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Home » B'Ha'alotcha

B’Ha’alotcha: The Grand Design

Submitted by on June 11, 2006 – 11:56 amNo Comment | 5,785 views

A Missed Flight

Several days after my son’s circumcision, my wife and I went to visit the Mohel (Rabbi who performs circumcisions), who told us a remarkable tale of divine providence. He was once asked to perform a ritual circumcision in Lake Taho, to which he was required to travel by airplane. He made the reservation, arrived at the airport, checked in and boarded the plane.

As the plane taxied down the runway, the flight attendant announced the flight details and, to his consternation, the rabbi realized that he was on the wrong plane. He was, however, comforted by the thought that there would still be enough time to catch a return plane and arrive to Lake Taho on time.

Entering the terminal in Phoenix, he was joyously greeted by a stranger who welcomed him to Phoenix for the circumcision. It turned out that a Jewish family in Phoenix had scheduled a circumcision for that very day and were in the airport awaiting a different rabbi whose time and expertise they had reserved for the occasion.

Needless to say, the other rabbi never arrived and my rabbi performed two circumcisions that day, one in Phoenix the other in Lake Taho.

Purposeful Strides

Despite the novelty of this story, miracles such as this one are hardly rare occurrences. Miracles of this magnitude occur countless times every day, although we are usually unaware of them. We often find ourselves in unexpected locations, ostensibly victims of circumstance. We feel frustrated when carefully laid plans are foiled due to circumstances beyond our control. (1)

A Jew must always remember that the “Strides of man are determined by G-d.” We are all part of the grand design. There is always a purpose to our wanderings although we may not always be privileged to discover the nature of that purpose. (2)

Journeys and Sojourns

Our ancestors had ample opportunity to exercise this faith in G-d as they wandered the desert for forty years.the grand design The Torah teaches that the length of their individual journeys as well as the length of their sojourns at camp were determined by G-d as communicated through the cloud of glory. (3)

When the cloud spread over the Jewish camp, our ancestors understood that it was time to make camp, and when it reshaped itself into a long, narrow beam, they knew that G-d wished for them to resume travel.

The cloud did not always accommodate our ancestors’ need for physical comfort. At times the cloud instructed that they make camp on inhospitable ground and at times the cloud led them to beautiful and luxurious locations. At times the cloud asked them to stay for long periods and at times the cloud asked them to move before they were fully rested

There were times when the cloud permitted only one night of rest, denying them even the opportunity to unpack. Worse yet, at times the cloud permitted a twenty-four hour sojourn, allowing just enough time to unpack and pitch tents only to take them down immediately and repack.

The Torah testifies that in every instant our ancestors willingly and joyfully followed the cloud’s instruction. They did not seek personal comfort nor did they attempt to decipher the divine strategy. They simply followed the path and the schedule ordained from above with perfect faith in G-d’s unstated purpose. (4)

A Mystical Journey

The cloud was often unaccommodating but not without reason. In determining the direction and length of the journeys, the cloud concerned itself not with creature comforts but with the divine master plan.

The precise location of every journey and sojourn that our ancestors made in their trek across the desert was predetermined at the moment of creation. At creation, G-d embedded sparks of divinity within the world and spread them across the globe. These sparks were not equally distributed. Some locations were invested with more sparks than others and some sparks were embedded deeper than others.

The sparks were destined to lie dormant until such time as a Jew would perform a Mitzvah in the precise location of a particular spark and thus redeem it. The number of sparks in a particular location and the degree to which they are embedded determine the number of Mitzvahs required to render that location spark free.

This was the mystical purpose of our ancestors’ forty-year march across the dessert. As our ancestors traveled, they gathered up the embedded sparks through their offerings and devotion. Some locations contained few sparks, which could be easily gathered in mere passage. Other locations contained more sparks, which required at least a brief sojourn. Other locations contained many sparks, which required a rather lengthy stay. (5)

Dancing to Divine Music

Our ancestors considered the divine goal ahead of personal preference and physical comfort. We too must remember that we are part of the grand design and that our life experience is choreographed by the divine for reasons known to him. Faced by seeming serendipity, in places and times not of our choosing, we must seek out Torah opportunities that would not have been available to us at home.

We must find charities to support that would never have been available to us at home. We must seek out a Jew, whom we would have never met at home, and help him or her perform a Mitzvah. In short, we must look for Mitzvah opportunities that are unique to this location and thus redeem its sparks of divinity. (6) (7)


  1. The Talmud expounds upon the verse, “I thank thee, G-d, for you have stricken me,” (Isaiah 10) in the following manner. A man misses his boat and curses in frustration. He discovers that the boat capsizes and then praises G-d in joy. (Bab. Talmud Nidah 31a) A similar but more contemporary story occurred to Prime Minister of Israel, Mr. Ariel Sharon, who visited with the famed Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M Schneerson, many years ago. Upon hearing of Mr. Sharon’s plans for an imminent return to Israel, the Rebbe begged him to extend his stay for one day. Mr. Sharon was inclined to refuse but acquiesced when the Rebbe insisted. He was later amazed to discover that the plane on which he was first scheduled to fly was hijacked by Palestinian Terrorists. For more detail on this concept see Derech Hachayim section II ch. I.

  2. Psalms 37; 23.

  3. Numbers 9; 15-23.

  4. See commentary of Ramban, ibid. (Nachmanides, R. Moshe Ben Nachman, Spain 1194-1270) R. Ovadya Seforno, ibid. (R. Ovadia Seforno, Italy, 1470-1550)

  5. This is also the mystical purpose of the current widespread diaspora of Jewish communities throughout the world.

  6. See commentary of Orach Chayim Numbers 9; 21. (R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto of Padua Italy 1707 – 1746)

  7. The descriptions of our ancestors’ journey is found in the Torah immediately following the description of Pesach Sheni – the Second Passover. (8) Inherent in the Pascal lamb offering is the meditation that a Jew is metaphorically compared to a sheep and G-d to a shepherd. Just as a sheep is fully obedient to its shepherd, responding to instruction and following his lead even if it is not fully aware of the shepherd’s overall purpose and goal, so must a Jew subordinate mind and heart to the divine shepherd even if he or she is not fully aware of the divine purpose and goal. It is therefore fitting that the very first verse after the Pascal instructions describes our ancestors’ obedience to divine direction as G-d shepherded them across an uncultivated desert. For more detail see commentary of R. Samson Raphael Hirsh to Numbers 9; 15. (R. Samson Raphael Hirsch, Frankfurt -1808-1888)

  8. Numbers 9; 9. Those who were ritually unclean at the time of the Pascal Lamb offering asked Moses to permit them a second opportunity to bring the Pascal offering. G-d instructed Moses to establish a second Passover for those who were unable to offer the Pascal Lamb the first time. The second Passover is scheduled for the fourteenth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, thirty days after the conventional Passover.

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