With the holiday season upon us let me start by wishing you all safe travels, whether you’re going abroad or staying in the UK.

Our second parasha, this week, describes the journeys and encampments that the Israelites made during their 40 years in the desert, from Egypt to the Promised Land.

The list reads like a travelogue. The Baal Shem Tov (d. 1760) explains that it is so much more. It alludes to the journeys that all of us make from birth until we reach our promised land.

We all start with the Exodus. The Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, is related to the word, Metzarim or ‘narrow constraints.’ It alludes to the narrow passageway of our mother’s womb from which we emerge to begin our journey of life. We slowly become exposed to the wilderness of the world, to the confusion and turmoil that life imposes on each of us. As we continue to mature, we learn that life was never meant to be easy, but it was designed by our creator as a journey through a challenging and arduous desert, that could nonetheless lead us to our own Promised Land.

Although no two people live the same life, each of us, encounters in his or her way, singular experiences made up of particular physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual ingredients. These experiences correspond to the places where the Jewish people camped during their journey through the Sinai desert. They become part of our voyage to our own Promised Land.

All the circumstances we encounter, throughout our lives, at school and at uni, at home and in the workplace, in our relationships and in our careers, in our physical health and in our spiritual health – all these and more, are possible encampments on our journey. They can be utilized by us as a tool for emotional and spiritual growth and productivity, or, conversely, as a source to demoralize us, plunging us into despair. They can bring us closer to our inner Holy Land, or they can drive us from our spiritual destination.

Of course, we will always encounter setbacks. The challenge is how are we going to respond?

We pray that we will find the courage to help ourselves and help one another to travel the best journey and reach our ideal destination.