The parashot for this Shabbat is Masei, and it reviews the wanderings of the people in the desert from the time they left Egypt to that moment. It is in B’midbar (Numbers) starting at Chapter 33.
Did the people really wander? According to Bing (not Crosby), wandering is:
“travel without destination: to move from place to place, either without a purpose or without a known destination.”
That certainly seems to be what they did. When the cloud above the Tent of Meeting stayed, they stayed. When the cloud lifted and travelled, they travelled. They didn’t know where they were going, or how long they would stay in any one place. And, miraculously, over a million people and millions of animals all had food and water in the desert. Not just for a day or a week, but for forty years.
But, again, let me ask: Did the people really wander? From a human perspective, yes, but from God’s perspective, no. I don’t think so. I think God was simply moving them in a pre-planned route which kept them going to where He had already prepared for their needs. From their perspective it was, “Oy! I just got the bathroom remodeled (dug a new hole) and now we have to move again!” but God knew where they were going and how long they would stay there.
Our daily lives are the same. Doesn’t it seem like we just go through the motions? Sometime it feels like years, and we don’t really know where we will end up. Many times we expect to stay, and then we have to move. We think this job is “The One” and the company goes under. We think this job stinks and we’ll be gone as soon as something better comes along, and we stay for 20 years.
In the Book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) the writer talks about how he can’t understand why things happen. He says that we should just enjoy what we produce, and what we have because it is all a gift from God. This is something along the lines of what I want to do in my life.
I don’t say never make plans, and I don’t want to just wander through life. Yet I know that the best thing I can do for myself is trust in God and let Him make the decisions. So, how do I plan my life and still let God direct me? I don’t know. I guess I will plan for what I would like to do and keep looking for the cloud, to see if I am wandering off the path instead of walking on it. Walk in faith, look for confirmation, and be prepared to change direction.
Hey- that sounds good! Let’s try to walk along the path instead of wandering off of it. Listen for God, look for the cloud, follow it and you won’t be wandering. And, if you aren’t hearing anything from God, well…listen more carefully.
I guess it boils down to the difference between walking and wandering is whether or not you believe that you are following God. If you are, you’re walking. If you aren’t, well, you’re really just wandering.