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Life’s journey



I have recently returned from a memorable family trip to the United States. Spending time in a different country and city allowed me to reflect and gain valuable perspective. We were based in Brooklyn for much of our stay, and spent a few days exploring New York City with our kids. Here are some of my observations:

New York City had a mix of contrasts. On the one hand, it appeared filthy, with cracking roads and a noticeable presence of vagrants. Moreover, there was a pervasive stench of marijuana on almost every block. However, alongside these less appealing aspects, there was an undeniable vibrancy and confidence in the way people went about their lives. The city is also brimming with construction projects, embodying a sense of hope, purpose, and endless possibility.

This experience prompted me to contemplate the way we approach challenges in South Africa. Often, we tend to view every pothole or power outage as a message of doom. However, we have so much to be grateful for and proud of in our beautiful country. There’s also a great deal of hope and opportunity to contribute towards building a better society. Remembering this can have a significant influence on our life perspective and our commitment to our communities and society as a whole.

So, how can we maintain a positive attitude and perspective in the face of daily challenges? This Shabbat, we’ll read a double Torah portion called Matot-Masei, marking the conclusion of the fourth book of the Torah, Bamidbar. Within parshat Masei, we reflect on the 40-year journey of our ancestors through the desert, consisting of 42 individual journeys from Egypt to the land of Israel.

The Baal Shem Tov teaches that these journeys are reflected in our own lives. Each of us undergoes 42 stages in life, akin to a personal exodus, growth, and a quest to find our promised land. Interestingly, the parsha’s name, Masei, which means journeys, encompasses not only the actual journeys but also the detours and encampments along the way. This implies an important life lesson: all the ups and downs, achievements, and shattered expectations, progress, and setbacks are part of the journey, part of a greater plan. These experiences represent progress towards fulfilling our G-d-given purpose. Recognising this allows us to perceive challenges as opportunities, and directs our focus towards the positive aspects around us. It inspires us to seek ways to contribute to and transform the world so that it reflects its divine essence and inherent goodness in a revealed way.

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