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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Traveling Light

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

As a Rabbi and a Jew we have moved many times. In our family, we have it down to a science. We spend about a week packing up our home and the second week unpacking. The first week we take everything apart and the second week we put everything back together again. To be sure, moving is stressful and a bit disconcerting – my seforim have literally traveled around the world and back.

As I reviewed the Torah readings for these weeks I realized, however, that I have something in common with the Mishkan. The Tabernacle in the desert was portable. The People of Israel followed the Cloud of Glory. When the cloud stopped so did 3,000,000 or so men, women and children. They didn’t know if they would be in their new rest stop for a week, a month or a year. When G-d said “go!” – they went. When the cloud stopped the unpacking began. The tents started to rise, the community started to form, and the Holy Mishkan was put back together again. When the cloud of Glory started to move – every body started to pack up again and the Mishkan was folded up once again. Tens of times we packed and unpacked in the desert.

Not only was the Mishkan portable but so were the Jewish people. We were always ready and forever flexible. “According to the word of G-d we traveled and according to the word of G-d we encamped.”

These forty years in the desert created a spiritual genetic energy for the Jewish people. Since the Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem we are always ready for action. As settled as we felt in Spain, Poland, Turkey or Morocco, when G-d gave the word that it was time to move on, we packed up as much as we could carry and moved again. How do we have the strength? We have it from our forefathers that developed the ability to be flexible all the way at the beginning of our peoplehood.

With all the stress and uncertainty of moving there are some deep advantages to being portable. Besides for being flexible we are always renewed. It is so easy to get set in our ways and halt the process of growing. Every place we go presents new challenges that help us become greater human beings and servants of Hashem.

When it is time to move we start to think about what we own. Over the years we accumulate physical and spiritual baggage. As we accumulate we have to ask ourselves, ‘Do I really want to schlep that around with me wherever I go?’

And perhaps most important we meet new people. Our mandate in Golus is to raise the sparks that are sitting dormant all over the world. Reb Nachman of Breslav once instructed his Chasidim that although traveling, especially in those days, was wrought with danger, if an opportunity to take a trip comes up take it. ‘You never know,’ he said, ‘why G-d wants you to be at a certain place at a certain time.’

“According to the word of G-d we traveled and according to the word of G-d we encamped.”

May we merit the day that we are all settled together in our permanent home in Jerusalem with the Presence of Hashem blessing our dwellings.

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