Parsha Maasai: The secret to happiness
By DAVID MOELLER
This week’s Torah portion opens with “These are the journeys of the Children of Israel” and proceeds to enumerate every travel station, however long or short the stay there, from the time the Jews left Egypt until their current position – at the threshold of entering the Promised Land, the land of Israel. The Sages tell us that the Torah is not a ‘story book’ and that each word in the Torah is a precious gem. So, why does the Torah mention every single stop the Jews made from Egypt to Israel? Is it really necessary to go into such detail?
There is a fundamental life lesson to be learned here, for which we need to strive. We all need goals in our lives. But as we work towards a goal, do we only ‘win’ when we reach the finish line? Or, is there ‘winning’ taking place far before we ever make it there? Is the purpose of life just to achieve long-term goals, or to learn and grow from the process of life?
The Torah, this week, teaches us a powerful insight into life – that while our purpose in life is to accomplish our goals and to attain ever greater heights, we are advised to enjoy the journey, to enjoy the entire process of growing. In fact, it is precisely the journey that we get credit for. The Torah mentions every twist and turn along their journey from Egypt to Israel – analogous to the twists and turns in our lives – to teach us this powerful lesson, that along the way we need to appreciate the journey, grow through every experience, good or otherwise, and continue to forge forward, enjoying every precious minute of every precious day.
G-d credits us for our efforts. The time and effort we put it along the way for the sake of growing spiritually is always rewarded, regardless of results.
What is our reward? Certainly the main reward will be in the World to Come, but there is real reward this world as well. When we understand the concept of enjoying the journey and learning and growing from the process, we can be happy even while pursuing goals, because every moment spent doing the right thing brings joy. So we feel fulfilled way before reaching the finish line!
This is the secret to true happiness – enjoying the journey – living in the moment, learning and growing along the way, feeling good about living a good, honest life. That is what the Torah is conveying to us. Every station in life, every moment in life, is significant and can bring fulfillment.
As our brothers and sisters in Israel toil in battle to protect the people of Israel, we know that they are being rewarded for every step, every courageous action they take. It is our fervent prayer that they all return home soon, in peace and happiness.
David Moller is a Rabbinic Fellow at the Kollel Ayshel Avraham Rabbinical Seminary.