Last Shabbos, we headed to the mountains to participate in a wonderful shabbaton with the ninth and tenth grades of Heichal HaTorah. The car was packed with linen, luggage, and half our children (the rest went to their grandparents).
We left early Friday afternoon just as a summer rainstorm began. The highway was congested, and traffic was moving slowly as rain pounded the car. That was when one of our children asked me, for the first time, “Are we almost there yet? What time are we getting there?”
I answered as patiently as I could by pointing to the time on display on Waze, which was open on the dashboard. But I decided to shut off Waze because I was familiar with the directions. A moment later I was asked again what time we would get there, and then again and then again. I must admit that my patience was sapped, and I reassured the questioner that we wouldn’t get there any faster as a result of questioning and badgering.
When driving somewhere, the point is to get to the destination. There are various ways we try to keep ourselves entertained or mentally busy while en route, but the main point is to sit in the car until you arrive at your destination.
But there are many journeys we undertake in life that aren’t just about arriving at the destination. In fact, in many instances the journey is the destination. This is surely true regarding personal and spiritual growth.
The tragic story of the spies is one of the great calamities in our early history. It was on the night of Tisha B’Av when our ancestors rejected Eretz Yisrael, foreshadowing that day as a time of pain and mourning.
But the truth is that only half the nation rejected the land. Rashi (Bamidbar 36:6) relates that the women had a greater love of the land than the men did. In fact, Kli Yakar writes that if only Moshe had sent women to spy out the land, the whole crisis would have been averted.
It’s hard to imagine that loving the land is gender based. What does it mean that women loved the land more than men?
At a graduation for the girls of the Yeshiva of Greater Washington, Rabbi Aharon Lopianksy suggested the following: Conquering Eretz Yisrael is an arduous and challenging process. The entire nation originally marched forth from Egypt full of excitement to enter the Promised Land. But when they realized the daunting challenges they would face and would need to traverse in order to conquer the land, the men lost heart. It wasn’t that they lacked love of the land per se. Rather, they were shortsighted and only saw the immediate challenges they would need to face.
The day after the spies gave their negative report, Moshe told the nation machar – tomorrow – turn back towards the Yam Suf. Their sin was rooted in their inability to see past the moment. They lacked a vision of tomorrow, of what would occur if they would be able to follow through and overcome the challenges.
Women, on the other hand, have a different temperament. A woman possesses a rechem – womb. Rechem has the same letters as machar. A woman carries a child for nine uncomfortable and sometimes painful months. She bears it all by remaining focused on the end result, the moment she will hold her newborn in her arms.
Women more naturally live with a sense of tomorrow. If the women had spied the land, they would have seen past the immediate challenges and would have been able to envision the future time when each person would “sit in security under his grapevine and under his fig tree.” (Melachim I 5:5)
I can personally relate to this concept. When we were doing construction on our kitchen a few years ago and my wife would discuss the plans with me, I honestly had no idea what she was talking about. I did my best to listen and try to understand but I couldn’t picture how things would look until it was actually done. I don’t have the ability to envision the final product based on raw plans. (I should add that I have gotten much better at this: Since the construction finished a few years ago, I have a perfect vision of what it looks like.)
Success in life is contingent on being able to see past immediate struggles and challenges. One must have a vision of what reaching one’s goals will look like in order to chart a plan to get there.
Part of the greatness of the Jewish people has been our ability to always see beyond our immediate challenges and to always maintain hope for better times.
During our trip to the mountains, we weren’t actually “there yet” until we pulled up at our destination. In life, however, wherever we are, we have in a sense arrived. We search for opportunities for growth in the moment, while at the same time continuing to hope and dream of greater times that are coming.