Is the saying: “life is about the journey, not the destination”, denies the significance of destination? Does it encourages us to embrace the ‘anything goes’ attitude, and allowing ourselves to relax, and to be aimless?
All of humankind’s greatest wins happened when people prioritized their destination and did whatever it took to get there. Would we have invented the lightbulb had we subscribed to that philosophy? Our experiences and our failures are very important to our growth. But without a target, a plan or a goal, those experiences become meaningless.
In parashat Va’etchanan “and I pleaded,” Mosheh is speaking to the Israelites just before he dies and they are to enter the land of Israel, recalls the occasion on which he begged God to allow him to enter the land, and was denied. After everything he has done, he is denied the request to see the land to which he has been leading his people for the last forty years. True, there was that episode of the striking of the rock, was it really that bad to justify God’s refusal to let him enter the land? What about God’s forgiveness and mercy?
Mosheh describes the Exodus from Egypt and the Giving of the Torah, made arguments to obey the law, recounted setting up the Cities of Refuge, recited the Ten Commandments and the Shema, declaring the fundamentals of the Jewish faith: the unity of G‑d (“Hear O Israel: the L‑rd our G‑d, the L‑rd is one”); the mitzvot to love G‑d, to study His Torah, and to bind “these words” as tefillin on our arms and heads, and inscribe them in the mezuzot affixed on the doorposts of our homes. and gave instructions for the Israelites’ conquest of the Land.
שְׁמַע ׀ יִשְׂרָאֵל, יְיָ ׀ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ, יְיָ ׀ אֶחָדוְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת יְיָ ׀ אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ, בְּכָל ׀ לְבָבְךָ, וּבְכָל נַפְשְׁךָ, וּבְכָל מְאֹדֶֽךָ. וְהָיוּ הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵֽלֶּה, אֲשֶׁר ׀ אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם, עַל ׀ לְבָבֶֽךָ. וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶֽיךָ, וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם, בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶֽךָ, וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּֽרֶךְ, וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ, וּבְקוּמֶֽךָ. וּקְשַׁרְתָּם לְאוֹת ׀ עַל יָדֶֽךָ, וְהָיוּ לְטֹטָפֹת בֵּין ׀ עֵינֶֽיךָ. וּכְתַבְתָּם ׀ עַל מְזֻזוֹת בֵּיתֶֽךָ וּבִשְׁעָרֶֽיךָ
It is always read on the special Sabbath Shabbat Nachamu, the Sabbath immediately after Tisha B’Av. As the parashah describes how the Israelites would sin and be banished from the Land of Israel, Jews also read part of the parashah Deuteronomy 4:25–40 as the Torah reading for the morning (Shacharit) prayer service on Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the destruction of both the First Temple and Second Temple in Jerusalem.
12 Mitzvot in Parashat Vaetchanan
1. Not to desire another’s possession Deut. 5:18
2. To know that He is One Deut. 6:4
3. To love Him Deut. 6:5
4. To learn Torah Deut. 6:7
5. To say the Shema twice daily Deut. 6:7
6. To wear tefillin (phylacteries) on the head Deut. 6:8
7. To bind tefillin on the arm Deut. 6:8
8. To put a mezuzah on each door post Deut. 6:9
9. Not to test the prophet unduly Deut. 6:16
10. Not to make a covenant with idolaters Deut. 7:2
11. Not to show favor to them Deut. 7:2
12. Not to marry non-Jews Deut. 7:31.
What if life is a series of destinations? Can one be motivated if not facing forward to new possibilities, achievements and expanding into one’s own unmet potential?
Look at our life. Aren’t we always ‘on the way to somewhere’? always having another great distance to cross. Looking at the horizon where we hope to eventually be, and never at the ground beneath our feet. And thank God, it never ends. The path we took leads us to a hundred more, as the process of discovery is a life long.
Sometimes I wonder, is Life is about the destination? Is Life is about the journey? or is Life is about both, the destination and the journey? Is the Land of milk and honey is only a physical place or a spiritual one as well? As we’re striving, on a daily basis, to reach our own Promised Land. Kol Tuv