I look forward to summer travel all year long. During the rest of the year, our family might grab a short weekend away or a quick holiday out of state, but it is these summer months, with their long sunlit days, that are the backdrop for memory-making adventures in places far away. Dreaming about those trips is what keeps me going through the cold, dark winter months.
But this summer is different.
Perhaps that is why, when I turned for inspiration to this week’s Torah portion, Masei—which translates literally to Journeys—my heart sank. Masei is a veritable travelogue of the people of Israel’s peripatetic peregrinations from one place to the next. Under normal circumstances, the section is, at most, innocuously boring, but this year, reading Masei was markedly painful. It felt like a slap in the face.
As I read it, all I could think about was our shelved plans to travel to Israel and visit some of the very cities named in Masei. And I know I am not alone in mourning the loss of summer travels, family vacations, and myriad other plans that did not materialize. But what if the Israelites’ journey, as recounted in this week’s portion, wasn’t all that different from the journey that we are all on in this moment? After all, wandering in the desert for forty years is not exactly a vacation in Hawaii.
In fact, the Israelites’ endless wanderings, fueled by the hope that they would, at some point, reach their promised land, might be precisely the metaphor that we all need this summer.
As for me and my family, we might not be traveling, but we are certainly on a journey—with each of us experiencing our own starts and stops along the way. Like the Israelites, we have cried out for help and done our share of complaining. Yet we carry on, without a clear view of any promised land in sight, inspired by knowing that when we arrive, we will have transformed in new and unexpected ways.
Over the past months, amidst the fog of uncertainty, disruption, and loss, I have seen and experienced so much to be inspired by, professionally and personally. Our world and our Jewish community have pulled off the work of years of innovation in the span of mere months. We have observed the adaptability and resilience of our children, the strength of our communities, and the courage of so many within our circles.
It is true that, this summer, many of us will not enjoy our longed-for adventures. But perhaps this is the year we learn that sometimes the most transformative journeys take place without traveling anywhere at all.
Dr. Julie Lieber
Chief Jewish Life & Engagement Officer
When your Bat Mitzvah in Israel moves into the backyard… you enjoy the little moments.