- Rabbi Yehoshua Weiss
פרשת מסעי - Parshas Masei
The Wandering Jew
Most of us are under the impression that the concept of the Jew of the Galut or as we say in Yiddush the דער גלות ייד began after the destruction of the Second Temple. Our nation was sent into exile to wander from country to country from foreign nation to foreign nation for 2000 years. We lost the privilege of remaining in the land of Israel because we lost the appreciation for our unique destiny that could only be fulfilled in the Land with the Temple.
However the beginning of this week's parsha describes the journeys of our nation throughout their forty year stay in the desert. If Hashem wanted to punish us for listening to the evil report of the spies forty years earlier, He could have accomplished this by preventing us from entering the land until that generation perished without causing us to wander from place to place.
"In fact our first Father was a wanderer."
The Torah actually makes a point of it לך לך מארצך וממולדך ומבית אביך. Hashem tells Abraham leave your land, your birthplace, the house of your father. This was a dangerous undertaking. One who left his family had no protection. Yehoshua conquered the land from thirty one powerful kings. How could a relatively small country have so many kings! They were tribal lords. You left your tribe you left your only protection. Jacob our Forefather ran away from his brother to Laban. He travelled all alone only to have his few possessions stolen from him from nephew Eliphaz Esau's son.
Apparently, the wandering Jew dates back to our origins. This forces us to ask a fundamental question. The Torah describes us as the "chosen nation" yet we lack the security and comfort of those around us. How does this make sense?
We often find Torah ideals as seemingly counter intuitive. We need to realize that Hashem's wisdom supersedes our own and His instruction is to give us the ultimate benefit because we are special to Him. Let's be honest. Does it really make sense that a wandering nation could survive 2000 years of exile, Anti-Semitism, persecution and most of all a Nazi genocide?
In truth, in between those years our nation has prospered greatly in proportion to our size and lived lives of happiness and fulfillment. We have been recognized and acclaimed in all walks of life. Our wanderings have exposed the world to our uniqueness of mind, body and soul. Our Abrahamic traditions have influenced many world religions especially Christianity and Islam. Most of all it has kept us mindful of the temporal nature of our existence in this life. Do not get too comfortable otherwise one may forget that there is something beyond.
A person does not hire a moving van to bring his household into an airport lounge.
He know he will be there for a short amount of time so he accepts sitting on a not to comfortable chair. In the same way, Hashem reminds us not to get too comfortable in this life because eternity is waiting.
One may ask: Why should I sacrifice the known for the unknown? First of all, is it such a sacrifice! Have our wanderings brought us such disaster! Most of us became more creative and successful by readjusting and more importantly were never lulled into spiritual stupor or take anything for granted. Ultimately we must face the most important question. Were we designed with greatness of mind and character just to indulge in the pleasures of this world? Animals may enjoy life more than humans. Cows do not need psychologists or psychiatrists. Sometimes dogs need it because they associate with humans. Isn't that strange!
Hashem designed the human condition, the subconscious, to realize the truth. Yes an animal can achieve true happiness in this world; a human cannot. His innate intelligence tells him not be satisfied with this alone search for more. He may sidetrack into travel, adventure, romance or alcohol but these things work short term. His true intelligence will eventually surface and sometimes only when it is too late.
Yes Hashem causes us to wander in this life so we will find security in our eternal life, our life to bask in the presence of his greatness to experience the ultimate and only true lasting pleasure.