What’s more important: traveling or stopping? Staying in one place or moving to another?
The parsha opens with “These are the journeys of the Children of Israel” – and then details all the places where the Children of Israel stopped during their 40 years in the desert. If what’s important is where they stopped, why does the Torah say, “These are the journeys of the Children of Israel” and not “These are the places where the Children of Israel stopped”?
The Baal Shem Tov explained that the main thing in life is the journey. A person should be “walking,” not “standing” – meaning, one has to keep moving forward all of the time.
He told his disciples that all the dozens of journeys detailed in this parshah exist also in each person’s life – from the day of his birth to the day he leaves this world. In every journey, one has to move upwards and learn something new.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t any downs on the way. The parshah reminds us of places in which positive things happened, like the giving of the Torah, and also places in which grave sins and crises occurred, but the main thing is to learn our lesson, grow, and move on as part of the big journey.
In the words of the Baal Shem Tov: “This is how the Torah wishes to show man the desirable way of life – a person has to always be journeying, in constant movement upward and forward.”
He explained that this principle is true in a person’s private life, as well as in the life of the entire nation. We must transform everything we go through – the light and the darkness – into a part of the journey on our way upwards.