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Good Travels! -- Chronicle Online/The WORD 07/13/23

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah

July 13, 2023 24 Tammuz 5783 Matot-MaseiFor many people, the summer months are a time for traveling. From here in New Jersey, some take quick trips to the shore or New York City. Some choose to visit other continents. Still others prefer to enjoy sites and activities closer to home. What makes a good trip? Is it the distance traveled? Is it the company of fellow travelers? Is it what happens when you get to your destination? This week, we are reading the final Torah portion in the Book of Numbers, “Masei,” which is typically translated as “travels.” The Hebrew word comes from a root that means “pulling up stakes”—as in breaking down one’s tent before departing. God told Moses to record all the places the Israelites had stopped in their wanderings. However, Moses did not treat all the places exactly the same. Sometimes Moses just wrote down the place from which the Israelites started and the place where they stopped for the night. Other times, though, Moses recorded what they found there or what happened in a particular place. So, a place called Eilim was memorable because it had 12 springs and 70 palm trees. A place called Rephidim was memorable because the people complained about the lack of water (and Moses brought forth water from a rock). And then, a place called Mt. Hor was memorable because that is where Aaron died, and Elazar took over as High Priest. (See Numbers 33.) In truth, there’s no one right answer to the question, “what makes a good trip?” You can go someplace nearby—even someplace you’ve been before—and have an amazing time. You can travel far away to some exotic locale and end up having a terrible time. It seems to me that it takes a combination of factors to make a great and memorable trip. Just this morning, I was studying the sixth chapter of Tractate Berachot with my weekly Talmud class. It is the source for many of the blessings that we recite to this day. There are blessings that we recite when we see something beautiful or unusual. There are blessings that we recite when we meet someone important or influential. There are blessings that we recite when we eat or smell something wonderful. In other words, we are supposed to give thanks for interesting, beautiful, and wonderful things in the world—no matter how big or small. If you see a beautiful flower, say a blessing. If you see a royal motorcade driving by you, say a blessing. If you have an amazing dinner at a small local restaurant, say a blessing. If you get your kids to look up from their electronic devices and take in the scenery around them, say a blessing. These are the kinds of experiences that make a trip memorable. Our tradition challenges us to take note of these things when we encounter them—anywhere in the world. Inevitably, some trips are going to feel like we packed, we traveled, we unpacked, we repacked, and we came home. Those are like the legs of our ancestors’ journey mentioned with no detail in the Book of Numbers. However, if we are fortunate, no matter where we choose to go, we will encounter natural beauty, we will meet interesting people, and we will do memorable things. So wherever you go—near or far—be sure to take note of the details and give thanks for the blessings of a memorable trip. Nesi’ah Tovah—Good Travels! Shalom, RAF.

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