> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > Seize the Moment

Cloudy Vision

Be'halot'cha (Numbers 8-12 )

by Rabbi Jared Viders

1984. Hollywood introduces the latest "underdog" to American pop culture -- Daniel LaRusso, a/k/a the "Karate Kid," who overcomes the odds, refuses to be bullied and goes on to win the Under-18 All-Valley Karate Tournament via the rarely seen and virtually indefensible "Crane kick".

One of the film's more memorial scenes depicts a dialog between a disgruntled LaRusso and his sage karate instructor, the stoic (yet loveable) Mr. Miyagi. Daniel laments the fact that he hasn't learned a lick of martial arts; but rather has been duped into performing an endless number of domestic chores his purported trainer.

"I've been working for four days and haven't learned anything," Daniel protests.

"You learned plenty," Miyagi responds unfazed.

"Yeah... I learned out to paint your fence, sand your deck, wax your car ... that's what I learned."

"Not everything is as seems."

When LaRusso storms out, Miyagi calls him back. "Daniel-son ... show me 'sand the floor...'" Slowly, Daniel begins to realize that the seemingly mindless domestic chore was, in reality, teaching him a crucial move in the art of self-defense.

"Now show me wax-on, wax-off..."

"Show me paint the fence..."

"Show me paint the house - side to side..."

Sure enough, Miyagi launches a barrage of karate chops, jabs and kicks all of which LaRusso fends off with his newly-discovered "skill set" all of which accrued from Miyagi's veiled coaching techniques. What appeared to be pointless burdens were, with hindsight, appreciated as priceless acquisitions of sought-after talents.

* * *

"And sometimes the cloud would remain from evening until morning, and the cloud would be lifted in the morning and they would journey; or for a day and a night, and the cloud would be lifted and they would journey. Or for two days, or a month ... when the cloud would linger ... the Children of Israel would encamp ... but when it was lifted they would journey. According to the word of Hashem would they encamp and according to the word of Hashem they would journey ..." (Bamidbar 9:21)

Rashi (10:28): These are the journeys: This is the seder (order or arrangement) to their journeys."

The Jewish people's sojourn in the wilderness was no walk in the park. It was an arduous and circuitous odyssey encompassing dozens of stops-and-starts along the way. As the Ramban elaborates, the sequence of check-ins and check-outs seemingly left much to be desired. There were four-star destinations where they alighted for a mere cup of coffee before getting back on the road. Meanwhile, there were desolate and harsh destinations where they remained for months on end.

Lest one think that these voyages were the end-result of a haywire-GPS, a lousy sense of direction or some other combination of random geo-political forces, perish the thought. To the contrary, God ushered His beloved nation through thick and thin. Each encampment - be it desirable or quite the contrary, be it a prompt overnight or a protracted stay - was deliberate, purposeful and ultimately designed to instill some lesson or awareness that was essential to the development of the Jewish nation.

Similarly, our lives each present their own personal Divine TripTik. We experience stretches of success and endure periods of disappointment; relish seasons of contentedness and brood through eras of confusion. Through all these steps, our service is to sincerely follow and embrace the twists and turns that God has in store for us. Not just the destinations but the journey as well. Not just the triumphs and attendant satisfaction, but the challenges and the attendant struggles and even the defeats and the attendant disappointments.

When we commit ourselves to an outlook of life whereby we are prepared, whole-heartedly to "journey and encamp according to the word of God," then we can life more fully with the innate sense that we are exactly where we are meant to me and there is a real purpose to our being there. Undoubtedly, there are lessons to be gleaned and growth to be accomplished as we press on, confidently, knowing that "not all is as seems to be."

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