The Midrash asks why the Parsha opens with a recounting of all the places that the Jewish People stopped in the desert. After all, some of the stops are going to remind them of the darkest times along the journey. The places where the Jewish People lost faith and rebelled. Why dredge up tragedies like the golden calf and the ten spies, to name a few.
The Midrash answers this question with a story. A man took his son on a long journey to seek urgent medical care in a faraway land. Along the way, his son had many medical emergencies but always managed to recover enough to continue the journey. After they reached their destination the son was cured. On the way home, the overjoyed father points out to the son all the places where he experienced critical health issues.
Learning life’s lessons
One might wonder why the father felt the need to have his son relive all the trying times along the way. The point is, the father did not see these stops along the way as simply places where they experienced pain. Rather, places where challenges were overcome. Learning and growth was achieved. For the father who was overjoyed with the recovery of his son, this was simply his way of expressing his gratitude and instilling this value in his son.
The Midrash is suggesting that each of us can find gratitude when looking back at our own painful experiences and difficulties along our own journeys. When you assess the big picture you can see how each episode in your life was a learning opportunity and a stepping stone to your next challenge. The only way to arrive at one’s destination is to grow from the stumbles along the way.