster of the out-of-state symbol.
"The maps and stuff are free. Y'all can help yerselves," the woman behind the counter said.
"Isn't this interesting, Josh? I've never seen any of these brands of candy before, have you? And," she added with a whisper "did you notice that lady's accent?"
Josh, who was starting to enjoy himself, grabbed a couple of maps. He liked deciphering maps and figured he could check them out back in the car.
"Okay, guys, hop into the car and we're on our way," their dad said. "Mom and I certainly hope you're going to enjoy your vacation."
Josh looked at Emily and smiled. Thanks to her, he already was.
Q. How did Josh feel about the ride to the hotel at first?
A. He was bored and thought the only thing that mattered was getting there.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. His sister helped him to see that he could even enjoy himself along the way.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Josh learned that day?
A. He had thought that all that counted was something's goal or end-point and everything else was just wasted time. But he discovered that while goals are valuable, there is plenty to enjoy and appreciate along the way.
Q. Do you think a person could always find something to enjoy or appreciate in his life? Why or why not?
A. While there are some extreme situations that would require super-human effort to enjoy, the overwhelming majority of life's events and experiences are packed with potential for interest and enjoyment - we just have to search it out.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Life has been described as a 'journey, ' what does that idea mean to you?
A. One idea is that we have been put in this world to grow personally and develop our character and, as such, our life is a journey toward that end. In a deeper sense, Jewish sages and mystics teach that our life in this world is just a temporary part of a journey to a world of everlasting spiritual ecstasy. The written and oral Torah is a map of how to navigate that journey successfully.
Q. Based on the above, does that mean we should ignore the world in front of us, since it isn't the end-point or goal?
A. Not at all. God wants us to enjoy this world; he gave it to us as a gift. However, He wants us to stay focused, not to harm others, and realize that the 'paths' we choose in this world, to the extent that we live in a meaningful and ethical way, will determine how easily we will arrive at our journey's destination.