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Home » Life Is Beautiful, Mase'ei

Masei: The Journey of Life

Submitted by on July 22, 2011 – 5:45 pmNo Comment | 2,935 views

It’s What We Bring Home That Counts

Life is a journey with stations along the way, some more comfortable than others. It is when we settle in to the comfort of those stations that we often forget we are in mid journey.

G-d placed us on earth for a purpose. He brought our souls down from on high and when our journey is complete He will return our souls to that celestial place. During this journey our souls are meant to accomplish something – something it can bring back to its heavenly home.

This accomplishment cannot possibly be measurable in temporal terms because those achievements don’t make the return trip with us.

Three Friends

An old parable teaches that the human has three friends and it is only at our funeral that we can truly appreciate which among them are most important.

The first friend doesn’t bother with attendance at our funerals. The second attends the funeral, but stops at the grave and goes no further. The third accompanies us on the last leg of our journey and is at our side when we return to our heavenly abode.

By now I am sure you imagine that the first of these three sets are our material accomplishments, our homes, cars, bank accounts, wardrobes and estate. These things serve us in this life, but don’t come with us when we depart. They don’t come to the cemetery to bid us farewell. Instead they stay behind and serve their new masters.

The second of these friends are out family and close friends. These are the people we have touched and who have touched us during the course of our lives. These people love us and accompany us on our final journey, but they cannot go beyond the grave. This is where we part company. We go to heaven and our loved ones remain behind.

The only friends that truly stay with us are our good deeds. The charity we gave, the favors we offered, the efforts we made and  the Mitzvot we performed stand us in good stead when we return to our heavenly abode.


Yet in life we spend far more time and expend much more energy in amassing the first category of friend and far less time and effort on the second  and third. This is because we forget we are on a journey. We become so comfortable with our particular station in life that we grow myopic and see only our needs and interests in our current station.the journey of life - innerstream

Suppose you were traveling to visit your mother and stopped overnight at a beautiful hotel overlooking a picturesque lake with a perfect view of the sunset. You are so enchanted by the location that you decide to stay another day.  A day becomes a week and before long you rent an apartment, get a job, build a home and settle in this roadside location by the lake.

You are indeed most comfortable in this location, but one day your mother calls and asks why you never arrived for your visit. At that point you finally realize that you got carried away. You took one day too many on your stop and forgot you were on your way to your mother.

Stations In Life

Life has many stations. Childhood, adulthood, parenthood and grandparenthood, each with its own set of joys, challenges and responsibilities. But the common thread is that they are mere stations on the journey between birth and death. The wise one remembers the journey and refuses to get carried away by each station’s allure.

The wise one remembers that the reason we stopped at any particular station is to gather a field of Mitzvot, not available to us at any of life’s other stations. We can serve G-d as adults in ways that are not possible for children and vice versa. We don’t arrive to parenthood because we crave the joys of raising children, we become parents to serve G-d in a new way. These forms of service accumulate through the course of life and ultimately coalesce to become the sum total of our achievement. This total is brought along to our final destination when we present our offering to G-d.

A Name

This kind of forgetfulness never occurred to our ancestors as they journeyed from Egypt to Israel. Though they spent forty years traveling across the desert and though they made camp at certain stations for extended periods they never took their eyes off the goal, they always remembered that their wanderings were, but a means to an end. Even when stationed in one place for twenty-one years, they continued to see themselves en-route. In their minds they were constantly and always on the road.

This is why the name of the Torah portion that describes the forty-two places in which our ancestors made camp in the desert, is Masei, Hebrew for journeys. (1) It is not called stations, settlements or camps because in their minds they were never settled, not until they arrived to their final destination, which in their case was the land of Israel. It was a constant journey and they were constantly en-route.

We too are en-route.  The luxuries, pleasures and joys of the journey are not important. That we arrive at our destination, enriched by our journey, is.

A Story

The story is told of a wealthy merchant traveling through the town of Mezritch. Not having arranged lodgings for the evening the man accepted an invitation from the famed Maggid of Mezritch. Appalled by the terrible poverty he saw in the Maggid’s home, he asked how the Maggid could live this way. The Maggid exclaimed, “Why I have more than you, if I hadn’t invited you tonight, you wouldn’t even have a roof over your head.” The traveler replied that at home he had a beautiful and well appointed residence, but here was merely en-route, where he could make do with less.

The Maggid’s reply: “I too am en-route, for life is a journey – from, earth unto heaven. “

This reply should echoe across the generations and reach directly into our hearts. (2)


  1. Numbers 33:1.
  2. This essay is based on Sefer Taam Vadaat ibid.

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